Life as an extra in Danny Boyle’s ‘Yesterday’, a new film shot in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 15:53 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:53 31 July 2019

Yesterday - Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis with the stars

Yesterday - Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis with the stars

© Universal Pictures

Jan Etherington relives her experience as an extra on the latest film by Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle which was shot in Suffolk

This month, a new film by writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle, called Yesterday, will be out in cinemas. Many Suffolk people will be going along to see it, hoping to see themselves - however fleetingly - on the screen, after they were given the chance of lifetime to be an extra.

The film stars Himesh Patel as a singer/songwriter who wakes up from a coma, after being hit by a bus, and realises he's the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles. Much of the film was shot in Suffolk - in Halesworth and Ramsholt, and just over the border in Gorleston, where the biggest gathering of extras ever in the UK - over 6,000 - assembled on the beach for one scene.

Himesh might be the famous name on the movie poster, but for all those people who answered the call for extras, they and their county are the real stars.

Yesterday - still from the filmYesterday - still from the film

Comedy writer and Suffolk magazine columnist Jan Etherington, who lives on the coast, was one of them. She tells her Yesterday story and talks to some of her fellow 'extras' as they remember their day in the spotlight, on location around Suffolk, and wonder whether they made the cut...

And action...

This time last year, many of us received an email. "As I'm sure you know, being an extra on a movie can be a pretty uninspiring experience but if, by any chance, you want to have a go . . ." So I signed up, along with half our village and many others around the county.

Yesterday feature - Jan Etherington and Iris Houseago, of Diss, in the White Hart at HalesworthYesterday feature - Jan Etherington and Iris Houseago, of Diss, in the White Hart at Halesworth

Which is how I found myself in the White Hart in Halesworth, on a damp Wednesday, being ushered to a table in the corner and seated next to my sparkling, fellow extra, Iris Houseago, from Diss.

Hmmm... we're tucked away, I thought. But then Lily James (Rose in Downton Abbey), the film's co-star, sat down at the next table with her friends.

Lily (Ellie in the film) was there to see her friend, Jack (ex-Eastenders star Himesh Patel), singing on stage. Iris and I were told to completely ignore his performance and keep 'mime-talking' to each other, so that Lily would turn round and frown at us.

Yesterday feature - the Mann family with Danny Boyle at the Ramsholt ArmsYesterday feature - the Mann family with Danny Boyle at the Ramsholt Arms

I asked Lily: "So, we're the old biddies who aren't listening?" "Yes," she replied, "except you're certainly not old biddies." I love her.

We did about six takes. As Danny Boyle explained, filming is a series of delays, interrupted by repetitions. Finally we heard from our director: "Iris and Jan, you were great."

Danny is my new best friend. Actually, Danny is everybody's best friend, a magical man. The 'mood' of any production is set by those at the top, and Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis were kind, charming, funny and knew everyone's name within minutes.

Fun on Gorleston BeachFun on Gorleston Beach

As Iris says: "What a happy day in the Halesworth pub, with good company and excellent food - especially sticky toffee pudding - and a hug from Danny Boyle at the end."

For Marie Ruth, of, Walberswick, also a White Hart patron, drinking fake beer will be an enduring memory. "Yuk! An experience I will never forget."

Another pub location was the Ramsholt Arms, on the banks of the River Deben, where Rosi Gerrill, of Walberswick, found herself in the pub's garden. "On the trailer, you can just see my red hair in the background, when Himesh plays his guitar to his friends."

Chloe Mann and her husband, from Wenhaston, can also be spotted on the trailer, walking out of the pub with their youngest son, while Himesh is singing Yesterday. "Our other two boys are pinging about, down by the water," she says. It was a very enjoyable day out for the whole family. "And a 'thank you' from Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle, as we left, was fab."

Hannah Dodds was also at Ramsholt with her children Tilly, 12, and George, nine. It was, she says, a fantastic day. "Well worth an (authorised!) day's school leave (Practical Drama day, of course). They had to run around, kicking a ball. You just might catch a glimpse of our very own All Blacks rugby ball."

A few weeks after my Halesworth scenes with Iris, I was on Gorleston Beach, part of the cheering crowd at a beach concert by Himesh's character, Jack. I went with my friends, Gary, Pete, and Sue who had just flown in from Auckland, New Zealand.

Mel and Gareth get married all over againMel and Gareth get married all over again

We had been instructed to dress as journalists. Wardrobe looked at what I was wearing and said: "Jan, you need to change - you don't look anything like a journalist." "But I am a journalist!" I protested. Gary, Pete and Sue couldn't stop laughing.

Sue and Colin Nicholson, of Benhall, were also there and found the atmosphere electric. "Once Danny Boyle spoke to the crowd, everyone went crazy, shouting and screaming, leaping, jumping, dancing. Worried about being lost in such a large crowd, I'd brought my red cowboy hat and waved it wildly, as the helicopters flew overhead."

Hannah Sutton, of Walberswick, enjoyed filming in the pub at Halesworth, then took her daughter, Nancy, to the filming at Gorleston Beach. "It had a real festival feel, packed with people. I loved bumping into dozens of friends and locals and sharing the day with my daughter. She said it was a fun first gig."

Yesterday featureYesterday feature

Meanwhile, Nicola Greenwood says some lead actors sought her opinion on the notoriously tricky Suffolk accent. She has her fingers crossed after her on-screen encounter with Himesh Patel.

You might see her 'professionally' walking in the background for Himesh and Lily's scenes at Price Star, where Himesh works, otherwise known as Bookers in Oulton Broad.

"I also got to drive my car in a car park scene," she says, "and had a featured moment with Himesh, which I hope makes the cut."

The 6000 extras on Gorleston beach enjoying the music during filming by Danny Boyle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe 6000 extras on Gorleston beach enjoying the music during filming by Danny Boyle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

YESTERDAY was released, nationwide on June 28

Wedding take two

Bizarrely, Mel and Gareth Cheseborough, of Reydon, found themselves getting married all over again, after Mel was contacted by one of Richard Curtis' assistants.

"She explained that she went to get her hair cut at Noir in Southwold, where I used to work, and asked them if they knew anyone who had got married recently and had tattoos. The girls showed Lucy my wedding photos on Facebook."

Mel got the call - she and Gareth were asked to play a couple getting married, in a scene shot in Gorleston.

"So we celebrated our wedding again, with 150 wedding guest 'extras' - only this time, Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle were part of our wedding party and Himesh Patel was our wedding singer!"

Latest from the EADT Suffolk Magazine