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Jul 16th
04:33 pm
"This is Me" Promo Video BTS and Set Visit Previews  

















Also, preview articles from set visits

From Bustle, Sage Young:
With every successful modern movie musical comes the predictive industry pieces: is the movie musical finally back to its studio system glory days? Though 2016's La La Land took some heat for its simplistic take on the history of jazz, the bittersweet romance was a hit overall — critically, amongst audiences, and during awards season. So, does Hugh Jackman's new starring turn as career entertainer P.T. Barnum owe something to the Damien Chazelle film? The latter may have warmed audiences to song-and-dance again, but The Greatest Showman isn't the next La La Land. Not all musicals are created equal, nor should they be.

The vast difference between the two is evident in the first trailer for The Greatest Showman, which was released on June 28. But almost no information about the film — except for the various superstar and newcomer names involved — was available to me before I visited its Brooklyn set earlier this year. I had to wait until I walked into a repurposed Williamsburg armory to understand the scope of the project. And that turned out to be a full-size big top populated by dozens of costumed extras; real circus performers contorting their bodies, flying through the air, and throwing things that are on fire; world-class dancers; and Jackman at the center of it all, in the most resplendent, reddest tails you've ever seen. La La Land is about a brief relationship that helps two frustrated artists to flourish, but The Greatest Showman isn't just about the origins of the Barnum & Bailey Circus — it's about the birth of show business as we know it.

Jackman and The Greatest Showman have been a package deal throughout the movie's lengthy development process. Eventually, Jackman was joined by Zac Efron as Phillip, a potential collaborator with stars in his eyes and family money in his pocket; Michelle Williams as Barnum's wife Charity; Rebecca Ferguson as his Swedish opera-singing discovery Jenny Lind, and an ensemble portraying Barnum's "oddities," including Zendaya and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a sibling trapeze act. "What’s interesting about them is that they’re not oddities because they have an extra leg or horns or weird freaky tattoos or things," Abdul-Mateen says on set, "but they’re black trapeze artists during the 1800s... that definitely would have been rare at the time." The "heart" of the film, almost everyone the visiting press speaks to tells us, is the relationship between Barnum and the misfits he brings together.

Director Michael Gracey remembers the Wolverine actor bringing him the script — originally a straightforward biopic.

"I went back to him and said, 'Look, if you’re really gonna put 'The Greatest Showman above your head on a poster, you should really play to your strengths,'" Gracey says. "And I grew up seeing him in Australia doing musicals. So I said it should be a musical. And that really naive remark has cost me seven years of my life, because it is so difficult to do an original musical."

Honestly, the director doesn't seem to be too broken up about the time spent. He's more eager to share the clips he has queued up for the assembled journalists and to get our take on them. He asks us to let him know, for example, if he's achieved his goal of making the first time Efron's Phillip sees Zendaya's Anne as dreamy and world-stopping as "when Tony sees Maria for the first time in West Side Story." When the clip stops rolling, we all murmur our entranced approval.

One clip that seems to be in the running for the most representative of the movie's vision is the intro to the opening and closing number, "The Greatest Show." Jackman stands underneath bleachers waiting to take the center ring, while audience members without an inch of space between any of them rhythmically stomp in anticipation above. It's inspired by scene in Steve Jobs, since Gracey considers both men similarly revolutionary. It's also a very unsubtle, Queen-esque reminder that The Greatest Showman isn't a period piece. The director describes it as "a storybook world. It’s not being faithful to the period; we have things that weren’t invented yet, but it feels of its own universe."

The result is a pop/period mash-up that would would make Baz Luhrmann blush. The film's costume designer Ellen Mirojnick tells us that she doesn't want the audience to be able to tie the looks she's created — inspired as much by avant garde designers as they are the big top — to any particular era, including the mid-1800s, when Barnum's career had really taken off. “Hopefully the audience is able to look at the whole movie and say, 'well that was delicious,'" she says.

And circus coordinator Matthieu Leopold had the same type of freedom to include more modern performance elements in his choreography. Leopold was responsible for casting the real circus acts featured in The Greatest Showman, but also had to get the actors who were new to this particular kind of entertaining up to speed. He choreographed Phillip and Anne's aerial love duet, "Rewrite The Stars," and has nothing but praise for Zendaya and Efron's work ethic and fearlessness. "They came in, smiles through the roof and just crushed it," he remembers.

The time-bending tone of the movie extends to its songs, as well. Though the Barnum spectacular isn't scheduled to hit theaters until Christmas Day 2017, composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's Oscars will have already collected a few layers of dust by then. But the team actually booked this flashy new movie musical long before they collected their trophies for writing La La Land's "City Of Stars," not to mention the Tonys heaped onto their Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Though it's taken longer — seven years, to be exact — to come to fruition than the movie that brought them to the Academy Awards, The Greatest Showman was the first major motion picture to book the young talents, and the teeth-cutting they did there helped them get acclimated to Hollywood. (It hasn't jaded them yet — before sitting down to take questions, Pasek and Paul shake hands with each of us.)

"We definitely were trying to be really chill about the whole thing," Paul says about being in the studio with Jackman. "We’d never met any celebrity before." When Jackman walked into another room, the two would silently freak out.

The composers worked closely with Gracey throughout the process as well, as he wanted the songs in the film to be both theatrical and familiar to a contemporary audience. Paul says that the director referenced "everything from Ingrid Michaelson to Kanye," as they honed the show's song list, and producers like Ryan Lewis were brought on board to add to the soundtrack's radio-friendly quality. "To get to work with these pop guys and find this interesting marriage between [pop and theater] has been a real adventure and a real journey for us," Pasek adds.

That stirring song that plays over the trailer is sung by Lettie Lutz, the circus's Beaded Lady, played by stage actor Keala Settle. "This Is Me" isn't easily confused with any of La La Land's old Hollywood numbers; it's a pop anthem that wouldn't sound out of place on Katy Perry's Prism album — though it's Settle's forceful and emotional vocal performance that took her all the way through the early-stage readings of the script (which, for musicals, are usually populated by lesser known actors who don't expect to be cast) to filming a big-budget holiday release. Her come-to-Jesus number is a response to Barnum turning away from his circus family when he's accepted by high society. It hurts so much, Settle says, because Barnum gives Lettie a life when he first meets and validates her.

"He looks at her and says, 'You’re beautiful and I’ve never seen someone like you in my life, and your voice takes my breath away, will you be a part of the circus?,'" Settle explains, with tears in her eyes. "And the second that that happens, and she realizes that one person, sorry, gives a sh*t about who she is, it's enough for her to at least start trying to repair who she is as a woman."

So though The Greatest Showman leans towards spectacle where La La Land chooses intimacy, the hope is that audiences will still emotionally connect to its band of outcasts and the visionary who brought them out of the shadows and in front of a crowd. "To celebrate one’s otherness," is how Abdul-Mateen sums up the film's message. "That if you’re different you still matter. And you matter, period."

From Yahoo Movies UK, Tom Butler:
With his new musical ‘The Greatest Showman’ Hugh Jackman is cashing in the goodwill he’s amassed throughout his Hollywood career for a shot at cinematic immortality.

“I’m one of the very few actors who could have a chance of doing an original movie musical of this size,” Jackman recently explained to Yahoo Movies over coffee in a swanky London hotel.

“I’m aware that if I screw it up I’ll never get another chance again.”

17 years after ‘X-Men’ transformed Hugh Jackman from musical theatre star to Hollywood A-lister, the Aussie star has finally put his most iconic role behind him, sending Wolverine off into the sunset with his stunning superhero swansong ‘Logan’. Now he’s coming back full circle with ‘The Greatest Showman’, an original big budget movie musical, inspired by PT Barnum the inventor of show business.

Original movie musicals are rare nowadays (‘La La Land’ withstanding, more on that later) hence why it’s taken nearly eight years of development to get it off the ground. Jackman first started work on a Barnum biopic in 2009 with his Oscar-hosting producer Lawrence Mark but it was only after achieving closure with ‘Logan’ did the star have his ‘carpe diem’ moment.

“It was really three years later when the music started to come in and I thought ‘we’ve got something here’. That’s when the passion really started to go from there.”

Jackman, a Barnum scholar who professes to have read 37 books on the entertainment impresario, always knew his story was worth telling on the big screen. Born in 1810, Barnum rose from humble beginnings to become the most famous man in the world thanks to his travelling circus, and his pioneering work at the forefront of “show business”. Jackman likens him to the Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg of his day.

“In a way, it’s your classic rags to riches story,” Jackman said. “People know about Barnum as the guy who started the circus, but what people may not know is that in that time, what he created was considered almost criminal, degrading, disgusting.”

“He the man who really contributed to the birth of modern America. People think America was always the place of the free, where it didn’t matter where you were born, but that’s not true. When he was born, it did matter what family, what your last name was, where you went to school, all that really mattered.

“After Barnum, it was imagination, talent, and hard work [that] were the markers for success.”

They knew they had a rollicking story to tell, but it was first-time feature director Michael Gracey who struck upon the idea of telling it as a musical. Hugh met Gracey while shooting a Lipton Ice Tea commercial (featuring a huge dance number of course) in 2010. Hugh promised they’d make a movie together someday and, good to his word, he sent him the script for ‘The Greatest Showman’.

“I told Hugh, if you’re going to put ‘The Greatest Showman’ on the poster, you’ve got to play to your strengths. It should be a musical,” Gracey told us on the film’s Brooklyn set earlier this year.

“That naïve remark has cost me seven years of my life, because it’s so difficult to do an original musical.”

With the director in place, and a musical in mind, the next thing they needed were some actual tunes, which is where the stars (or city of them) really began to align for this movie.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (known together as Pasek and Paul) – the Oscar-winning ‘La La Land’ lyricists – were just jobbing songsmiths taking meetings all over Hollywood at the time in 2013 when the project wound up in their lap. A casual conversation during a meeting at Fox led the pair to meeting with Michael who pitched the movie to them with a “mood reel”, and they were immediately hooked.

“We thought it was amazing,” Justin told us in New York. “The fact that a movie musical was being made on this scale, with this grandeur, and with Hugh Jackman – we knew we had to be a part of this.”

“[Michael] was really clear about wanting a score that felt contemporary, that felt like a mix of theatrical and also pop radio music, but also finding a way to make those work together.”

Drawing from a wide range of influences “from Ingrid Michaelson to Kanye, and everything in-between”, the duo have written nine original songs for the film, each serving a specific story purpose. The songwriting duo, who completed work on ‘La La Land’ while simultaneously developing ‘The Greatest Showman’, collaborated closely with Michael, Hugh, and the whole cast every step of the way.

For ‘The Greatest Show’, the song which which bookends the movie, the pair worked with Macklemore producer Ryan Lewis to “create the beats”, and it’s this thumping showstopper that opens the recent trailer.

The trailer also reveals Hugh as Barnum in all his red-coated pomp and glory. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the razzle dazzle ringleader is his motley crew of circus “freaks” known as the Oddities.

The Oddities – including Tom Thumb, trapeze artist siblings Ann and WD (Zendaya and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), Dog Boy, a giant, a strongman, and more – are the heart and soul of this movie, serving as Barnum’s extended family who accompany him on his journey to the top.

Standing front and centre in the Oddities is Lettie Lutz AKA the Bearded Woman. Drawing strength from 23-year-old Harnaam Kaur, a bearded British woman who recently signed with a modelling agency, Lutz is portrayed by 13-year Broadway veteran Keala Settle who landed the gig after impressing Fox execs at early readings.

After being bribed to perform by Gracey with a bottle of Jameson’s, Settle broke down during a grandstanding performance of Oddities anthem ‘This Is Me’ – the film’s big ‘Let It Go’ moment, also heard in the trailer – and former Fox chairman Jim Gianopulis stood up to hug her proclaiming: “you just booked your first major motion picture”.

“I got a phone call and an email from a lawyer saying ‘you just got a contract to do the film’. I was like, ‘what do I owe? Do I owe them money now?’ I was freaking out!” Settle shared with a huge bearded grin.

“I still don’t believe it. It’s crazy.”

“To me, it’s the greatest showbiz story I’ve been involved in,” Jackman added.

Playing the role of Barnum’s protégé, high society snob Phillip Carlisle, is Zac Efron, also returning to his musical roots. Efron performs two duets in the film, one in a bar with Barnum (‘The Other Side’) that leads in to the show-stopping moment (glimpsed in the trailer) where Carlisle meets Zendaya’s Ann for the first time. They later perform a duet together called ‘Rewrite The Stars’.

Their interracial romance would have been considered taboo at the time, and Hugh Jackman revealed that this subplot was introduced by ‘Beauty and the Beast’ director Bill Condon who was once attached to direct.

This theme really plays into the heart of the story, which is the pure idea of bringing previously unseen people out of the shadows, and celebrating what it is to be different. “This film is going to offer so many different opportunities for self-celebration,” ‘Aquaman’ star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II explained, “to celebrate one’s otherness, one’s quirkiness, and just being weird.”

With its buzzy cast, a barnstorming soundtrack (every song we’ve heard is a guaranteed earworm), and Hollywood’s leading song and dance man playing the world’s most famous entertainer, ‘The Greatest Showman’ looks like safe bet for Jackman and Fox, but we’ll know for certain when the film arrives in cinemas on New Year’s Day.

One more that's mostly repeat with some additional Hugh detail is Philippine Daily Inquirer
1 1 comment Comment
 
 
Aliciapop86 on July 16th, 2017 10:01 pm (UTC)
I hope the film is screened at one of the upcoming film festivals before its December release.