In A Hard Day’s Night, Spinetti was cast as a camp TV director who has to showcase the Beatles. “The Beatles didn’t keep to the script and they cut out so many of the outtakes, isn’t that sad? I walked round the set in my furry sweater and I said, ‘You’re late for rehearsals. I’m the director.’ John replied, not in the script, ‘You’re not the director. You’re Victor Spinetti playing the part of the director.’ I said, ‘I am a director, I have an award in my office.’ John said, ‘Office? You haven’t even got a dressing room.’ I hit Ringo’s cymbals and Ringo lent across and said to John, ‘He’s fingering me cymbals.’ John said, ‘He must be a director as all directors are famous cymbal- fingerers.’”
Spinetti got on well with the Beatles, although it is easy to imagine them mocking his over-the top behaviour. They had an evening out with him when Vic’s sister and fiancé came to London. Paul McCartney called him “the man who could make clouds disappear”, a magnificent line he should use in a song.
Whereas A Hard Day’s Night had a gritty, documentary style, Help! resembled pantomime. “That was more like a filmy film,” said Spinetti, “but Dick Lester is a brilliant director and there is wonderful stuff in there. All the producer’s relations wanted autographs and the Beatles were besieged. The producer came on the set with some friends when Ringo was tied to that machine. The producer brought them round and Ringo, with his hands tied to the machine and his trousers around his ankles, said, ‘Hello missus, give us a wank, will you?’ They never came round again.”
There were uncomfortable moments while filming Help! “We were in the Bahamas and we came across what looked like a deserted army hut with a tin roof. All the shutters were closed and John said, ‘Come and have a look at this, Vic.’ Inside were disabled kids and old people who had been locked in that stinking hut. That night at dinner, there was a frightfully grand meal with the Governor and the Minister of Finance. John pointed to the caviar and said, ‘We saw this hospital for sick kids and old people this morning. How do you reckon that with this?’ The Minister of Finance said, ‘I am not paid for doing my work, I do it voluntarily.’ John said, ‘Ah, then you’re doing better that I thought you were doing’.”
Vic appreciated the factor that the Beatles were so down to earth. “They were such extraordinary people and yet such ordinary people too. There was always a still small centre in the midst of all the hysteria. When we were driving to the première of Help!, we got to the London Pavilion Cinema and all the kids were screaming. John said, ‘Push Paul out first: he’s the prettiest.’”
George Harrison tried to interest Vic in Indian music. “He told me, ‘Vic, don’t force yourself to listen to it. Just let it happen to you. Western music is all maths, but Eastern music is all flow and you can jump in and out whenever you want.’ That helped me to understand it. They insisted that I met the Maharishi. I was in New York and he was at the Plaza holding a press conference. He was giggling away with all these cameras in front of him. One woman asked, ‘How do you teach children the principles of transcendental meditation?’ and he said, ‘My dear lady, they invented it.’ I thought, ‘This guy is good.’”