How do you turn a 1987 Stephen Sondheim classic into a movie musical? Original book writer James Lapine (“Six by Sondheim”) and director Rob Marshall (Oscar-winning “Chicago”) put together a close adaptation, with help from Sondheim on trimming and reworking the songs. The composer even wrote a new one for the Witch to sing which they filmed, but they took it out when it ruined the rhythm of the movie.
Marshall got a reasonable $50-million budget from Disney and cast a talented ensemble of movie stars with theater backgrounds as various fairy tale characters, led by a tunefully emotional Streep as the Witch, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella (who auditioned as a child for Lapine for Little Red Riding Hood), and Chris Pine as Prince Charming. He’s hilarious ripping his short off in his show-stopper “Agony,” and the the rest of the cast is funny too, as Marshall points out in our video interview below.
In some ways “Les Mis” gave Disney permission to go for a theatrical musical crammed with 20 songs and a minimum of dialogue. But each song was shot differently, depending on what was required–mostly laying down the songs ahead of shooting, but after rehearsal.
Streep is sure to land an Oscar nomination for her vulnerable delivery of such songs as “Stay with Me” and “You Are Not Alone.” She threw herself so wholeheartedly into the opening song number that she had to be rescued from falling off a table.
Check out how the writer and director assembled this hugely entertaining (if uneven) Sondheim movie musical about parents and children longing and wanting–accessible human emotions all.