Late last week, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that a scripted series about U2 is coming to Netflix via J.J. Abrams and Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten. “Details of U2’s involvement are being kept under wraps,” reads the report, “though sources say the band behind hits including ‘With or Without You’ and ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ is expected to be involved and sanction the project.”
The Queen biopic not only won Rami Malek a Best Actor Academy Award, but it introduced the band to a whole new generation of fans. The Mötley Crüe Netflix film The Dirt paved the way for their upcoming reunion tour, and the Elton John movie Rocketman helped boost ticket sales for his ongoing farewell tour. The goal here is clearly to revitalize the U2 brand, and if the band is indeed involved they can help secure the music rights and promote the project.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy to pull off. Finding four actors who can credibly portray young versions of Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. will be quite tricky. McCarten will also need to find a way to frame the story. If he attempts to cram all 46 years of U2 history into a single movie or miniseries, he’ll be forced to skip too many key events and muddy the timeline for narrative purposes. It’s also hard to imagine anyone portraying Achtung Baby–era Bono or even Joshua Tree–era Bono without looking like the leader of a cheesy tribute band.
The smart move will be to pull a Backbeat and focus on U2’s early years. They started as punk-obsessed Irish teenagers who had no idea how to play their instruments or write songs. Watching them slowly learn their craft and rise through the Dublin club scene could be very compelling if done right. The series could then show their first trip to America in 1980, their near-breakup around the time of 1981’s October, and their decision to get political on 1983’s War.
It’ll be very tempting to wrap things up at Live Aid in 1985, but McCarten already pulled that trick with Bohemian Rhapsody. A smarter move would be to end at Red Rocks in June 1983. U2 played a full set that night (Live Aid was just two songs) and it was the moment they emerged as superstars. Here’s video of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the gig. It’s very easy to imagine movie Bono waving the white flag right before the credits roll.
Bono is also working on a memoir. Elton John timed the release of his own book to coincide with his biopic. We don’t know if that will happen this time, and we don’t know when we’re going to hear new U2 music or see a new U2 tour. It’s fun to look back, but fans are much more curious to know what’s ahead.