With so many twisted fairy tales appearing on television and the big screen, Disney will be returning to one of the earliest fairy tale adaptations with a feature film version of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, Into the Woods. Still in the early stages of planning, Broadway World reported that Disney will be due to start filming in October. Most exciting of all, Meryl Streep has confirmed her role as the Witch in this show – one of the most bad-ass, psychologically complex characters you will find in any reimagined fairy tale!
Modern adaptations of fairy tales have given us a myriad of wonderfully complex characters to deepen the plot-lines of old. We have the Evil Queen Regina from Once Upon a Time – a character that we can never decide if we love to hate, or hate to love. From the same series, we also have Rumplestiltskin and Captain Hook, those incredibly self-interested yet oddly endearing baddies. Jack’s recent exploits in Jack and the Giant Killer recently gave us an evil noble to blame and a pack of enslaved giants to pity – at least to a small amount. We love these incredibly complex characters adding dimension to the “evil” fairy tale characters of old.
But Sondheim fans may recognize that the Witch from Into the Woods was one of the earliest fairy tale characters to toe the line between good and bad. Surrounded by a collection of fairy tale characters whose “goodness” is not always what it appears, the Witch often stands as the voice of reason and truth. Her character itself seems a contradiction; as the Witch in a fairy tale (and, conversely, the mother figure who stole Rapunzel and locked her away as a baby), she is supposed to be the bad guy, no questions asked. But nowhere in this musical is she really portrayed as evil.
Is she self-interested? Yes. Is she vindictive? Yes again. Has she done bad things? Is she willing to do whatever it takes to get her way? Hell yes to both. But not evil. In fact, I would argue that the Witch is the most empathetic character in the show, not to mention the most interesting. But the best part of this role is the mix of comedy and depth that Sondheim has given to the character. Between imbibing a complicated potion (spoilers ahead!) to regain her beauty to mourning the loss of her child’s innocence, there is plenty to be felt and seen. Played by Bernadette Peters on stage and in the American Playhouse filmed performance, Streep will have a lot to live up to in this version, but we think she’s up to the challenge! I mean, come on. She’s Meryl Streep, for Pete’s sake. What the hell can’t she do?
The release date of Into the Woods is still up in the air, but Rob Marshall (Chicago and Nine) is set to direct and produce, and James Lapine, the original book writer for Into the Woods, is reworking the screenplay. It is even rumored that Stephen Sondheim will be contributing some new songs to the beloved soundtrack, including another duet between the Baker and his wife called, “Rainbows.”
Thus far, Streep is the only confirmed casting for Into the Woods, but the project itself was introduced with a star-studded screenplay reading in October 2012, featuring Christine Baranski as the Stepmother, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, James Corden as the Baker, Victoria Clark as Cinderella’s Mother/Giant, Megan Hilty as Lucinda, and more! Is it too much to hope that at least some of these stars – particular Anna Kendrick and Christine Baranski – make it into the film?
What do you think? Don’t forget to comment!
Note: The artwork/poster associated with this article is not the official image for Into the Woods the movie. Adaptation was given permission to use this fan-made piece by its artist, Nathan, whose work can be found on his Tumblr page.