Universal was able to get its cake and eat it too, when it cast Hugh Jackman – a Tony award-winning Broadway alum and X-Men franchise star – as the male lead, Jean Valjean, in the Les Misérables musical adaptation. Wolverine headed a star-studded cast in director Tom Hooper’s film, which took in $437 million worldwide and racked up multiple Oscar nominations – as well as a Best Actress win for Anne Hathaway – though, its unconventional cinematic musical structure drew mixed reactions from the show’s fanbase.
Disney and director Rob Marshall (Chicago) are planning a more traditional movie interpretation of James Lapin and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods Broadway musical. Nowadays, though, that means casting celebrities with either offscreen or onscreen singing experience – Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep in this case – and the possibility that Depp will play the film’s male lead has prompted love/hate responses, depending on how one felt about his performance in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (another Sondheim adaptation).
However, according to a newly-released Disney casting notice (hat tip to THR), Depp is actually playing a supporting role in the film, alongside Streep. For those not familiar with the original Broadway show, here’s the semi-official synopsis (from the casting notice)
“Into the Woods” intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales such as from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” etc., and follows them to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests.
Depp is confirmed to portray “a hungry and sexy vicissitude of the fairy tale Wolf” – that sounds about right for the quirky Pirates of the Caribbean and Lone Ranger star – meanwhile, Streep will get to show off her singing abilities once more (after co-headlining the Mamma Mia! musical movie), by playing the Witch responsible for setting the plot in motion. Finally, award-winning Broadway alum James Corden has been cast as the male lead, a humble baker who takes on a dangerous quest to lift the curse that Streep’s witch has placed on his family.
Corden won the 2012 Tony for Best Actor in a Play for his lead performance in the Broadway show “One Man, Two Guvnors”; his previous stage experience includes Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys” play, back in 2004. He also won a BAFTA for his work on the comedy series Gavin & Stacy, and thereafter jumped to geek fan-favorite thanks to his role as the bumbling, but good-natured, Craig Owens in the Doctor Who episodes “The Lodger” and “Closing Time.” He seems a very good choice for the Into the Woods male lead role, all in all.
Marshall’s Oscar-winning Chicago proved to be both a critical and artistic success – it opened in theaters the year after filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby) reinvigorated the musical genre with Moulin Rouge! – but his followup cinematic musical, Nine, was given a more lukewarm reception. Since then, Marshall moving ahead to direct Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, didn’t exactly help to restore his strong artistic reputation.
Into the Woods is quite the beloved stage musical – with darker and more adult story elements than you would expect from a Disney musical movie – and the film adaptation has a great cast lined up; so, there’s potential for this to be the project that brings Marshall the wider critical acclaim that’s evaded him since his debut.
According to the casting notice, Into the Woods will begin filming in the UK this September; if so, a Fall/Winter 2014 release date would be feasible. As always, we’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.