Could The Movie “Yesterday” be Based on the Book “Enormity”? (Maybe, but Probably Not)

Could The Movie "Yesterday" be Based on the Book "Enormity"? (Maybe, but Probably Not) Intellectual Property

The publishing industry's current controversy of the week for this week revolves around an upcoming movie, and an author who is claiming implies that the movie's plot is based on the novel he published back in 2013.

Here's what The Guardian had to say:

When Nick Milligan decided to self-publish his speculative fiction novel, Enormity, he knew it was going to be a hard slog to find an audience. But seeing a similar plot play out in the trailer for Danny Boyle’s new film, Yesterday, came as a shock.

“I had high expectations for Enormity’s success,” Milligan said. “I wrote it with a movie in mind.”

That goal seems even more out of reach now.

Written by Richard Curtis and starring Himesh Patel and Lily James, Yesterday follows a character called Jack (Patel) who has a bicycle accident during a worldwide blackout. According to the trailer, which was released last week, when Jack wakes up, he finds himself in an almost identical version of Earth in which The Beatles never existed. He passes off their music as his own, and havoc ensues.

It’s a plot that bears remarkable resemblance to the Australian Milligan’s novel, which also follows a character called Jack who, after a journey into deep space, finds himself on a planet that’s almost identical to Earth, with a few exceptions – including that its people have never heard of The Beatles.

“He passes off classic music as his own material, including that of The Beatles, and the story then explores the consequences of that lie,” Milligan told Guardian Australia.

The book can be found on Amazon. Here's one of the trailers for the movie:

I took  about four hours today to read the book. I am about half way through, and I have to say that I don't see the connection.

Yes, the two works do have the one shared element - both main characters pass off music by famous artists as their own - but that is where the similarity ended. (If you want to claim that the name of the main character is a similarity, please go read up on the concept of the "everyman" trope before you embarrass yourself.)

The differences far exceed the similarity. The book is set on an entirely different planet (it has two suns), while the movie is set on Earth.  The main character in the book plagiarizes many great songs from bands that never existed on his new planet, while the guy in the movie starts singing Beatles songs after he realizes that no one knew who they were. And when it comes to story line, the book is heavily focused on the decadence of the rock star lifestyle, while the movie is centered around the main character realizing that what he really wanted  in life was to be with the teacher friend he left behind when he became famous.

I have seen movies with fewer details in common with the book they were adapted from (Starship Troopers is one, or The Last Mimzy), yes, so it is entirely possible that the movie is in some way related to the book.

I am also a firm believer that ideas are stolen in Hollywood all the time (I think Paramount got the idea for the idea for Star Trek: DS9 after hearing the pitch for Babylon 5, for example).

Yes, Hollywood steals, and they also recycle.

But if the author is to be believed, Universal would rather steal an idea from an Australian thriller novel no one had ever heard of when they could have optioned the rights for a pittance. The author is also implying that the writer who created Notting Hill, 4 Weddings and a Funeral, and  After Time (and adapted Bridget Jone's Diary) could not have come up with the idea on his own.

Sure, that is entirely possible, but I really don't beleive it.

Edit: And guess what? The idea is not as original as the author would have you think. There's a British tv series from the mid-1990s that used a very similar premise:

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

9 Comments

  1. Steve20 February, 2019

    And “Back to the Future” stole the idea from this book and the movie when Marty McFly “invented” a song that Chuck Barrie had not yet written.

    Yes, I know, “Back to the Future” predates both, but, hey, time travel! Right?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder20 February, 2019

      hahahahahahaha

      Reply
  2. Bill Peschel20 February, 2019

    And who would a Brit like Richard Curtis would pick the Beatles to copy, when there are so many other groups with major hits like …. like …. hang on a tic.

    Good on you for taking one for the team in reading the book, BTW.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder20 February, 2019

      It’s actually an okay novel. It’s not my thing, but I think that if this had been put out by a major US publisher, it would have hit the best-seller list.

      Reply
      1. Richard Hershberger21 February, 2019

        Seriously? Because if we stipulate to this, the implication is that the author missed out on a lot of money–both royalties and publicity–by self-publishing.

        Reply
        1. Nate Hoffelder21 February, 2019

          Well, it doesn’t have to be trad-pub, but I think that this book could have really succeeded with the right marketing push. (It also needs to be edited for American English.)

          Reply
          1. Richard Hershberger21 February, 2019

            Have any self-published novels produced the sorts of revenue that traditionally published best sellers generate? My impression from discussions in the self-publishing world is that the top performers get annual incomes in the low six figures. Traditionally published top performers run about two orders of magnitude higher than that. E. L. James presumably knew what she was doing when she switched to traditional publishing.

            Reply
            1. Will Entrekin21 February, 2019

              EL James never “self-published,” unless you count posts in a fan-fiction forum. She won a contest with a small Australian press who published those posts, and from whom Random House bought the series. But she never “switched to traditional publishing” so much as kinda failed up, and she was never indie publishing like, say, Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey were.

  3. Mike Cane21 February, 2019

    >but that is there the similarity ended.

    WHERE.

    Plz deposit US$1.00 fine in PayPal. kthxbai.

    Reply

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