For 40 years, Lex de Azevedo (musical genius behind “Saturday’s Warrior”) resisted the constant request to do a new film of the cultural phenomenon that brought “Will I Wait For You?” and “Humble Way” into our toe-tapping culture.
“I didn’t know how to do it, and I didn’t want to do it unless I could do it well,” Lex says.
Lex and his wife left Utah for what they expected to be a three-year mission to Brazil. After one year, Lex distinctly received the message, “Go home and make ‘Saturday’s Warrior.’” He didn’t say anything to anyone. He didn’t act on it. But he did continue to ask the same question he had muttered his whole life, “Lord, what would you have me do to build the kingdom?”
The answer “Saturday’s Warrior” kept coming. Once Lex — still in Brazil — made up his mind that he would do the film, on successive nights he saw scenes of the musical story play out in his mind. He came home and moved into the upstairs area of his studio in Salt Lake City and put a team together to create a modern, high-tech film — while keeping the setting about a large family in the 1970s.
“The storyline works better in the ’70s,” Lex says. “Population explosion was the issue back then — people would make rude comments to me in public when we had our first four little children. It was a big issue. If we set the film today and used today’s biggest cultural issues, people would be polarized. But we can all look back four decades and get outside of ourselves.”
The story of “Saturday’s Warrior” is a timeless tale of the prodigal son. In this case, “Jimmy Flinders” has the No. 1 record in the country and leaves behind his musical family. He’s on top of the world, but he’s sinking and struggling with guilt.
“Everyone can relate to the idea of a rebellious child,” Lex says. “Having adult children is our graduate school in life. The only power we have over them is what they give us. Parents think they love unconditionally when they have children all sitting ‘stair-step’ at church, but when those children no longer do what you tell them to do, you learn to love unconditionally. That plays out in the film.”
Lex has served as an LDS bishop twice — including once in the Central Hollywood ward — and has watched individuals and families struggle with keeping standards and staying together as a family. In fact, he left his career at Capitol Records for many of the same reasons the character Jimmy ultimately has to make a change as well.
A handful of new songs are added to the 2016 version of “Saturday’s Warrior,” while some of the old songs — such as “Dear John” — have been cut. Lex says the music will finally be the way he envisioned.
“The original soundtrack was produced as a demo for the cast and choir — it’s just me at the piano with a bass and drums – there’s not even a guitar on it,” Lex says. “We had no idea the show was going to take off. Until now, people have never heard the music to ‘Saturday’s Warrior’ the way I wanted to do it in the first place. On this new film, you’ll hear the songs orchestrated the way I intended.”
The feature film, which will be released in April 2016, was shot in Utah and California, including key scenes in Provo Canyon, in a vacant Orem home and at Velour in Provo.
Lex says not a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell him how much “Saturday’s Warrior” impacted them, but he’s also aware of the criticisms. To the most common complaint — that the storyline isn’t doctrinally correct — he says, “This is not a Sunday School lesson. It’s not an article in the Ensign. We know so little of the pre-earth life. This is a story that is outside the doctrine, and our understanding is so limited. This is a story. A powerful story. It’s not scripture.”
Lex used the earnings of the original “Saturday’s Warrior” traveling stage play to start Embryo Records as a way to get LDS music to the masses. Lex is credited with being the father of Mormon pop music.
“And when people say that, I’m not sure if it’s a slam or not,” he laughs.
But based on his inbox and his mailbox, he knows his music has changed lives — “and that includes my own,” says this 72-year-old who says his biggest accomplishment is “being the patriarch of a large and diverse family.”
Watch for the film’s release around April 2016 General Conference.