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Times of India
: Danny Collins (Pacino) is a loaded rock star who is addicted to the lifestyle that comes with it. He hasn't penned an original song in decades but keeps the cash rolling in by touring and relying on his old hits. He's got the trophy wife too, half his age. He is stunned one night when his faithful manager Frank (Plummer) gives him a letter that Beatles icon John Lennon wrote to him 40 years ago. Danny has an epiphany after reading it and decides to seek meaning in his life again.
: In undoubtedly his best performance in years, Al Pacino has taken this story - inspired by the true tale of folk singer Steve Tilston who received a letter from Lennon that wasn't delivered for decades - and elevated it to a whole different level altogether.
Danny is a booze-addled, drug-fuelled singer who worships Lennon. However, he does not have the ability that his idol had, to keep the hit songs coming consistently. Instead, he's stuck in a rut of debauchery - a comfort zone that's like a gilded cage complete with whiskey, women and hangovers the next morning.
But when Danny holds the above-mentioned letter in his hands for the first time and absorbs its seemingly simple yet profound message, the fog in his mind clears up and he gets clarity about what his priorities in life should actually be.
The very next morning, he checks in at a Hilton in New Jersey and goes to patch up with his son Tom (Cannavale), born out of a one-night stand in the 70s. Tom now has a wife named Samantha (Garner) and an extremely talkative little daughter. Cannavale's act as the son who's angry and has abandonment issues does go a little overboard at times, but his character is essentially Danny's moral compass. Garner plays a doting wife with ease but of course, this one is Al Pacino all the way - his panache, style, energy and fluidity will move and delight you. And hey, you get to hear him croon as well. What's not to like?
A lot of John Lennon’s songs were used in the soundtrack. Nine Lennon masters are used throughout the movie, including Imagine, Working Class Hero, Cold Turkey and Beautiful Boy.
The filmmakers have said in interviews that one of the reasons why the film works is because of the strength of the music.
During the end credits, Fogelman reportedly used an edited version of a Lennon song. Cold Turkey too was edited, when the lengthy outro and middle sections removed.
It is known to be notoriously difficult to get the rights for Beatles and solo Beatles songs in films. In one case, it cost a reported $250,000 to use Tomorrow Never Knows for single use in a season 5 episode of Mad Men. This film had a budget of only $10 million and used 9 songs, which would have amounted to millions. However, one of the producers was connected to Yoko Ono and therefore, things were able to work out.
Footage of Steve Tilston appears in the end, where he briefly discusses the letter.
The "Danny Collins" concert footage at the beginning of the film was shot at a Los Angeles concert by the band Chicago.
Julianne Moore and Jeremy Renner were originally cast but were replaced by Annette Bening and Bobby Cannavale due to some financing problems.
In real life, the letter that Lennon wrote to Tilston was lost for 34 years and not 40 years.
We see in flashback a young Danny Collins sitting for an interview with a music journalist, who tells Danny that he is on to something and that he "writes like Lennon". The year is 1971. We then go to the present day and see Danny Collins' debauched lifestyle - a lifestyle he has been pursuing for years and years. He takes a snort of cocaine and pours himself a pretty large measure of whisky before walking on stage to sing out his old hits to an elderly audience. Back in the dressing room, he relaxes with another drink before heading back to his sprawling, luxurious home. He has a young wife Sophie (Katarina Cas) who he knows is having an affair with someone her age. His manager Frank had told him that his wife is planning a surprise party and on the day of his birthday, after the festivities are done at night, Frank gives Danny a very special present - a letter that John Lennon had written to him 40 years ago. The letter was undelivered and later bought by a collector. Frank bought it back from the collector.
Danny is gobsmacked when he reads the simple message. Lennon had actually read Danny's interview in the magazine that he had done the interview with in 1971. In that interview, Danny had mentioned that he was afraid that fame and wealth would spoil his talent. Lennon had read that and replied that it is not money and riches that can corrupt one's soul or talent, but rather, how one reacts to it. It reads in part, "Stay true to yourself. Stay true to your music." before giving his home phone number and signing off with "love, John and Yoko." So moved is Danny with the message and the fact that he actually gave him his number that he goes to bed holding the framed letter. The next morning, he moves out. He tells his surprised wife that he's leaving for a long time to clear out the mess in his life. He also wants to reconnect with his son, who works in the construction business in New Jersey. Before going, he catches his wife in bed and asks her lover to come out. He wishes them well, saying he's not mad, and leaves.
Pulling up at the Hilton, he befriends the valet Nicky (Josh Peck) before asking Jamie (Benoist) at the front desk for a room, saying that he is going to be staying indefinitely. Jamie and Nicky are both stunned that Danny Collins is actually in front of them. He also tries to playfully play matchmaker with Jamie and Nicky. Jamie's supervisor Mary Sinclair (Bening) then comes out and Danny immediately flirts with her, asking her out to dinner. She turns him down, but his persistence will pay off when later on, after they have some drinks in the hotel bar, he takes her up to his room where he has a Steinway piano installed, and sings to her. Before that however, Frank shows up, looking pretty unhappy to be in New Jersey and asks him what's going on. Danny tells Frank about his intentions to refocus his life, saying that it's never too late. Frank wishes him luck.
Danny goes to his son Tom's place and is greeted at the door by his wife Samantha, six months pregnant with their second child. Tom and Samantha have a young girl named Hope, who has ADHD. After they talk, Tom comes home and the two have a discussion outside, where Tom asks him why he left his mother back in the day. She later died of cancer and Tom accuses Danny of leaving them in the lurch. Tom asks Danny to leave leaves but the latter will be back, of course. Danny visits them again, this time in his own tour bus. He tells Tom and Samantha that he has got an interview with a top school in New York that caters to children with ADHD and other such issues. They are shocked because usually the waiting period for this school is 6 months to a year, to get an interview. Tom is reluctant and refuses but when they have a minute to discuss it, Samantha says that they would be crazy to refuse this offer. It is Danny's way of securing Hope's future. So they travel to the school and get the process started. Danny pays the fees and also arranges for a chauffeur driven car to pick her up and drop her off from school for the New Jersey - New York commute. Tom and Danny also chat in the bus when they return. Tom tells Danny that he has lymphoma cancer and has not told his wife as he is afraid she might miscarry. He plans to tell her after she delivers. Danny tells Tom that he will pay for Tom's treatment and to leave it to him. Also, Tom says that his prognosis will probably be fatal.
Danny's manager comes visiting one day and tells him that he needs to go back on the road and tour to maintain his wealth and lifestyle. Danny asks Frank to organize a small club gig where he will play his new song. He asks Mary to attend and she says she'll have dinner with him if he plays a show and performs the new song. On the night of the gig however, he has a change of heart after hearing everyone calling out for his old hits instead of the new song, so he goes with the audience demands, much to his son, daughter-in-law (who are also invited) and Mary's surprise. Only Frank, who knows where the money is, smiles knowingly. After the show, Sophie and her boyfriend come to meet him. Danny relapses into his past lifestyle, snorts cocaine and drinks heavily. When Tom, Hope and Samantha come to see him, Tom admonishes Danny and the latter drunkenly verbally admonishes Tom. Tom asks Danny to stay away from his family and they leave. .Mary is put off when she walks into his room to see it trashed and all of them all passed out drunk.
Danny checks out of the Hilton the next day and gives Nicky his Mercedes. Later after a few days, Danny goes with Tom to the hospital and the two really bond over there, with Danny comforting Tom, telling him that he noticed whenever the doctor would come in the room during previous visits, and would call him by his first name, it would be good news. And luckily, The doctor calls him by his first name.