Disney is best known for taking classic fairy tales and turning them into musicals, so it should be no surprise that when the time came for James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's well-loved and award-winning stage musical Into the Woods to make the move onto the big screen, Disney was there to oblige.
The screenplay for the movie was also written by Lapine, and the project is being helmed by director Rob Marshall, whose most recent release was the box office hit Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides but who is perhaps best known for directing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger in the movie adaptation of Chicago. Into the Woods is a blend of a several fairy tales that tie a number of characters' stories together in a similar way to that of miniseries The 10th Kingdom or Bill Willingham's "Fables" comics.
Disney has now announced that Into the Woods began filming in England last week with the full cast of the fairy tale musical now assembled. The major players include Meryl Streep as a witch pursuing a cure for an ageing curse that afflicts her and Johnny Depp as a Wolf with his eyes set on Little Red Hiding Hood. The charming Prince role that was going to be filled by Jake Gyllenhaal has now been taken by Billy Magnussen (The East), who will be courting the beautiful Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy).
The list of players in this large ensemble cast goes on. Emily Blunt (The Five-Year Engagement) will be starring as the Baker's Wife, who is searching for the cure to her infertility, and James Corden (Doctor Who) will play the Baker's Wife's Husband. Broadway star Lilla Crawford will appear in her first feature film as Little Red Riding Hood, while Daniel Huttlestone (Les Misérables) and Tracey Ullman (Corpse Bride) will play young Jack and Jack's Mother, respectively.
Have you got time for a few more names? Star Trek's rebooted Captain James T. Kirk, Chris Pine, will also be playing a handsome Prince, who courts a Cinderella played by Pitch Perfect lead Anna Kendrick. Cinderella's spoiled stepsisters will be played by Tammy Blanchard (Moneyball) and Lucy Punch (The 10th Kingdom), and West End actor Joanna Riding will portray her late mother. Filling out the supporting roles are Simon Russell Beale (My Week With Marilyn) as the Baker's father, Annette Crosbie (One Foot in the Grave) as Red Riding Hood's grandmother and Frances de la Tour once again taking on the role of a giant after becoming well-known as Madame Maxime in the Harry Potter series.
The final cast indicates a significant amount of musical talent, as well as quite a lot of actors who are experiences with stage work and musicals. After this year's Les Misérables, which received mixed reviews and was criticized both for the final effect of the live recorded dialogue and director Tom Hooper's insistence on keeping the camera alarmingly close to the actors' faces for much of the running time, Into the Woods will be the next big test of a stage musical's transference to the screen. As was done for Les Misérables, Sondheim has also written a brand new number for the film to give Into the Woods a shot at a Best Original Song award during the Oscars.
If any company is qualified to handle a fairy tale musical then it's probably Disney, and with such a great and diverse cast, as well as a director with relevant experience, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to Into the Woods. But can this adaptation bring the magic of the stage show to life on the big screen? Share your thoughts on the final talent line-up for Into the Woods in the comments.
Into the Woods arrives in theaters on December 25, 2014.
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