Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false.
MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Into the Woods was almost made into a film by Jim Henson Productions.
Into the Woods was Stephen Sondheim’s second straight classic musical that had unfortunate timing on the year in which is was released. Sondheim’s previous musical, Sunday in the Park With George, ended up losing the Best Musical Tony Award to La Cage aux Folles, and Into the Woods had the misfortune to come out the same year as Phantom of the Opera.
Still, Into the Woods still held its own when it came to award season, and actually beat Phantom for the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, plus won the Tony for Best Book, Best Score and Best Lead Actress in a Musical. However, Phantom won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Into the Woods was still a commercial success, though, and it’s really one of the more crowd-pleasing of Sondheim’s musicals, except perhaps some of the downbeat aspects of the Second Act.
The musical is loosely inspired by Bruno Bettelheim’s book about fairy tales, The Uses of Enchantment…
It follows a group of various characters from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, including Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame), Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf and more than one Prince Charming.
It’s one of Sondheim’s more accessible stories, so it should not be a big surprise that it is being made into a film vy director Rob Marshall with big names stars attached to it like Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film is scheduled to come out next Christmas.
However, surprisingly enough, this modern film adaptation is far from the first attempt to turn it into a movie. But who originally wanted to do it? Jim Henson Pictures! And it was going to star Muppets!
Originally, the film was optioned in 1993 by Sony, and a script for it was written by the same writing team as City Slickers.
Sondheim.com gives the details about the script:
The story basically follows that of the show’s first act, although the story unfolds in a different manner, without a narrator or a Mysterious Man.
Several confusions of the play have been fixed. For example, Rapunzel is no longer related to the Baker, nor does she give birth to twins, so the question of why the family curse didn’t affect her has been erased.
At the end of the first “act,” the Giant rises from his fall and goes on a rampage, allowing the rest of the story to unfold more-or-less as it did in Act II of the play. The intricate back stories of the Baker’s father and the witch’s mother have been deleted, eliminating “No More” and changing a bit of “Last Midnight.” There is no “second bean,” so the Baker’s wife’s scenes with Cinderella are fairly different. Finally, at the very end of the movie the wife reappears, having tricked the Giant into thinking she was dead.
In 1996, Sony and Henson Productions formed Jim Henson Pictures, and the project officially went under the heading of Henson Pictures.
Both Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner were attached to the project as directors, and at least one star-studded read-through of the script took place around this time.
However, sadly, the deal never materialized, and Henson Pictures no longer exists.
But still – how awesome would an Into the Woods film with muppets be?!!?
(The answer is “quite awesome”)
The legend is…
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