After the dazzling European premiere in London, members of the cast of Into the Woods allowed us a little insight into why this new movie musical from Disney is just so special. Into the Woods is the new hotly-anticipated fairytale output from Disney in a long line that has seen both box office success and negative response from critics. The film, directed by Rob Marshall (known for Memoirs of a Geisha & Chicago) and of course, produced by his partner in crime John Deluca (known for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides & Nine) is based on the 1987 stage show written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. In this particular press conference featured the famous director and producer duo along with stars Anna Kendrick and James Corden.
This new adaptation has been in the works for some time now and is not Marshall’s first adaptation of theatre to cinema; it’s clear to all that Rob Marshall is just the man to direct: “…we were all very aware of that and aware that we needed to condense and adjust and make things work for film. There are stage conventions that don’t work on film and you have to be smart about that.”
With an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, and of course Anna Kendrick and James Corden, it’s on everyone’s minds as to how exactly Marshall set about casting such an iconic stage show, but he proves his strength as a director once again in his method of casting. “I have this sort of philosophy about casting and that is that if you do it right, you don’t have to make any decisions at all. It’s just that they’re made for you, you know?” Marshall goes on to say that all the roles seemed to fill naturally with stars showing a hidden talent for song.
Above all else, what this movie brings forth is James Corden as a serious actor who not only can display depth and vulnerability, but can do it all through song. It seems Corden himself still could not quite grasp that he was part of this highly anticipated film. “At the end of the workshop Rob came and found me, and I can remember it so vividly that I can even remember what I was putting in my rucksack at the time. He held my hand and he said, I promise you: if we make this film, we will not make it without you. Lots of people say that in this industry and lots of them mean it, but over time it gets watered down and it dissipates and it dissipates and for whatever reason it doesn’t happen. And I will always be indebted to Rob for it, and just be overwhelmed by what a phenomenal experience the whole thing has been really.” In this movie Corden certainly carries on his successful streak in all that he does, following on from his recent Tony win for One Man, Two Governors, and here at The Edge we hope we see far more of our favourite funny man on the big screen.
The film centres largely around recognisable fairytale icons such as the wicked witch (Meryl Streep), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her prince (Chris Pine) and of course, a less recognisable figure, the baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). The baker and his wife are childless and go about finding certain objects in order to break the witch’s spell and be blessed with a child; all the while the baker is battling his issues over how to be a good father. It is the second half of the piece, though, that truly mixes up these recognisable fairytales and adds not only a “sort of a modern sensibility” but a depth and complexity that is almost unheard of in these tales.
The cast, the producer and the director all convey a deep love for not only this film that they have worked so hard to create, but a profound love for the original stage production, with even young Kendrick claiming Sondheim’s musical masterpiece as a focal point for her childhood. “I saw the Bernadette Peters VHS when I was about ten, I think. And I, like many people before me, thought that the first act was the end of the show, and then I remember watching the second act and being kind of upset that this was happening to these characters because they were characters I knew and loved and I remember even at the time feeling very challenged by it.” Into the Woods challenged fairytale stereotypes, and there is no doubt in the room that this movie will definitely take Sondheim and Alpine’s masterpiece to a younger and more diverse audience, for which I am incredibly grateful.
The press conference delivers the feeling that perhaps here, Disney have delivered a masterpiece of a fairytale adaptation and placed in the hands of Marshall, Delluca and a carefully selected cast there is no doubt that the movie will be highly successful. The element that truly cements it, however, is Sondheim and Alpine’s critical and deeply witty stage production that has lead to this.
Into the Woods (2014) directed by Rob Marshall, will be released in the UK cinemas on 25th December by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Certificate PG.