Disney signed director Rob Marshall to a two-year contract early last year, so as to lock him down to oversee the Mouse House's Into the Woods Broadway musical adaptation; now, it seems Marshall may reunite with his leading man from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Johnny Depp, on his new venture.
Depp isn't the only famous name in negotiations to become a cast member in the Into the Woods movie; Disney is also courting Meryl Streep for an important role. If deals are struck for both thespians, then this project will be the first to have the poster children for eccentric character actors (Depp) and Academy favorites (Streep), sharing the screen together.
Variety, which has the exclusive, is reporting that Depp has begun circling Into the Woods, but does not specify what role he is being considered for. Most likely, he is being eyed to play the Baker who, along with his wife, takes a dangerous journey into a dark and mysterious forest, so as to fulfill a task set upon them by the witch who cursed the pair to remain childless; Streep is in talks for the witch role.
Into the Woods stands to become the second cinematic musical - adapted from a work by the composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim - to feature Depp, after Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The man behind Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow has not lost his strong dramatic chops, nor his rock musician's vocal capabilities; truth be told, though, he's simply not a Broadway-style singer, as was illustrated by his Sweeney Todd performance.
However, Sondheim is on record as preferring the "Good actor first, singer second" approach to casting musical film adaptations (see: Les Misérables), despite the difference in opinion when it concerns many other members of the musical theater community (side note: I agree with Sondheim, personally). Hence, people like Depp and Streep - who proved her own singing mettle in Mamma Mia! - are being pursued, as the first choices to headline Into the Woods.
Of course, that would probably be the case regardless, as Les Miz has, apparently, re-invigorated studios' belief in the box office potential of musical adaptations with star power on either side of the camera (see: a Will Smith-produced Annie, which is arriving in 2014). Nonetheless, there's something interesting about Depp being pursued to portray a fairly normal character for a change of pace, while Streep gets to be more theatrical with her performance.
As for the scheduling: Depp is working on cinematographer Wall Pfister's directorial debut Transcendence right now, and will thereafter jump right into director Barry Levinson's Black Mass this summer. If things work out, the actor could reunite with Marshall by early 2014 to shoot Into the Woods, before he reprises (again) as Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean 5 sometime later next year. As for Depp and Marshall's planned Thin Man remake, well, that's on hold until further notice.
We'll keep you posted on pre-production for Into the Woods as more information becomes available.