A movie version of Steven Sondheim's legendary musical Into the Woods has been in development at Disney for a year or so. The award-winning Broadway musical epitomized the phrase "fractured fairy tale," as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack (of the Beanstalk fame), Rapunzel, and a childless baker and his wife venture into the woods to have their wishes granted... and discover that real life seldom works like a fairy tale.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with particular attention towards the cast, acting, and production design. The performances of Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, and Chris Pine were particularly praised. It was also a success at the box office, earning $213 million over a $50 million budget.
A Baker and his Wife wish for a child but suffer under a curse laid upon the Baker's family by a Witch who found the Baker's father robbing her garden when his mother was pregnant. The Baker's father also stole some beans which caused the Witch's mother to punish her with the curse of ugliness. The Witch offers to lift the curse, but only if the Baker and his Wife obtain four critical items for her: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. The Witch later tells the Baker that she asked him to do this task for her because she is not allowed to touch any of the objects.
The Witch's demands eventually bring the Baker and his Wife into contact with Jack, who is selling his beloved cow Milky-White and to whom the Baker offers magic beans left him by his father (which were stolen from the Witch) which grow into a large beanstalk; with Red Riding Hood, whose ruby cape the couple notices when she stops to buy sweets on her way to grandmother's house; with Rapunzel, whose tower the Baker's Wife passes in the woods; and with Cinderella, who also runs into the Baker's Wife while fleeing from the pursuing Prince.
After a series of failed attempts and misadventures, the Baker and his Wife finally are able to gather the items necessary to break the spell. Meanwhile, each of the other characters receive their "happy endings": Cinderella marries the Prince; Jack provides for his mother by stealing riches from the Giant in the sky, and kills the pursuing Giant by cutting down the beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother are saved from the Big Bad Wolf; and the Witch regains her youth and beauty after drinking the potion.
However, each of the characters learns their "happily ever after" is not so happy: the Baker is worried he is a poor father to his newborn baby; the Baker's Wife is temporarily seduced by the Prince; Cinderella is disenchanted by the cheating Prince; and the Witch learns that she has lost her powers with her restored youth and beauty. The growth of a second beanstalk from the last remaining magic bean allows the Giant's Wife to climb down and threaten the kingdom and its inhabitants if they do not deliver Jack in retribution for killing her husband. The characters debate the morality of handing Jack over. In the process, Red Riding Hood's Mother and Grandmother, Jack's Mother, and the Baker's Wife are killed. The characters blame each other for their individual actions that lead to the tragedy, ultimately blaming the Witch for raising the beans in the first place. She curses them for their inability to accept their individual responsibilities and disappears into the ground, summoning a large pit of boiling tar in the process.
The remaining characters resolve to kill the threatening Giant's Wife, though Cinderella and the Baker try to explain to the distraught Red Riding Hood and Jack the complicated morality of retribution and revenge. The characters lure the Giant's Wife into stepping in the tar pit where she ultimately trips and falls to her death. The Giant's Wife is killed, and the characters move forward with their ruined lives. The Baker, thinking of his Wife, is determined to be a good father. Cinderella decides to leave the Prince and help the Baker, and Jack and Red Riding Hood, now orphans, are living with the Baker and Cinderella. The Baker comforts his son after he begins to cry by telling a story as the movie ends with the Witch's moral, meaning that children can change due to the parent's actions and behaviors.
- Meryl Streep as The Witch
- Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife
- James Corden as the Baker
- Anna Kendrick as Cinderella
- Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince
- Tracey Ullman as Jack's Mother
- Christine Baranski as Wicked Stepmother
- Johnny Depp as the Wolf
- Daniel Huttlestone as Jack
- Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel
- Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince
- Tammy Blanchard as Florinda
- Lucy Punch as Lucinda
- Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood
- Richard Glover as the Steward
- Frances de la Tour as the Giant
- Simon Russell Beale as the Baker's Father
- Joanna Riding as Cinderella's Mother
- Annette Crosbie as Granny
The first attempts of adapting Into the Woods to film occurred in the early 1990s, with a script written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel and a cast that included Robin Williams as The Baker, Goldie Hawn as The Baker's Wife, Cher as The Witch, Danny DeVito as The Giant, Steve Martin as The Wolf, and Roseanne Barr as Jack's Mother. By 1991, Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson Productions were also developing a film adaptation with Craig Zadan as producer and Rob Minkoff as director. In 1997, Columbia put the film into turnaround, with Minkoff still attached as director, and Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Susan Sarandon reportedly in talks to star. After the report by Variety, a film adaptation of Into the Woods remained inactive for 15 years.
In January 2012, Rob Marshall was hired to direct a new adaptation of the musical for Walt Disney Pictures, with James Lapine writing the script and Stephen Sondheim "expected" to write new songs. Academy Award-winner Dion Beebe, who previously collaborated with Marshall in Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Nine will serve as cinematographer. Sondheim confirmed that a new song is being written for the film. The Walt Disney Studios confirmed in June 2013, that the film had been commissioned, and scheduled a release date for Christmas Day 2014.
With Disney's backing, an updated reading of the screenplay directed by Marshall, took place in October 2012, with Nina Arianda as the Baker's Wife, Victoria Clark as Cinderella's Mother/Granny/Giant, James Corden as the Baker, Donna Murphy as the Witch, Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother, Tammy Blanchard as Florinda, Ivan Hernandez as the Wolf, Megan Hilty as Lucinda, Cheyenne Jackson as Rapunzel's Prince, Allison Janney as Jack's Mother, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Michael McGrath as Steward/Mysterious Man, Laura Osnes as Rapunzel, Taylor Trensch as Jack, Casey Whyland as Little Red Riding Hood, and Patrick Wilson as Cinderella's Prince. Reports subsequently surfaced in January 2013 that Meryl Streep had been cast to play the Witch. During that month, it was reported that Janney had been confirmed to join the film as well. Five months later, however, Tracey Ullman was cast as Jack's Mother instead.
In April 2013, Johnny Depp was in final negotiations, along with Streep, to join the film. In May, James Corden, who took part in the reading of the screenplay, was in talks to play the role of the Baker. On May 10, Disney confirmed the casting of Streep, Depp, and Corden as the Witch, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Baker, respectively. That same month, Emily Blunt and Christine Baranski were cast as The Baker's wife and Cinderella's Stepmother, respectively, whereas Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine entered negotiations to play the Princes. However, Gyllenhaal dropped out of the film due to scheduling conflicts with another film, Nightcrawler and was subsequently replaced by Billy Magnussen. One moth later, Anna Kendrick began talks to play Cinderella in the film. In July, Mackenzie Mauzy, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, and Daniel Huttlestone joined the cast. Sophia Grace Brownlee was originally cast as Little Red Riding Hood. Brownlee's casting attracted controversy due to her age and the sexual undertones present between Little Red and the Wolf. The film's official cast and plot synopsis were revealed at the D23 Expo on August 10, 2013.
On September 16, 2013, Lilla Crawford was confirmed as playing the character of Little Red Riding Hood, despite previous reports suggesting Brownlee. Later on, Dominic Brownlee spoke about his daughter, Sophia Grace's withdrawal from the movie saying, "After careful consideration, we the parents of Sophia Grace, felt that as rehearsals progressed that she was too young for this part. It was a joint decision between us and the director and producer of Into the Woods to withdraw Sophia Grace from the film." Other castings of Richard Glover, Frances de la Tour, Simon Russell Beale, Joanna Riding, and Annette Crosbie were later announced the same day.
The film began principal photography at London's Shepperton Studios in September 2013, with additional filming taking place at Dover Castle, Waverley Abbey, and Richmond Park. Filming concluded on November 27, 2013. Additional filming took place during July 2014.
The film was first shown at the now closed Ziegfeld Theatre on December. 8, 2014. It would later be first opened in North America on the night of Christmas Eve earning $1.1 million; and it made it's full debut on Christmas Day at 2,440 theaters, earning $15.08 million. It made $128 million in North America.
In other territories, such as Japan, it made $85.1 million.
Combined, it made $213 million worldwide.
- Main article: Into the Woods (soundtrack)
The film's soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on December 15, 2014 who initially reported that the film version would feature two new songs: a duet for the Baker and his Wife, titled "Rainbows"—originally written for a 1992 film adaptation that was never made along with a new song for the Witch, eventually titled "She'll Be Back". In the end, neither song appears in the finished film: "Rainbows" was cut before shooting began and "She'll Be Back", though filmed, was cut from the film on the grounds that it slowed the story down. "She'll Be Back" was included as a bonus feature on the film's home media release.
- Main article: Into the Woods (video)
The film received an approval rating of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 215 reviews, with an average rating of 6.56/10. The site's consensus reads, "On the whole, this Disney adaptation of the Sondheim classic sits comfortably at the corner of Hollywood and Broadway -- even if it darkens to its detriment in the final act."
Trailers and Clips
- Sophia Grace Brownlee was originally cast as Little Red Riding Hood, but her parents withdrew from the film after deciding she was too young for the role.
- Jake Gyllenhaal was originally cast as Rapunzel's Prince but departed the film to star in another movie called Nightcrawler.
- In early 2013, the press reported that Allison Janney had been cast as Jack's Mother before Tracey Ullman got the part.
- Into the Woods is the first Broadway play or musical film adaptation produced and distributed by the Walt Disney Company since 2005's Once Upon A Mattress, but the first to be released in theaters, although Miramax Films (which was under the Disney banner in 2002) did release Chicago, which Rob Marshall also directed.
- It is also the sixth film to be adapted from a Broadway source following Once Upon A Mattress, 2003's The Music Man, 2002's Miramax released Chicago, 1999's Annie, also directed by Marshall; and 1997's Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. It is also their first Broadway play or musical theatrical film adaptation in the history of Disney itself.
- It's the fourth Disney film to have a Disney logo in the beginning, a movie title and end credits in the end of the film.
- Frances de la Tour and Johnny Depp previously appeared in Alice in Wonderland (de la Tour portrayed Alice Kingsleigh's delusional Aunt Imogene, while Depp portrayed Tarrant Hightopp, the Mad Hatter).
- Actresses Emily Blunt who played the Baker's Wife and Meryl Streep who played the Witch previously collaborated in The Devil Wears Prada and next appear together in Mary Poppins Returns, which also directed by Marshall.
- Christine Baranski and Meryl Streep previously worked together on the film version of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! and its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Meryl Streep portrayed Donna while Christine Baranski portrayed Tanya, one of Donna's "Dynamos").