Sondheim Issues Response Following Report of Disney Into the Woods Film Changes

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23 Jun 2014

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim
Photo by Jerry Jackson/courtesy of HBO

Award-winning composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim has issued a statement in response to an article in The New Yorker, in which he spoke about alterations made to the plot of the Disney film adaptation of Into the Woods.

Sondheim revealed the changes in the film during a meeting with a group of high school theatre teachers to discuss the challenges they faced when it came to artistic censorship in an educational setting.

During the conversation Sondheim said that Disney had concerns over several adult themes in the fairytale musical and that some alterations had been made to the script and score, including the potential removal of the song "Any Moment." Read the report here.

In a new statement released to Playbill.com by his lawyer, F. Richard Pappas, Sondheim clarifies remarks reported in The New Yorker piece and sheds light on what fans can expect in the Into the Woods film, which will arrive in theatres Dec. 25.

The statement follows:

An article in The New Yorker misreporting my "Master Class" conversation about censorship in our schools with seventeen teachers from the Academy for Teachers a couple of weeks ago has created some false impressions about my collaboration with the Disney Studio on the film version of Into the Woods. The fact is that James (Lapine, who wrote both the show and the movie) and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what the New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive.

When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.

And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince's dalliance is still in the movie, and so is "Any Moment."

*

As previously reported, the film of Into the Woods will also feature the new song "Rainbows" and a new song written for Meryl Streep, who portrays The Witch.

Rob Marshall ("Chicago," Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides") directs the film, based on the Tony-winning original musical by Lapine, who also penned the screenplay, and Sondheim, who provides music and lyrics. 

The cast includes Emily Blunt ("Looper," "The Young Victoria," "The Devil Wears Prada") as the Baker's Wife, James Corden (One Man, Two Guvnors) as the Baker, Anna Kendrick ("Pitch Perfect," "Up in the Air") as Cinderella, Chris Pine ("Star Trek Into Darkness," "Jack Ryan") as Cinderella's Prince, Johnny Depp ("Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Lone Ranger," "Sweeney Todd") as the Wolf, Daniel Huttlestone ("Les Misérables") as Jack, Lilla Crawford (Annie) as Little Red, Tracey Ullman as Jack’s Mother, Christine Baranski ("Mamma Mia!," "The Good Wife") as the Stepmother, MacKenzie Mauzy (Next to Normal) as Rapunzel and Billy Magnussen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) as Rapunzel's Prince.

Rounding out the cast are Tammy Blanchard (How to Succeed…) and Lucy Punch ("Bad Teacher," "Dinner for Schmucks") as Cinderella's stepsisters, Florinda and Lucinda, respectively; Richard Glover ("Sightseers," "St. Trinian's") as the Steward; Frances de la Tour ("Hugo," "Alice In Wonderland") as the Giant; Simon Russell Beale ("The Deep Blue Sea") as the Baker's father; Joanna Riding ("My Fair Lady") as Cinderella's mother; and Annette Crosbie ("Calendar Girls," "The Slipper and the Rose") as Little Red Riding Hood's granny.

"Into the Woods," according to press notes, "is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them."

The big-screen adaptation welcomes songs from the stage musical, including "Children Will Listen," "Giants in the Sky," "On the Steps of the Palace," "No One Is Alone" and "Agony," among others.

The production team includes Dion Beebe as director of photography, Dennis Gassner as production designer and Colleen Atwood as costume designer.

Into the Woods premiered on Broadway Nov. 5, 1987, at the Martin Beck Theatre. The production, which ran for 764 performances, won Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical.