Brigham Young University hosted the premiere of an obscure LDS-themed musical, “Saturday’s Warrior,” in 1974. Forty-one years later, composer and creator Lex de Azevedo has announced plans to turn the musical into a full-length feature film.
“I’ve resisted making a motion picture of ‘Saturday’s Warrior’ for over four decades,” de Azevedo said. “But not a day goes by without somebody telling me it’s changed their lives.”
The musical gained popularity among LDS audiences in the ’70s and ’80s. In 1989 a video version of the play—shot on a stage instead of a movie set—was released. This video was the conduit that rocketed “Saturday’s Warrior” from considerable success to LDS household fame.
Many BYU students may have only heard of the play from their parents, but those involved with the production are quick to dismiss the notion that it might be too antiquated for today’s viewers.
“It’s at the heart of LDS culture,” said UVU graduate and “Saturday’s Warrior” cast member Clint Pulver, who will star as the ambitious and somewhat conceited Elder Kestler. “Kids at BYU can relate to the characters. I guarantee that everyone there who served a mission knew (somebody like) Elder Kestler.”
“Saturday’s Warrior” tells the story of the Flinders family, an LDS family who knew and loved each other in the pre-mortal life. They promised to stay true to their faith, but when they get to earth, things don’t go as planned.
Jimmy, the oldest child, begins to fall away and only through tragedy is he able to find his way back home. Meanwhile, missionaries from the Flinders’ hometown strive to convert a young man named Tod who, in the pre-mortal life, made a promise to Jimmy’s sisteJulie that he would find her and marry her on earth.
The play has been controversial in some circles because of the speculative nature of its approach to LDS doctrine. Liberties are taken, particularly with the depiction of the pre-mortal life.
De Azevedo said while his play portrays the core beliefs and values of the faith, it was never meant to be a totally accurate representation of Church doctrine. “It’s a fantasy, so we’re romanticizing,” he said. “It’s not the Ensign.”
Yet de Azevedo stressed that these doctrinal concepts should not be overlooked. “We all need to understand that there is more than just this life,” he said. “Without being preachy, that’s the message we’re trying to deliver to our audience.”
The movie producers recognize the cultural value of the play, but fans of the original shouldn’t expect a shot-for-shot remake. De Azevedo says that the film will be shot like a movie rather than a play, so changes have been made to the script. He has written four new songs and removed four older numbers.
He also added backstory for several characters — Jimmy is a now a member of a popular music group whose lyrics begin to deviate from his family’s standards, and we learn Tod embarked on a search for truth after leaving his abusive parents behind.
Still, according to de Azevedo, “It stays quite true to the original.”
The movie’s Kickstarter page currently has $40,000 of its $100,000 goal. Donation gifts include premiere tickets, DVDs and CDs, and a chance to be in the movie or name a character.
The movie cast list was recently announced, and stars include YouTube sensation Kenny Holland and well-known LDS vocalist Alex Boye. Fans will also be excited to learn that the film will include several celebrity cameos. Shooting began last week, and “there’s a great energy on set—a great enthusiasm,” Pulver said. “Everyone is excited to be a part of something so iconic.”
“Saturday’s Warrior” is slated for theatrical release in 2016. “It will be a fun date night, and it’ll be big in the Provo movie theaters,” Pulver said. But perhaps most importantly, it will give this generation of BYU students a modernized display of the play that was so iconic and influential for the generation that came before.