Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late culinary entrepreneur Linda McCartney. She is also a tremendously successful businesswoman in her own right.
The 53-year-old portrait and fashion photographer has also published a cookbook and hosted a cooking show.
Mary has now branched out into documentary filmmaking, and her first, If These Walls Could Sing, has already wowed film reviewers and the music industry.
It commemorates the 90th anniversary of the world-famous London recording studio Abbey Road, where Mary spent much of her childhood watching her parents record tunes with Wings. Paul’s band was founded after The Beatles split up in 1970.
“I was wondering if it was a little too close to home,” Mary says as we sit down to discuss the film with her. “But I’m a big documentary fan. I adore them and believe the successful ones are close to the director’s heart. This certainly meets the bill.”
Mary spent years playing in the corridors of the famed studio with her siblings Heather, 59, Stella, 51, and James, 45, and her favorite memory of that time are her parents relaxing when they took a break from recording.
“Seeing Mum and Dad having a lunch break and they’d invite us kids along to say hello,” she recalls, adding, “it’s always a little emotional stepping in there and thinking about old times.”
Viewers are shown a black-and-white photograph of Linda taking her pony, Jet, across the famed zebra crossing outside the building, with Paul in the shot, during the feature-length documentary. In the trailer, Mary admits that the photograph inspired her to create the documentary.
She says it reminded her of her mother, Linda, an animal rights activist and co-founder of a vegetarian food firm with Paul before dying of breast cancer in 1998 at 56.
“I wanted to include a photo of my mother guiding the pony across the zebra crossing in the documentary. Unfortunately, she is no longer here, but those items remind her how unique and passionate she is about animals. She was the appropriate kind of rule breaker.”
Mary continues, “Many of the individuals still employed there worked with my parents, and they approached me and said, ‘We remember your mother and how inclusive she was and how fantastic she was.’
That brought a tear or two to my eye on a few occasions. I liked it when people said, ‘Oh God, we liked her; she’d come into the canteen and have a cup of tea with us and talk,’ but it also made me sad.”
Mary’s documentary comprises interviews with those at the heart of Abbey Road’s lengthy history, including her father, Paul, 80, Ringo Starr, Sir Elton John, Nile Rodgers of Chic, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and Noel and Liam Gallagher.
“I was quite worried about giving the film to my father,” Mary says. “I took him to the movies to see it and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope he enjoys it.’”
“I was at an event the next day when someone told me, ‘I met your dad, and he was talking about the documentary for ages.’ It’s something he’s very passionate about, so when he learned I was shooting the documentary, he was overjoyed, and it reminded him of Abbey Road and many of the stories.”
Mary, who has four sons – two with her ex-husband Alistair Donald and two with her current husband Simon Aboud – reveals that her father spent a lot of time at the studio and that The Beatles broke the recording mold by starting their sessions later in the day, frequently lasting all night.
“That took a long time [in the studio]. People come here to record, and there are closed-off places with no windows; it might be any time of day. I had no idea The Beatles were a part of changing the way history was recorded because as they became more successful, they could call the shots and arrive later and record later.
“Some engineers stated that they didn’t want to be on a Beatles album since sessions were so open-ended, and you could be there till the early hours of the morning and never know whether anything would come of it because they were experimenting. Nobody knew when their sessions would conclude or when they would go home because they had unlimited studio time.”
When asked if she recalls her parents arriving late at home while recording with Wings, Mary responds, “To some extent, yes. I recall arriving late, but they were always present when we woke up. That had little impact on our family life. You grow up with it, so it is what it is – you’re used to it to some extent.”
One of Mary’s favorite scenes in the documentary is a modern-day cut of her father, Paul, 80, crossing the zebra crossing, which did not go as planned.
“The part where the automobile almost ran him over on the zebra crossing was hilarious. As we were leaving [the studio], I said, ‘I’ll video you [at the crossing],’ and he went across, and this automobile completely ignored him!”
Mary, who has a younger half-sister Beatrice, 19, from Paul’s second marriage to Heather Mills, can’t wait to get her hands on additional projects now that she’s had what’s sure to be a success in cinema.
“I want to direct more,” she says. “I’m not sure what it will be, but it will have to be something I’m enthusiastic about, like Abbey Road.”