Yesterday, I wrote about how Warner Bros will turn the 1960s TV series 77 Sunset Strip into a period feature film, with Greg Berlanti directing and Stephen Chin writing the script. The question on my mind: how to explain the involvement of A. Scott Berg as producer along with Berlanti and Kevin McCormick? After all, isn’t the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Maxwell Perkins, Samuel Goldwyn, Charles Lindbergh, and Katharine Hepburn hip-deep in a mammoth bio of Woodrow Wilson?
Berg, the son of filmmaker Dick Berg and brother of ICM chief Jeff Berg, told me that he actually got the ball rolling on a film version of his favorite childhood show, and found a kindred spirit in Berlanti. They went to Warner Bros because the studio owned the underlying rights. Kevin McCormick, Berg’s longtime partner, was Warner Bros president of production then. But Berg kept McCormick out of the loop as he and Berlanti worked out a take with Warners exec Greg Silverman. McCormick only got involved when he’d left the executive suite to start the Langley Park production shingle.
“I was a kid when the show was on and I loved watching these cool guys on the Strip solve crimes, which at the time were called capers,” Berg said. “Everybody knew the theme song, and once Kookie became this phenomenon, everybody carried a comb in their back pocket the way he did, and pulled it out to run through their hair that was slicked down with Brylcreem or Vaseline hair tonic. Greg and I felt we’d arrived at a moment when it would be good to look back at the 60s as a reflection of where we are today. Also, there are a lot of really good male actors, and to make this work you need three generations of males.”
The film aims to inject an Ocean’s Eleven tone and to capture the vast cultural changes that sprung up in L.A. around 1960 — events that included the opening of the first Playboy Club to the Dodgers move from Brooklyn, to hosting the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
As for the notion that 77 Sunset Strip will rob his momentum from a Wilson bio that has taken him 9 years so far, Berg said Berlanti will do the heavy lifting and Wilson has his full attention. “I’m more interested in Wilson 9 years into this than I was when I had his picture on my wall at age 15,” Berg said. “I’m in the thick of writing, I’ve got another year and half to go. Greg and I hashed out the basic story together, gave some back story to the characters. I lit the match, but Greg is the one who’ll move it along.”