Into the Woods (film)

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Into the Woods
Into The Woods (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Marshall
Produced by
  • Rob Marshall
  • John DeLuca
  • Marc Platt
  • Callum McDougall
Screenplay by James Lapine
Based on Into the Woods 
by Stephen Sondheim
James Lapine
Music by Stephen Sondheim
Cinematography Dion Beebe
Edited by Wyatt Smith
Walt Disney Pictures
Lucamar Productions
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • December 8, 2014 (2014-12-08) (Ziegfeld Theatre)
  • December 25, 2014 (2014-12-25)
Running time 124 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[2]

Into the Woods is a 2014 American musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is directed by Rob Marshall,[3] adapted to screen by James Lapine from his and Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award–winning Broadway musical of the same name. It features an ensemble cast that includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp with supporting roles done by Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Mackenzie Mauzy, and Billy Magnussen. Inspired by the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales of "Little Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella", "Jack and the Beanstalk", and "Rapunzel", the film is a fantasy genre crossover centered on a childless couple, who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch.[4]

Into the Woods had its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on December 8, 2014, and will be released theatrically on December 25, 2014.[5] It has received positive reviews.


Set in an alternate world of various Grimm fairy tales, the film intertwines the plots of several Grimm fairy tales and follows them to explore the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from "Little Red Riding Hood", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", as well as several others. When a Baker and his Wife learn they've been cursed childless by a Witch, they must embark into the woods to find the objects required to break the spell and begin a family. The film is tied together to the original story of the baker and his wife, their interaction with the Witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey. What begins as a lively irreverent fantasy musical eventually becomes a meaningful tale about responsibility, the problems and consequences that come from wishes, and the legacy that we leave our children.



Early development[edit]

Early attempts of adapting Into the Woods to film occurred in the early 1990s, with a script written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. A reading was held with 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.[19] By 1991, Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson Productions were also developing a film adaptation with Craig Zadan as producer and Rob Minkoff as director.[20][21] 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.[22] After the report by Variety, a film adaptation of Into the Woods remained inactive for 15 years.

Development at Disney[edit]

After the critical and commercial success of Chicago in 2002, director Rob Marshall approached Stephen Sondheim as he was interested in adapting one of his musicals such as Follies and Sweeney Todd, although Sondheim suggested Into the Woods instead.[23] Marshall concurred, although development of the project was postponed as Marshall went off to direct Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine. In 2011, Marshall rekindled his interest in the project after hearing a speech by President Barack Obama for the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Marshall firmly believed that Into the Woods was “a fairy tale for the post-9/11 generation".[24] In January 2012, Marshall approached Walt Disney Pictures, which had just produced Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and pitched the idea to the studio,[23] with Lapine writing the script and Sondheim "expected" to write new songs.[25] Academy Award-winner Dion Beebe, who previously collaborated with Marshall in Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Nine will serve as cinematographer.[26] Sondheim confirmed that a new song is being written for the film.[27] In June 2013, The Walt Disney Studios confirmed that the film had been commissioned, and scheduled a release date for Christmas Day 2014.[5][28]

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.[29] Reports subsequently surfaced in January 2013 that Meryl Streep had been cast to play the Witch.[30][31] During that month, it was reported that Janney had been confirmed to join the film as well.[32] Five months later, however, Tracey Ullman was cast as Jack's Mother instead.[15]

Rapunzel's tower under construction at Waverley Abbey in Farnham, Surrey.

In April 2013, Johnny Depp was in final negotiations, along with Streep, to join the film.[6][11] In May, James Corden, who took part in the reading of the screenplay, was in talks to play the role of the Baker.[33] On 10 May, Disney confirmed the casting of Streep, Depp, and Corden as the Witch, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Baker, respectively.[8] That same month, Emily Blunt and Christine Baranski were cast as The Baker's wife and Cinderella's Stepmother, respectively,[34][16][35] whereas Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine entered negotiations to play the Princes.[10] However, Gyllenhaal dropped out of the film due to scheduling conflicts with another film, Nightcrawler and was subsequently replaced by Billy Magnussen.[17][36] One month later, Anna Kendrick began talks to play Cinderella in the film.[9] In July, Mackenzie Mauzy, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch and Daniel Huttlestone joined the cast.[13][14][7] Sophia Grace Brownlee was originally cast as Little Red Riding Hood.[37] Brownlee's casting attracted controversy due to her age and the sexual undertones present between Little Red and the Wolf.[38][39][40] The film's official cast and plot synopsis were revealed at the D23 Expo on August 10, 2013.[41][42] On September 16, 2013, Lilla Crawford was confirmed as playing the character of Little Red Riding Hood, despite previous reports suggesting Brownlee.[12] 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."[43] Other castings of Richard Glover, Frances de la Tour, Simon Russell Beale, Joanna Riding and Annette Crosbie were later announced the same day.[18]


Principal photography took place at London's Shepperton Studios in September 2013, with additional filming taking place at Dover Castle, Waverley Abbey[44][45] and Richmond Park.[46][47] Filming concluded on November 27, 2013.[48] But on July 14, 2014, Steve Baldwin posted on a social networking site that reshoots were made for the whole month of July.[49] The following month, however, Rob Marshall denied the film went through re-shoots.[50] Instead, they spent three days shooting new material that had been cut and re-added to the script after Disney screened the movie.[50]


Stage-to-screen changes[edit]

In June 2014, Stephen Sondheim revealed that Disney decided to make some major plot changes to the film in order to make it more family-friendly and he approved them all.[51]

Sondheim was at Sardi's in New York City to discuss with a couple of high school drama teachers about the changes people will expect in the film. When a teacher raised concerns about the relationship between Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, citing "infidelity, a wolf being lascivious, that the whole connection with Red Riding Hood is sexual," Sondheim replied, "Well, you'll be happy to know that Disney had the same objections." He added, "You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the Prince does not sleep with the [Baker's Wife]." Sondheim explained, “You know, if I were a Disney executive I would probably say the same thing." When asked, "Can you let [students] read the original and then discuss why, say, Rapunzel is not allowed to die in the adulterated version?" Sondheim responded, "We do that, but they just get angry. They feel censored—they don’t feel trusted. And they're right. But you have to explain to them that censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it’s something that they’re going to have to deal with. There has to be a point at which you don't compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality."[52]

Another teacher asked if the song "Any Moment", which bookends the encounter between Cinderella's Prince and the Baker's Wife, will remain. "The song is cut," Sondheim said. That revelation upset fans of the original stage show, prompting him to tell the attendees, "I'm sorry. I should say, it's probably cut." Sondheim told fans that he and James Lapine fought for the song's inclusion in the movie. "But Disney said, we don't want Rapunzel to die, so we re-plotted it," the composer explained. "I won't tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it."[53] Sondheim revealed that the film version will feature two new songs: one called "Rainbows", and another for The Witch.[54] The song "She'll Be Back", written by Sondheim specifically for Meryl Streep, was cut from the film, though it will be preserved in the video release.[55]

Sondheim later released a statement, saying that the film is a faithful adaptation of the musical and "a first-rate movie"; the Prince does have an affair with the Baker's wife, "Any Moment" is in the film as well, and that all of the reports pertaining to the changes were false.[56][57]

Marshall later told Entertainment Weekly that fans should not worry about the changes made. One of the changes was that Rapunzel does not have the same fate as she does in the original musical. Marshall told EW, "Rapunzel's end is still pretty dark, it's just a different kind of dark, and it's just as harrowing, and just as sad." The director also told EW that "Ever After" is now instrumental. Songs also cut were Sondheim's new song for the movie "Rainbows" and the new song written for The Witch. "It was beautiful and spectacular, but it was very clear, as good as the song was, that [the movie] was stronger without.", Marshall proclaimed. He concluded, "It'll all be very clear when people see it. They’ll understand, it’s all there."[50]


The first official company presentation took place at the 2013 Disney D23 expo.[58] The official teaser trailer debuted on July 31, 2014.[59][60] A featurette was released showing behind-the-scenes clips and the vocals of Streep, Kendrick, Blunt and others.[61] A second trailer was released on November 6, 2014.[62]

The film held its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 8, 2014.[63]


Critical response[edit]

Despite early screenings prior to the film's release, Disney issued an embargo on professional reviews of the film.[64] Into the Woods received positive reviews from critics. On the aggregate for Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73%, based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. 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."[65] Another aggregate, Metacritic, gave the film a score of 71 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[66]

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film "benefits from respect for the source material, enticing production values and a populous gallery of sharp character portraits from a delightful cast".[67] Pete Hammond of Deadline, praised the film's direction and cast, especially in regards to Meryl Streep's performance as he called the film "a true winner". Sasha Stone of Awards Daily also seemed enthusiastic in her reaction, noting how the film was darker and more sad than the play and gave rave notices to the performances of Streep, Pine and Kendrick. She also praised Streep's numbers of "Stay With Me" and "Last Midnight" as well as the production design and visual effects.[citation needed]

Gregory Ellwood of HitFix tipped Streep as an Oscar contender in the best supporting actress category, and also praised the performance of Chris Pine.[68] The film was named as one of the top best eleven films of 2014 by the American Film Institute.[69]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
American Film Institute[70] December 9, 2014 Top Ten Films of the Year Into the Woods Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association[71] January 15, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Pending
Best Acting Ensemble The Cast of Into the Woods Pending
Best Art Direction Dennis Gassner/Production Designer, Anna Pinnock/Set Decorator Pending
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Pending
Best Hair & Makeup Pending
Chicago Film Critics Association December 15, 2014 Best Art direction/Production Design Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society December 15, 2014 Best Ensemble The Cast of Into the Woods Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[72] January 11, 2015 Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Into the Woods Pending
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Emily Blunt Pending
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Meryl Streep Pending
Phoenix Film Critics Society[73] December 16, 2014 Best Ensemble Acting Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Mackenzie Mauzy, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Billy Magnussen, and Frances de la Tour Nominated
Best Live Action Family Film Into the Woods Won
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe Nominated
Best Film Editing Wyatt Smith Nominated
Best Costume Design Nominated
Best Performance By a Youth – Male Daniel Huttlestone Nominated
Best Performance By a Youth – Female Lilla Crawford Won
San Diego Film Critics Society December 15, 2014 Best Production Design Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock Nominated
Satellite Awards[74][75] February 15, 2015 Best Ensemble – Motion Picture Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Mackenzie Mauzy, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Billy Magnussen, and Frances de la Tour Unopposed
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Pending
Best Sound (Editing and Mixing) Blake Leyh, John Casali, Michael Keller, Michael Prestwoood Smith, and Renee Tondelli Pending
Best Visual Effects Christian Irles, Matt Johnson, and Stefano Pepin Pending
Screen Actors Guild Awards[76] January 25, 2015 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Meryl Streep Pending
St. Louis Film Critics December 15, 2014 Best Music Soundtrack Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[77] December 8, 2014 Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Art Direction Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock Nominated


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