‘How do these younger generations, with the way radio is today, get turned on to great acts?,” John Stamos recently asked Rolling Stone. The actor has an answer for that: He’ll be producing a movie musical centered around the music of the Beach Boys.
Stamos — who will share his production duties with Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, as he did on the 2000 TV miniseries The Beach Boys: An American Family — has a long history with the band. Members appeared on Stamos” first sitcom, You Again?, and also, famously, on a 1988 episode of Full House. “People say that they know Mike [Love, Beach Boys singer] from Full House more than almost anything,” Stamos says. The actor also plays drums with Mike Love”s touring version of the band.
Stamos says the film will be set in Southern California in the Sixties, but the exact time period is still to be decided. “We’re sort of circling around ’67,” he says. “Vietnam was looming, which sort of gives way to the background of the story, and we wanted to be able to tap into all the music that came before that.” Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) will write the screenplay.
Stamos says he doesn”t want to repeat the American Family miniseries, which, as Rob Sheffield wrote in Rolling Stone in 2000, “presents Pet Sounds as a fiasco and Mike Love as the group”s real creative brain.”
“It was so personal and some of it upset certain people,” Stamos says. “That’s the last thing I want to do to my heroes, you know? That’s why I thought I would never do another Beach Boys project. But this one made so much sense. All it could do is really help [them].”
Stamos will leave out the Wilson family drama and focus on the harmonies. “It”s completely non-biographical,” he says. “You might have a girl singing ‘I Get Around.” There won”t be a guy who”s a supporter, like a Brian character. The deal is to redo the songs with the actors singing, sort of in the way that they do on Glee. They kind of keep some of the same arrangements, but to have newer, younger people singing them.” The film is one of many special events planned for the band”s 50th anniversary. In June, Al Jardine told Rolling Stone that the remaining members — himself, Love, Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston and possibly early guitarist David Marks — will reunite for a concert. Stamos hopes to get the film out in time to celebrate the occasion. “It’d be nice to get it out on the tail end of the 50th, [although] I think they’re going to sort of celebrate the 50th for two years.”
Stamos also has a solid model for how successful a project like this can be: The film version of the Abba musical Mamma Mia! was Universal Pictures” biggest earner of 2008, both domestically and internationally. “Everybody has been sort of trying to figure out how to redo Mamma Mia! and also appeal to a male audience,” he says. “It made a billion dollars, but that was the smaller demographic for [Abba]. With the Beach Boys, you”ve got girls in bikinis, you”ve got cars, so we expect to get a good male demo with this.”
Don”t expect the film to echo Broadway”s Good Vibrations, a jukebox musical that closed after two months. “I walked out halfway through,” Stamos says. “It”ll be nothing like that — I promise you. It”ll be the opposite of that. Trust me.”