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Paul Mescal Replaces Blake Jenner in Richard Linklater’s 20-Year ‘Merrily We Roll Along’

The Sondheim adaptation is expected to wrap production roughly 20 years from now.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Paul Mescal attends the GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2022 at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on November 16, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Paul Mescal

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

We’re only nine days into the year, but Paul Mescal is already having quite the 2023. Just days after landing the coveted lead role in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” sequel, the “Aftersun” star has joined the cast of Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” IndieWire has confirmed. (Above the Line first reported the news.)

The film is an adaptation of the beloved Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name, itself an adaptation of a Broadway play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. It tells the story of three friends pursuing careers in various facets of the entertainment industry and how their lives change as they age, though the story is famously told in reverse chronological order.

IndieWire can also confirm that Mescal has already shot a segment of the musical film, which was a reshoot.

Mescal takes over the role of composer Franklin Shepard, a role previously set to be played by Blake Jenner, who previously starred in Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” Mescal will join a cast that already includes Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein.

Linklater’s adaptation is particularly notable for its decades-spanning production process. The director plans to shoot the film over the course of twenty years, in order to accurately capture the aging process of the actors. It is the same technique that he employed to critical acclaim on “Boyhood,” albeit on a much larger scale.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Linklater said that he isn’t worried about the massive time commitment because he thinks this is the only authentic way to tell the story on film.

“Whatever form will be in place when that film gets done, it’ll just be whatever it is at that time,” Linklater said. “The bottom line is that I don’t really have to think about all that. I have to think about telling a story and making a movie the best I can. The form is surviving. There will be people who still like films. This has been coming on forever. I don’t obsess about it too much.”

“One down, eight parts to go,” he added when asked how much of the film has been completed. “We shot the end. We’re making it as we go. It’s not “Boyhood.” There are a ton of gaps. Nine times in 20 years. So far, it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s really cool. But come on, it’s so far off. I’ve got nothing much to say about it.”

Additional reporting by Brian Welk.

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