The Greatest Showman on Earth has now been in the works at Fox for seven long years. The movie is said to be a biopic, detailing the life of former showman, ringmaster and politician, P.T. Barnum, with Hugh Jackman starring in the central role. Jackman is also a producer on the project, along with Chernin Entertainment and Laurence Mark (Dreamgirls), with the script set to be written by Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) and Michael Gracey making his directorial debut with the film.
Described as a contemporary musical, The Greatest Showman could be a really great movie but for whatever reason, production on the film has never got off the ground. The movie was rumored to start filming in 2015, but that didn’t happen. However, things look to be in motion once more, with Variety reporting that Zac Efron is set to join Jackman on the cast list, and the film rumored for a December 2017 release date.
Efron has carved out a solid career in R-rated comedies since his High School Musical days, with roles in Neighbors, plus its sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, as well as the upcoming Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Baywatch. However, Efron has also proven himself as a decent dramatic actor in films such as Being Orson Welles. He showcased his musical chops as the Disney Channel’s sweetheart in the High School Musical trilogy but perhaps his best musical role was his turn as Link Larkin in Hairspray.
Meanwhile, Jackman has a strong history of musical work, winning a Tony Award for his role in The Boy From Oz on Broadway, as well as staring in a critically acclaimed run of Oklahoma in London’s West End. He also starred as Jean Valjean in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Miserables, winning a Golden Globe for his performance. Jackman also has a long standing history with Fox, the studio where The Greatest Showman has its home, given his portrayal of Wolverine in several Wolverine and X-Men films. The third Wolverine movie is currently in production. Given Jackman’s commitment to the studio, and vise versa, it seems like both parties will have a vested interest in getting this film made.
Certainly, Barnum’s story is worthy of retelling; with his own special brand of ‘humbug’, which many saw as lies, Barnum regularly hoodwinked the public with various sideshows, including claims that he owned a live mermaid and showcasing a woman as the oldest woman alive. He also took ‘Tom Thumb’ and the opera singer Jenny Lind on a tour across the country, eventually teaming up with James Anthony Bailey to create the three-ringed Barnum and Bailey Circus that still exists today (merged with the Ringling Bros. to create Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus). Barnum’s personal life was as colorful as his working life; the entrepreneur was rumored to have had an affair with Jenny Lind, though he eventually went back to his wife, who encouraged him to run for Mayor.
The Greatest Showman will not be the first time Barnum’s story has been told, however. In 1996, Burt Lancaster played the central character in Barnum, a TV movie, and Beau Bridges also portrayed him in the 1999 TV movie, P.T. Barnum. However, Barnum’s most successful incarnation has been in the Broadway musical, Barnum. Originally played by Jim Dale, and later by Michael Crawford to great critical acclaim in the West End, the Barnum musical is credited with bringing the showman’s history to the attention of the general public. Given Jackman’s talent and charisma, as well as the potential addition of Efron, The Greatest Showman could give Barnum’s name a well-deserved resurgence, if the movie is done right.
The Greatest Showman on Earth is currently set for a December 25, 2017 release.