Making “Daisy Jones & the Six” was more than just another show for Scott Neustadter and Lauren Neustadter: It was a family affair.
Scott and his writing partner, Michael Weber (both Oscar nominated via their screenplay for the film “The Disaster Artist”), received an early copy of the “Daisy Jones” manuscript, written by author Taylor Jenkins Reid, before it even found a publisher. Neustadter, a music junkie, immediately fell in love with the script, and knew the perfect home for it: Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine — where his wife, Lauren, had just joined as president of film and television.
As the Neustadters both set out on their own paths to make “Daisy Jones” a reality, a collaboration was inevitable. The couple, who have been together for nearly 16 years, first met after Lauren — then a film development exec — had read the script to “(500) Days of Summer,” and wanted to meet the writers. Six months later, at a back-to-school party thrown by Jason Reitman, the duo ran into each other. “I was not in my work. Mode, and I was like, he’s so handsome! And the rest is history,” she says.
Scott and Lauren Neustadter married in October 2010, and although they continued on parallel career paths, both became each other’s most valuable consultant. “Anytime I finished any script, Lauren was always the first person to read it,” Scott says. “And If ever we had a project and we were looking for a producer, this is who we would want to have producing our stuff.”
When Scott was given that early unpublished copy of “Daisy Jones,” by page 100 he knew he had to tell Lauren about it. “I texted Lauren and I said ‘I’m sure you know about this, but what do you think of it? This Daisy book is great.’” It turns out she hadn’t. But Scott knew this was perfect for Hello Sunshine.
“I was like, ‘I’m gonna keep reading this but I really think you need to jump on it because you’re going to love it’ and I knew Reese was going to love it,” Scott says. “Because many years earlier I’d had a general lunch with Reese, and we ended up just talking about Stevie Nicks and our love of Fleetwood Mac. And then Lauren did her thing and got the book. And from there we kind of colluded to make sure that Taylor Jenkins Read went with us and no one else.”
Lauren then fills in the rest of the story: She called Reid’s lawyer to get her own copy of the “Daisy Jones” manuscript. “By the time that we had dinner, Scott had finished the book, and then I started it after we put our kids to sleep,” she says. “I stayed up until one o’clock in the morning, and then I texted Reese — who was on vacation because it was right around July 4. I wrote, ‘I’m so sorry to bother you on your vacation. I know you’re at the beach, could you please bring your iPad to the beach tomorrow morning? Because there’s a book and I need you to start reading it.”
The next morning, just as Lauren was finishing her copy, she heard from Witherspoon: “I’m obsessed with this. What do we have to do?” By the next week, both Neustadters held their own meetings with Reid. “We wanted it badly,” Lauren says. “There were a lot of other people that wanted it too. But interestingly, all of the other writers and producers that were pursuing it saw it as a movie. Scott had a very clear vision for it as a television show. I couldn’t imagine squeezing all of that into 90 minutes.”
Hello Sunshine, of course, has become known for its book adaptations, including “Truth Be Told” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” But at the time, the company was still new. “It was actually a really interesting kind of play that we did,” Scott says in their bid to acquire the project. “Because Reese was never going to star in it. We wanted Reese’s expertise as a producer. I knew that she was a big music fan, and I really wanted Lauren to be my partner in this… In setting it up, Lauren’s kind of a strategic genius, and always has many chess moves in her mind at one time. It was really, ‘how do we get a series order out of this project? We have the book and we have just us. We don’t have big stars, we don’t really have any of the things that usually make for a guaranteed series order.’ And so she said, ‘you’ve got to write it on your own and spec something.’”
And so, Scott and Weber did just that. One major tweak also opened up the door to the casting they eventually achieved: Aging down the characters in the flash forwards, from their 70s to their 40s. That way, stars including Riley Keough and Sam Claflin, as Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, could still play older versions of themselves.
“It was really a very beautiful thing to see it come to life and see the characters go from the way that they lived in the novel to the way that they lived in Final Draft, in that first script,” Lauren says. “It was incredibly undeniable. And it was very lucky for me and for Reese, that we wound up having a lunch with Jennifer Salke, who had just gotten a new job at [as head of Amazon Studios].”
Salke almost immediately gave the greenlight. And here’s the secret to their marriage: As his producer, Lauren knows exactly how to give the writer her notes. Says Scott: “She’s the target audience for what I’m trying to write. So, if it isn’t a home run, if I don’t hear high pitched squeals of delight from the read, I kind of know that something’s kind of busted. I also know that she’s gonna be as gentle as she can be. I can read right through that gentleness and be like, ‘OK, great. There are serious problems here.’ But I think actually on this particular case, it was fairly clear. There weren’t a lot of notes from that first episode before we opened the writers room.”
“Daisy Jones” became a challenge as COVID shut the show down right before production was set to begin. But the Neustadters believe that wound up being an unexpected benefit that perhaps led to the show’s Emmy nominations, including outstanding drama. “The silver lining for the band was that they became a band,” Lauren says. “Whereas before, they would have been faking it ‘til they made it. But actually having the extra time, they had over a year to really become a band while living in isolation.”
Adds Scott: “All adaptations have their own unique challenges. But this one was, how are we going to make this music that keeps being referred to in this book as timeless and extraordinary? The bar is super high to convince everyone watching that like, this is not just a real band, but a great real band.”
Any plans to stage a real-life “Daisy Jones & the Six” concert had to be scrubbed in the wake of the SAG-AFTRA strike, but the Neustadters say they hope something can still happen one day. “We’re not giving up,” Lauren says. “I believe they will perform. the question is when.”
And even though “Daisy Jones” was billed as a limited series, why couldn’t the band stage a Fleetwood Mac-like comeback, which (with the participation of Reid) could always be the basis for another season? “If any time Amazon came to us and said, ‘what would it be?,’ we would put our little thinking caps on about it,” Lauren says. Adds Scott: “It’s super fun to sit and talk to Taylor for hours about where we think we could take this next. It was a calculated move to move [the flash forwards] to their 40s. There’s a lot of life left to live, so there could be a future.”
Speaking of sequels, the couple says they’re also looking at working together again. “I have sent Scott a lot of books over the years and none has really been a fit,” Lauren admits. “But yes, it was the greatest. It was awesome to get to work on something together that we cared about so much. And to really be such a team. I feel like now as I watch the show, every frame is so special, because we did it together. What a dream.”
Read More About:
Source: Read Full Article