Let' say someone tells you the following about another person called George:
George was a good guy.
If this person means that George was a good guy but he no longer is, do I have to backshift the sentence when making it into indirect speech?:
He told me George had been a good guy.
or can I also say
He told me George was a good guy.
I suppose I can't because in this discussion, someone says saying
No matter what you say, I assure you I think that the evening we spent together had been fantastic.
is wrong, and that we should say:
No matter what you say, I assure you I think that the evening we spent together was fantastic.
I thought we had to backshift past simple in that clauses. Is this exclusive to the verb 'be', or is it optional to backshift?