As we all know, Beatle John Lennon was shot in December 1980, at the entrance to the Dakota Apartments in Manhattan. So the man in the above photo, taken in 2008, cannot possibly be John Lennon. Can he? Officially, the Lennon lookalike is said to be a professional impersonator, Mark Staycer, of Travers City, Michigan. Above we see him performing on the set of Let Him Be -- a low budget Canadian mockumentary that went nowhere when it was released, back in 2009.
You can watch the full movie here, and I recommend you do. It opens awkwardly with a scene narrated by Tim Bennett, a young documentary filmmaker who just happens to stumble on a home video that his dad bought at a garage sale somewhere. The video was shot at a house party somewhere in rural Ontario, and features a short segment of a guitar-playing guest who -- to Tim's astonishment -- is a dead ringer for the late John Lennon. Of course, he has aged about twenty-five years since the last time we saw him, back in 1980 prior to getting shot.
If you can get past this opening premise -- or blatant narrative device -- Let Him Be is a watchable little movie that starts out as a quest to track down the lookalike glimpsed in the video. In fact, I'm surprised it seems to have been taken out of circulation soon after it premiered in Hamilton, Ontario and later at a film festival in Vancouver. Oh, and it also played in Liverpool, England - birthplace of John Lennon. Very little was written about it at the time, although the few reviews I've found were positive. Peter McNamee, the first-time director, set up a Facebook page for it, but otherwise seems to have done almost no promotion or distribution. And then wham, it disappeared.
Under normal circumstances, a film like this would have got more mileage, especially as books and movies about John Lennon's life and death tend to do quite well. Let Him Be had all the makings of low-key Canadian success. So why was it pulled from distribution before anyone got to see it, and not even available on YouTube until recently?
I got interested in the possibility that Lennon was still alive back in 2014 when someone alerted me to an article by the brilliant researcher and writer Miles Mathis. You can download it here and read all about how Mathis, with typical zeal and sarcastic flair, decoded the forensics and arrived at the conclusion that Lennon had faked his death, mostly based on his investigation of Mark Staycer, a Lennon impersonator, who plays "Noel Snow" in the movie. Snow, we are led to believe, has been hiding out on a rundown farm with his buddy Stanley Fields, played by the late Graham Wignall. In a memorable pub conversation, Stanley lists all the reasons Noel Snow cannot be John Lennon. Of course this only persuades young Tim that he is closing in on the fugitive rock star -- who only wants to be left alone to impersonate himself in peace.
The last thing Noel Snow needs is exposure -- if he's really John Lennon, that is. The film teases the audience with brief glimpses, culminating in another performance where Noel plays songs that really sound like Lennon could have written them. Mark Staycer just happens to look and sound like you might expect a 67-year-old Lennon to sound and look. What right does the nosy filmmaker have to reveal Noel's whereabouts, thus alerting the Powers That Be who may want Lennon to stay dead?
Let It Be plays with these possibilities, never really showing enough of Staycer to answer the obvious question: is this really John Lennon playing himself playing an impersonator? Seems like the kind of story only Lennon himself could have come up with. And obviously some people take this quite seriously.
Having watched it all the way through just once, so do I. Here is a list of all the reasons Let Him Be does not make sense as what it claims to be -- a quirky fiction. Like Miles Mathis, I think it was made by an undead John Lennon to send a message to his fans and play them his new songs. Several things about its pre-and post-production history are suspicious.
(1) If it's just whimsical fan fiction, why include the very serious assertion that Mark Chapman could not have shot Lennon, only to drop it, without either proving or disproving it?
(2) Why did it receive so little publicity when it came out? Although not a great film, its subject matter made it a likely candidate for interviews and journalistic articles, yet very little was written about it at the time, and almost no reviews.
(3) Why was it pulled from theatres and festivals soon after its release, even disappearing from the internet?
(4) Why do the professional actors involved not include it on their IMDb pages?
(5) How did the director Peter McNamee and lead actor Graham Wignall think up the concept that John Lennon was still alive, based on the 'conspiracy theory" (shown in the film) that Chapman was not the real shooter? That's quite a leap, when you think about it -- and raises questions like "So who really killed Lennon?" that never get answered. In writing and marketing such a far-fetched scenario you would need to present some rationale. Unless you just happen to KNOW Lennon is alive, because you are part of a network of cronies going back to Liverpool -- and you were handed this story on a platter, with instructions to go ahead and shoot it.
(6) What made the neophyte director choose this small town Ontario locale when he is from Liverpool, and practically grew up with the Beatles and Lennon.You would think if two Liverpudlians were making a fiction film about Lennon, their first thought would be to set the action back in their birthplace. "Write what you know."
(7) If Peter McNamee had no previous track record as a filmmaker, and Graham Wignall had never acted before, how did this project get Telefilm funding? Telefilm only works with established director/producers.
Everything seems to point to John Lennon having played a role in initiating this project. No easy feat to pull off from beyond the grave.