Former Druid priest who discovered and funded The Beatles to become an Irish film mogul has died
Film executive Denis O’Brien, who discovered and funded The Beatles through his own pub, died on Tuesday. He was 80.
Over the course of his career, O’Brien, who was a former Druid priest, amassed a television and film empire, which included Shaftesbury Films, O’Brien Pictures and New Video/O’Brien Distribution. O’Brien developed television fiction, including spy thrillers Supernatural and Race Against Time and crime and romantic thrillers Dark Grapes and A Man Called Ove. His film company distributed or co-financed such films as Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, Les Miserables, The King’s Speech and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
An impresario, philanthropist and master networker, he also served as a mayor of Killarney and was a tireless campaigner against violence and substance abuse.
To a whole generation of Irish teenagers, O’Brien was a dark horse – on tape and in the dark alleys of Liverpool. He paid the band the Cavern – from the same cell as the Rolling Stones, when they were still in their early teens – the sum of a shilling to play for him, and after seeing the class act rockers at a pub, he brought them to the attention of management company Hammersmith Palais.
By 1967, O’Brien was the man – with other angel investors and promoter Max Varney – who was scouring the planet and raising money to finance The Beatles’ film debut. The resulting album, Please Please Me, became the most expensive film release in history.
As part of the team, he earned around £500,000 (£180m today) in film investment, a windfall that went a long way to underpinning his larger business interests.