Rob Marshall On Why He Didn't "Overwhelm" "Into the Woods" with Special Effects

News   Rob Marshall On Why He Didn't "Overwhelm" "Into the Woods" with Special Effects
Rob Marshall, director of the movie musical "Into the Woods," shares the secret behind bringing just the right amount of magic to the big screen.
Rob Marshall
Rob Marshall Photo by JamesGillham/


Rob Marshall is no stranger to razzle dazzle, having been at the helm of the big-budget, glittery sparkly musical "Chicago," which hit the big screen in 2002, followed by the equally opulent "Nine" in 2009.

But the Tony and Academy Award nominee, who is now bringing Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and more to the cinemas Dec. 25 in the movie musical "Into the Woods," said he was careful to avoid excess while filming, despite numerous opportunities for it, in order to remain true to the material — the award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

"Into the Woods" follows numerous fairy-tale characters who venture into a nearby forest and find themselves in a series of unexpected events and adventures, involving wolves, giants and princes, as well as a powerful witch played by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, who typically enters or exits a room accompanied by a loud noise and a whirl of dust.

"That's one of the joys of film," said Marshall, who choreographed Kiss of the Spider Woman, Damn Yankees and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and co-directed Cabaret, with a laugh. "But we were careful not to do too many special effects in the piece, because I wanted to make it real. Even though we were in a fairy-tale space, I didn't want to overblow it. It's such a beautiful piece. You don't need to overwhelm it with that kind of thing."

Marshall said he was careful to avoid excess when filming the final scene, which he had originally planned and rehearsed to resemble that of the stage play, with the company assembled in the woods. But throughout the shooting, Marshall said he realized he had to change his plan.

"I realized it was a very delicate scene, and it needed to be pure in a way," he said, "not over-complicated and not overstaged. It's tricky taking something from stage to film, because it can feel stagey, and it doesn't work. I realized in that moment I needed to use 'Children Will Listen' as [underscoring] and let it live that way."

While "Into the Woods" offers plenty of opportunities for magical fairy-tale adventures, Marshall was careful to remain true to the mature message of the material — which he hopes children will be aware of as well.

"It starts off much more fairy-tale like, but, of course, after happily ever after, it explores what happens. It's more true and more real, and I think it's okay for children to understand that," he said. "I think, in a way, you dream, and all those things - it's important to have that, but I also think it's important to understand how to live morals for a real life.

"There's this beautifully profound message to the piece," he continued, "about parents and children, about moving forward through loss, about the consequences of wishes, and I think it's very appropriate for children of today. They live in a much more fragile, complicated world than when I grew up, and I think in a way this is a fairy tale for them."

(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)

Today’s Most Popular News: