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"Into the Woods" Seeks Investors & Very Famous Witch

This happened Monday. (Thanks to Julia for alerting.) How crazy is that?

A live reading of Stephen Sondheim's wondrous "Into the Woods" shortly after its Shakespeare in the Park summer (with only Donna Murphy as The Witch transferring from Central Park) to raise interest/funding for Rob Marshall's film version. He's surely hoping to redeem himself post-Nine which angered critics and lost a ton of money at the box office and return to his Chicago heyday. But I swear to god if he makes up some stupid framing device where it's all a dream/fantasy...

I don't know about you but the idea of Patrick Wilson & Cheyenne Jackson as the eternally unsatisfied but self-satisfied Princes is to die for. The other names that most excite me here are Nina Arianda, Victoria Clark, Christine Baranski,  Anna Kendrick, Megan Hilty,... oh wait, I'd just type up every name! 

How do you read "Into the Woods" -- Did they talk/sing through their table read, stand beside the piano for Hollywood moneybags or was it very very short? Broadway.com confirms that this reading did happen as planned though the film version would obviously *sniffle* get an entirely new cast. (We once had a very robust discussion of who should play whom right here at The Film Experience.) Many of those names listed above are famous and accomplished and have golden statues of some sort and are amazing vocalists but you know they'll be thrown over in a second for bigger names with weaker chops.

Streep will probably get the role made famous by Bernadette Peters, and later played by Vanessa Williams and Donna Murphy

Meryl Streep is already reportedly in talks about the most coveted role in any production: The Witch (who raises Rapunzel as her daughter and sings "The Last Midnight" and the show's thematic anthem "Children Will Listen"). That sucks for the great great Broadway diva Donna Murphy who, to date, has only ever had one movie role worthy of her (The Witch... who coincidentally raises Rapunzel!... in Tangled) though she gets frequent tiny roles. But that's how it works for stage-to-film transfers. And Meryl does have a wondrous vocal instrument; I can and have listened to her tracks from Postcards from the Edge, Prairie Home Companion and Death Becomes Her on loop (Mamma Mia not so much). If rumors that Marshall originally wanted Toni Collette for Roxy in Chicago are true -- and why wouldn't they be cuz damn if she isn't great in musicals -- can't we throw her in this movie somewhere?

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Reader Comments (58)

Oh God! I saw it on Playbill and thought: "Nathaniel will write about this!". That cast is to die for.

I love Meyl, but I also prefer Donna Murphy. My favorite song sung by Meryl would be Amazing Grace in Silkwood. I guess you get what I mean.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I saw this yesterday and was impressed with cast too. I think Meryl will do well. Based on "He's Me Pal" from Ironweed, I know she can pull off the "old, ugly witch" performance.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Agree. I'm a devoted Streep fan, but I would really like to see Donna Murphy get a decent lead role.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I adore and love Meryl with my whole actressexual heart, I really do, but come on-that's the perfect lineup for this movie. Can we start some sort of PayPal to get the movie with that cast list funded?

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

It would be nice to see Donna Murphy as the witch (saw her at Central Park and I don't think I realized it was her at the time, but now it makes sense... I was under the impression that Amy Adams was the only "name" in the cast... I guess by "name" I meant "movie star"... gotta check my playbill). But Streep will be excellent, I'm sure... UNLESS her taking over for Cherry Jones in Doubt is any indication. That is worrisome.

But you know, if I were Donna Murphy and I lost out to Meryl for the witch role, I'd probably rather not be in the production at all, you know? She'd probably rather just do some other job than be demoted, as it were.

Patrick Wilson and Cheyenne Jackson do sound choice, though.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Keller

I love Meryl Streep, I do, but Donna Murphy MUST play the Witch. Her take on it this summer (I saw it three times) was nothing short of brilliant, and like it's been said, she deserves a screen role worthy of her. This would be perfect.
Not to trash Meryl, but she is definitely not up to singing this role, not to mention a little too old for it (both of which doomed her in Mamma Mia in my mind).
Why can't Hollywood let someone who is clearly at the top of their game but not a big "name" do this? Didn't we already see what happens when you cast people who can't sing in big screen musicals?
I am begging the universe - LET DONNA MURPHY PLAY THE WITCH.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeehee

I'm probably the only one who isn't excited about this. Marshall did well by Chicago, but Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine were just stillborn and marred by BIZARRE casting choices (don't get me started on casting Chinese actresses to play Japanese women!). Nine was ASHAMED to be a musical and just tried to be a remake of 8 1/2 and it just failed on all counts.

I'm meh about Meryl as the Witch, but she's never done any Sondheim and at least this is material that is worth her talent. The Witch is a showy role, but the real meat and potatoes here are the Baker and his Wife. Nina Arianda is PERFECT casting and I hope she's not tossed over for someone more famous. I heard Amy Adams floundered in the role and I think Arianda will probably hit a home run here. And Anna Kendrick as Cinderella strikes me as a bit off . . . she's totally Little Red, but may be a bit too old for that now. I would like to see Anne Hathaway as Cinderella. But who knows if she'll do another musical so soon after Les Miz?

Speaking of . . . I hope Les Miz is good and a success because Tom Hooper seems to be doing it properly... I love the live singing concept. I think that would be perfect for Into the Woods as well.

Also, I'm a little worried about the score for this show being ruined in a stage to screen transfer. Sondheim is apparently writing new songs for it, but I'd be very sad if anything is cut. This is a perfect score and it doesn't need anything new.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

Streep did just fine in Doubt. The more I watch Doubt, the more I love her performance. And Streep will do just fine as the witch in Into the Woods.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

That's the problem, Brandz - Donna Murphy will be MORE than fine. And as someone who saw Cherry Jones in "Doubt" and almost couldn't breath for the whole duration of the play..... yeah, fine just doesn't cut it for me.
(Don't get me started on "August:Osage County").

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeehee

I actually didn't care for Meryl in Doubt at all. I found all her choices to be really grotesque.

I actually thought the only great scene in that film was Viola Davis's

I didn't care for Meryl in Iron Lady either, but I think it's just that the film was so terrible.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

Anyone who doubts Meryl's singing abilities should listen to this: http://coconutmilk83.tumblr.com/post/22281271416/meryl-streep-live-download-since-its

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Look, I love Meryl (even more now after Hope Springs), but must she be the ONLY actress EVER considered for meaty roles in her age range? There ARE other great actresses out there, Hollywood! Donna Murphy as The Witch in Into The Woods is a prime example. She was fan-flipping-tastic in the Park this Summer, and she has done so well in small roles in both film and television. Stage stars can become movie stars, you know. It's like Hollywood has forgotten how to make stars of people older than 25.

Remember the good old days when it was a huge selling point to have someone reprising their stage role onscreen? If it was made during Hollywood's Golden Age, the film of Doubt would have starred Cherry Jones and Brian F. O'Byrne, no question (unless a big name star bought the film rights), and there'd be no way Bernadette Peters wouldn't be playing The Witch in a film of Into The Woods - she's another big stage star who has never gotten her due onscreen.

If that's really true about Toni Collette, I could see her as The Baker's Wife (sorry, Nina Arianda, you really are brilliant and I cannot believe that the film version of Venus In Fur is being made without you, let alone in French!) or even as The Witch, although Donna Murphy is such a perfect choice that it would hurt to see anyone else play that part. And yes, Cheyenne Jackson and Patrick Wilson as the Princes is too perfect!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Look... The rest of America does not know who even Donna Murphy is.... Sorry, it is true! :( With Streep on board she adds prestige and bankability to the project. Same as Doubt and A:OC. Movies are about business. Plain and simple. And Streep sings well and will play the Witch to the hilt!!!! And Sondeheim and Streep do have some history together....

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Shouldn't we be more worried about the choice of Marshall as director? After his casting of Nine (and though I loved Cotillard's performance), I'm sure Streep as the Witch will be seen as an inspired choice when the dust settles on the final cast.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

It's a shame that Meryl Streep gets all the good roles for women over 50. She's certainly talented, but not without her faults, and her performances have become caricatures. The notion that she's the greatest actor ever to have lived must make directors hesitant to question her choices.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I think Into the Woods would benefit from a female director. I'd love to see Catherine Breillat or Jane Campion try their hands at this . . . Campion more than Breillat, who would probably have the witch begin menstruating during Last Midnight or something . . . but still a lot more interesting than Rob Marshall!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

If I could have only one name on that list cast in the movie, it would probably be James Corden. That would be a real coup.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDS

Can Campion do dark whimsy?

What about Henry Selick (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach)?

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

denny, you bring up a great point about stage actors not being able to repeat their successes on screen. If it weren't for the battles waged by Arthur Penn and William Gibson, we might never have seen Anne Bancroft's brilliant reprise on celluloid in The Miracle Worker. The studio wanted a movie star, but they dug in their hills, and she won an Oscar. Nobody else could have played that part. Everyone knows the Julie Andrews/Jack Warner/Audrey Hepburn story. Love love love Audrey, but that part belonged to Julie. As for The Witch in ITW, I think Christine Lahti would be perfect. I'm almost positive I've heard her sing in one of her roles. And she would rock that tiara most bad-assedly!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

There are many good roles that Meryl has not received....Too be honest, Hollywood is lazy and most projects probably ask if she is interested first mostly from a buisness standpoint. She is very backable as a woman over 50....and a movie starring a 3 time Academy Award winner sounds good for marketing.....There is no questionig Streep's talent over the years. She is arguably the best actress...I agree. And have you noticed that lately with Streep it has been in the menatality of ...."if you cast HER....they will come"....audiences and fellow cast members a like. Everyone in Hollywood wants to work with her!!!!!!

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

just want to clarify the first sentence in my last post:

denny, you bring up a great point about stage actors not being ALLOWED to repeat their successes on screen.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Rene, I don't think Into the Woods is that whimsical . . . they really should curb any effort to go in that direction. It's not "cute." It can be funny, but I'd rather it steer as dark as it possibly can.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

Shouldn't everyone here champion the death of all other actresses in the wake of Meryl Streep. She's the best and everyone else is irrelevant. No one with a vagina can play anything better than Meryl. Of course she deserved to win over Viola Davis. She was nominated 17 times she should have won 17 times. Screw all these other no talents. How could anyone think to breath the same air as Master Streep. Stay in your place and wait for her arrival.

Meryl Streep is God and the rest of humanity is the dirt of the earth. Why aren't we chanting Streep, Streep, Streep, in the morning? What's wrong with you people? She should play both President Obama and First Lady Michelle. Streep should go unquestioned. This place should not be called The Film Experience but The First Church of Streep.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

@ 4artful... Finally we agree on something! LOL

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

OMG Nina should have KILLED in this.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Alejandro, you would have Act I and II have the same tone? Take for instance Agony and its reprisal, don't those benefit from the shift in tone between acts? It can't all be gloom and doom and boom.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

This is killing me. Nina Arianda as the Baker's Wife would make my life. And James Corden as her husband? GOLD. Ditto about Patrick Wilson as one of the princes.

Megan Hilty could be the witch, yes? I've never understood why the witch, wanting to make herself beautiful again, decides to revert back to her 40/50yo self. Who wouldn't want to be 30, blonde, and buxom again just like Megan Hilty?

But if I could keep one holdover from the Central Park version, even though Murphy was great, I'd choose Sarah Stiles as Little Red Riding Hood. She was a riot.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

denny -- one small point. Bernadette Peters did get a fair shake onscreen. She was a very famous celebrity in the late 70s early 80s. But yeah most of the time they don't give stage stars a chance at all. I can't believe (but am thrilled) that Sutton Foster is getting more famous now via "Bunheads"

brookesboy -- yeah, there've been lots of examples of stage to screen transfers that worked and made the stage star more famous. I wish they'd try it more often (though in the case of RENT I think that was a mistake since they were all 15 years too old for the roles)

Jamie & 4rtful -- lol. In truth, I'd love to see Meryl Streep play The Witch. But I just can't be excited by her casting anymore like I used to be simply because it's a done deal every time. I love her but I don't want to see ANY actor in everything (no, not even La Pfeiff). I guess cinema is my religion but I'm totally polytheistic. I need variety and there are so many actresses in that age range that I really miss.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Nathan, what do you think about La Lange as The Witch? I don't know if she can sing, but dayum, I can see her in that part like a Polaroid picture.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I was going to address the politics of keeping MS at the top. But better yet we can all speculate on 90's Actress winners who'll have to settle for a semi colon on their record in order to become a multiple Oscar winner.

Kathy Bates: Actress (1990);
Supporting Actress (20??)

Frances McDormand and Susan Sarandon seem like surer things for late career Supporting Actress recognition.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

4rtful -- i'd be surprised to see any of them back in the race at this point. everyone always thinks everyone will be back but reality is much different than that. Sarandon in particular. She already has 5 noms and a win and there aren't that many people that end their lives with 6 or more.

October 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I've watched the filmed play a dozen or so times, have the soundtrack, and LOVE LOVE LOVE Bernadette as the witch. I would like to see her reprise the role, or have someone else do it. Agree with Nathaniel--Meryl is totally overexposed, especially in the entertainment media. Did you see the headlines today??? I'm craving some of her peers (and slightly younger actresses), who also have vocal talents. She's rapidly becoming the Wal-Mart (or the Apple, Amazon, or Disney) of the over-50 movie star biz.

Casting of the larger parts of the Baker and the Baker's Wife is key to film's success--I would be happy with Corden and Arianda.

Not impressed with Marshall, however. I was lukewarm on Chicago. Nine was a hot mess. PotC: Stranger Tides? Not sure I want Sondheim in these hands. Think Stephen would agree.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Streep has played the Hollywood game better than most for the last 30 years. She has paid her dues and reaped the awards. The acting world is not fair, it never has been. The easy solution is if you are sick of Streep do not see the movies that she is in.... That's all. For some she is "brand new" again ever since Prada and Mamma Mia... And she has earned this success...

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Nathan after saying in the podcast they'd never give it to Viola you're depressing me again with none of these older Actress winners making returns and wins in Supporting.

I have nothing to root for. Non-white actresses are shut out of Actress and veteran performers shutout of Supporting I have nothing.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Streep's current stranglehold isn't without the machine of Hollywood selling the narrative of the greatest living actress. You don't realize her success is at the expense of her peers in a sexist environment. It's not Streep's fault the fate of the women who came up with her but she is responsible for starting the meme to begin with and pandering to it shamelessly every available second of her public life.

I wish I could see what the rest of you see in her but I prefer character actresses. I like personality and sass. Fun and strength. Streep's acting style is very beneficial in real life when attempting to swindle people but I won't cop to such shenanigans.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

@ 4artful.... No one said it was fair. For every success there is someone who fails. And Hollywood is all about narrative.... That is not just Streep's doing.
So... Everyone just thought that after she finally won her third that she would ....what??... Retire? Bow out graciously of being offered dream roles? Aren't most actresses in demand after recently winning an Oscar??? One cannot wholly blame Streep for every actress over 50 who has had hiccups in their career. That is just not fair and takes away from some of the success that after thirty years Streep has earned. Every career has its highs and lows...I refuse to believe that Close, Mirren, Weaver, Sarandon etc. are not working as much because of Streep.... Maybe it has something to do with their past film choices and how they were not box office successes? Maybe they took too much time off and it's harder getting back on the horse? Maybe it has something to say with range????

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

4artful, you've yet to offer an alternative to Streep.

So who should it be? Taking into account this is Rob Marshall and who he cast in Chicago and Nine (mostly big name screen actors with untested singing skills).

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Bates. She was his original choice for Mama Morton since previously working together for Disney's TV movie version of Annie. Kathy can sing need you look up the You Tube clip of her singing and acting debut in Taking Off.

The general public actually likes her better than some of the alternate Streep names most people can muster. Harry's Law had a vocal fan base and when asked she's thought well of by the people for the people.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

If it isn't Streep, they will likely cast someone younger--from Nicole Kidman's generation. Sadly, none of the actresses from Streep's generation will be considered.

I doubt Streep needs or wants time off. She probably shoots a film for a few months and promotes another film for a few weeks. She has the rest of the year to do other things or recharge her batteries. I suspect it is less taxing than shooting network TV series. Most actors wouldn't mind shooting one lead performance per year.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdela

4rtful, do you know anything about this character? I love me some Kathy Bates but as the Witch and not Jack's Mom? Are we still talking about Sondheim's Into the Woods?

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

And I'm not saying Streep won't need some makeup and wardrobe magic to complete the Witch's transformation to gives us a Death Becomes Her "I'm a girl!" moment, but Kathy Bates?

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

I don't know anything about this material. Just as a Hollywood executive going for who I know and like over whose best suited for the role.

Frankly I begging the movie gods to give Bates a second Oscar whether semicolon'ed or adding a date to sit side by side with the other.

Kathy Bates: Actress (20??)(1990)

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Nathaniel, I suppose that's true. I would argue that what she got to do onscreen wasn't indicative of the amount of talent she displayed onstage, but I was born in the early 80s, so I've only really seen her career heyday in retrospect. It might have seemed different at the time. My main point was that I don't really think the movies knew how to use her to her/their best advantage - at least in what I've seen.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

4rtful, basically all of this was for naught, but seeing "new cast" and "role" and "Streep" triggered some pet peeve?

And, I agree, Bates should be given another great role instead of these sassy bit parts. That one-two punch of "Titanic" and "Primary Colors" was a gift and a curse apparently (though she was great). Give her another "Dolores Claiborne" level lead role.

But back on topic, give "Into the Woods" a listen, won't you?

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Kathy Bates ???? she is the most overrated actress on this blog. She is so stoic in her roles, it is pathetic. I loved her in Misery, but not for an Oscar.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

"@ 4artful.... No one said it was fair. For every success there is someone who fails. And Hollywood is all about narrative.... That is not just Streep's doing.
So... Everyone just thought that after she finally won her third that she would ....what??... Retire? Bow out graciously of being offered dream roles? Aren't most actresses in demand after recently winning an Oscar??? One cannot wholly blame Streep for every actress over 50 who has had hiccups in their career. That is just not fair and takes away from some of the success that after thirty years Streep has earned. Every career has its highs and lows...I refuse to believe that Close, Mirren, Weaver, Sarandon etc. are not working as much because of Streep.... Maybe it has something to do with their past film choices and how they were not box office successes? Maybe they took too much time off and it's harder getting back on the horse? Maybe it has something to say with range????

October 3, 2012 | Jamie "

Couldn't agree with you more Jamie, Meryl has been wise with her carrer and popular while doing so, so why should we punish her for the failures of other actresses, after all, there's a reason why people prefer Streep, she is a master at her craft.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Folks are saying about Streep what I have been saying for a long time ... also she has brought the age factor for women in movies up tremendously.

She is a creative actress and if she were offered every other role in Hollywood, she should take it... she has certainly earned it. I cannot think of another actress whose roles in movies are so varied and her own humanitarinism is over the top.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Bates isn't overrated here. She's isn't in Nathan's top twenty. She's like a pop culture footnote that's easy to reference when discussing ageism and sexism and character actresses with brushes with Oscar. I defend her because if I don't—who will?

Streep has the world on her side. I'm apart of a buzzing fly minority yelling lie she's not the greatest of her generation or the English language or living actress for that matter. It won't change her 17 and counting nominations or 3 and count wins — at least Hepburn's record doesn't involve a semicolon.

Rick you read me so wrong. I'm the ocean. Strawberry Nesquik. Jonny Greenwood's Master score. I am all kinds of awesome with good taste.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Jill -- i feel it's tremendously unwise to call other actresses "failures" because they aren't as successful as Streep. Streep herself was once labelled box office poison Everyone has rough patches and it's hardly an actresses "failure" when Hollywood won't cast her because they'll only choose Streep or whomever is #1 in whatever age bracket they're casting for. That's like calling all the girls who were competing with Julia Roberts failures for not utterly dominating the 1990s and being first choice like Roberts was. And like anyone who is first choice for anything they're not always right for the part. That's been true of everyone before Streep and it's still true with Streep. Casting is about more than "who is most popular right now" or at least it should be.

rick -- i love Streep but she does not deserve the credit for helping HOllywood accept women who are older. In her age bracket people ONLY want to hire her which is not the same thing.

If anything it's a number of women from ta couple of different generations who helped it change. When i was a teenager people complained actresses were getting too old for parts when they were 35ish. Now the careers don't seem to die out instantly until about 45 ... so there's progress!

everyone -- i'm sorry to bring Streep up again. I know i said i was taking a break after last year's blowout Streep-a-thon. The conversations always devolve into arguments about Streep and whether or not she deserves every role. But it's hard not to bring her up because when you're that successful there is news about you all the time :)

October 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

and once again -- i think Streep is fine for this role. beautiful voice and she's funny. It's not miscasting like some of her other parts have been ;)

October 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R
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