Phbbt to you outraged Batman fans — at least Ben Affleck is always worth looking at, and he’s a competent actor. This, per the Atlantic Wire, is an outrage against at least four of the nine Muses:
Small child Sophia Grace Brownlee, she of Ellen appearances and tutus and “Super Bass” covers, has been cast in Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Entertainment Weekly has confirmed. The news confirms that the cinematic approach to this classic musical is completely off.
Okay, so it might sound like we’re being complete jerks to an innocent child, but it’s not really Sophia Grace’s fault. She’s just a kid who gets a chance to star in a movie with Meryl Streep. So, note that all our complaints are directed toward Disney and Rob Marshall. Brownlee is simply wrong for the role. As Erin Strecker at EW points out: she’s 10. Sure, the character cutely chirps the show’s titular “into the woods” chorus, but the Red of the musical also has a thinly disguised sexual flirtation with the show’s Wolf, who will be played by Johnny Depp. It’s, yes, supposed to be creepy, but Red is typically played by a teenager or a young-looking adult—Danielle Ferland was 16 when she appeared in the original Broadway cast—making it not that creepy. So either the movie has to be really creepy, or do away with those sexual undertones, which are ultimately important in context.
Aside from that, while Brownlee can surely belt, singing Sondheim is not that simple. It’s all about phrasing, and, let’s face it, Brownlee (who takes large gasps for air when she sings) doesn’t have great technique. The charm of her viral videos is not that she’s fantastic, it’s that she’s enthusiastic. Enthusiasm does not a Sondheim star make. And who knows if she can sit still long enough for Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella to sing No One is Alone to her…
“Isn’t it nice to know a lot… And a little bit — not.”
They’re making a movie of “Into the Woods” now? That musical came out, like, a kajillion years ago.
Ted & Hellen
You know…there are these things called rehearsals and directing and voice coaching and practice and…oh what the hell…
…that said, I used to be a big Johnny Depp fan. And I am so fucking sick of him now.
So Johnny Depp will not *also* be playing one of the princes?
They probably can’t afford to have him play both roles.
Ripping out the rampion — my Champion! — my favorite…
@Ted & Hellen: Depp’s excuse for some of his recent films has been “I want to be in some movies that I can let my young kids see”.
Try to imagine a version of Into the Woods that qualifies under that standard. It is not a kiddy story, either in tone or in range.
OTOH, these are Johnny Depp’s kids, so maybe the standards are relaxed a bit relative to some other people’s kids.
Ted & Hellen
Hey, this casting beats seeing yet another Hollywood nepotism legacy take the role…and the argument over this in the industry, just as with Affleck and Batman, assures a great deal of free publicity and awareness pre-opening.
Okay, early heads-up on a trio of gems on TCM this weekend. All times Eastern.
Friday 12 midnight (heading into Saturday) – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – The unfolding depiction of dysfunction almost reaches out from the screen to bear hug the viewer.
Saturday, 8 p.m. “The Lady Eve” – romp of pure fun with nary a misstep.
Saturday 10 p.m. – “The More the Merrier” – premise as thin as a clothesline but oh, the finery hanging on that line.
Oh, yes, this casting is far worse than #Batfleck. I’m having a lot of fun with the Twitter meltdown, but I think a lot of people are doing the same. But casting a 10-year-old as Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods is a serious wrong turn. The author has it right: more than anything else, it means the show’s being neutered.
Hmmmm. . . . I’ve never heard of the girl, but I don’t care if she’s Streisand reborn, 10 is too young to play that part; without, as AL says, being deeply creepy or transforming the play into something completely different.
I don’t dislike Ben Affleck, but not sure how this works. Is Ben doing situps in his house?
@Joseph Nobles: In recent years I will watch a show, be amazed by a performance, then head to IMDB and find that person playing somebody that is 15 is in fact an actor that is 25. Also, and I am not a prude (I also don’t have any kids), I will see a very young person play a role where I think to myself, well that is kind of some adult material, should that young lady be a part of it?
CGI smooths a multitude of sins (and conjures a plethora of its own).
@NotMax: Oh so true. I judge a women and her beauty by if I find her attractive with no make up (and clearly I don’t CGI my dates). Now I don’t have any kids, which I mentioned above, but my brother has a four year old niece. I worry she will think she has to look like folks on magazine covers or in films. That is just not reality.
Sondheim is way overrated, IMHO, so any offense against his works is really no big deal.
In one week, years ago, I saw Into the Woods and Farewell My Concubine in turn. I got really spooked about appendages being chopped off!
Ew. Into the Woods is far down on my list of favorite Sondheim musicals, but this is just wrong. The whole point of the show is about aging and sexuality and fantasy vs. reality and a lot of other themes aimed at an adult audience. Having Johnny Depp as the Wolf adds a special level of creepy for me; all I’d be able to think about is how he’s defended Roman Polanski. Again, ew.
These days, just the tickets can cost an arm and a leg.
Sounds like Johnny Depp has a Lolita on his hands.
@Tommy: An extreme example of this was a production we recently saw of Alan Ackbourn’s play “My Wonderful Day”. A 10-year-old girl is writing an essay for school about a day in her life, while spending the day with a series of crazy adults and a lot of hijinks, much of it sexual. The play falls very heavily on the little girl’s shoulders, as much of the comedy is in her reactions.
Fortunately I had read the cast bios before entering the theater and I knew the 10-year-old was in fact a 28-year-old BFA theater major. She was completely convincing.
Into the Woods is going to be nothing like the stage show. Sondheim himself has confirmed that a lot of the story is going to be whitewashed to not be as shocking. Characters run away instead of dying. I have no doubt in my mind that they are going to rewrite Little Red and Jack to be age appropriate for a 10 and a 12 year old to play, respectively, and lose the point of both of their storylines. Things that hit home really hard because teenagers do them are going to be lost when genuinely innocent little children do them.
Nephew’s middle school did Into the Woods, as their spring play, and kept it pretty PG. Younger than middle school aged kids in the audience too, along with adults, so the whole thing was very family friendly.
Unfortunately, my Comcast has not worked properly all summer, I can’t get it fixed despite calling Comcast having become my second job, and the problem (tiling and sound loss) is worst on TCM. It has ruined my life! (Old people’s problems)
ETA: My grammar is terrible, but i have to go bake a cake.
Does your/town/city/county have an ombudsman’s office? Couldn’t hurt to try, as one of those granted the charter for Comcast to provide service.
With all due respect to our hostess, George Clooney was also always worth looking at and a competent actor and he SUCKED as Batman.
ETA: Also, too. Daredevil. That was not competent acting and I laughed aloud at many of Affleck’s Affects in that one.
Best worst Affleck moment: At the end of Good Will Hunting, he goes to Matt Damon’s house and has a moment of realization. I laughed out loud at the “Huh, whaddayaknowboutdat?” expression Affleck puts on.
I’m not a giant fan of Into the Woods, but it’s enjoyable. I cannot imagine the movie will be even remotely so if this talentless little urchin is indicative of the choices the producers are making. Honestly, isn’t one of the signs of our society’s impending doom the fact that we continue to promote redneck idiot-savants to the level of cultural icon?
Jack the Second
@Robert: They’ve also made Jack twelve? That’s almost as bad as casting Red as ten.
I’m super upset about this, and am now no longer planning to see the movie. They’ll have to either completely re write or remove all of red’s AWSOME songs in order for this to not be the creepiest fucking thing ever.
This is my favorite musical of all time, I has a sad.
Never saw the film but the portrayal of Daredevil couldn’t possibly be worse than the one in the TV movie “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.”
Should Ms. Brownlee not pan out, there’s always Honey Boo Boo…
A few random thoughts: First, this is terrible casing for all the reasons you’ve all mentioned. It makes the relationship between Red and the Wolf into something truly creepy. Second, I’ve always loved this show, but believe that it is a meditation on the ravages of the AIDs crisis and finding your own families and relationships. Anyone want to weigh in on this theory?
Someone needs to get that little girl to an orthodontist. Also, I can see Disney keeping any sexual tension in the movie. They’re that creepy.
I love Sondheim, adored “Into the Woods,” and am appalled by how they’re rewriting it to remove the darker bits.
I don’t know if the show was an AIDS allegory. Even without that subtext, what made the show so wonderful was precisely the fact that it showed what happens after “happily ever after,” and did so with Sondheim’s special brand of wry humor.
If they’re retooling it for a family audience… the laughs will be broader, the double meanings gone, and the substance thinned to pap. Ugh. Just… ugh.
Hard to picture Disney + Sondheim…. This makes me sad. Into the Woods is one of my most favorite things ever.
It had its first previews in 1986 and debuted on Broadway in 1987, so it’s exactly the right time period for it to be a metaphor/allegory for that, even if that wasn’t Sondheim’s conscious intent.
ETA: To be clear, I have no idea if that was Sondheim’s intent or not, or if it was one of the themes floating around in the zeitgeist at the time.
The annoying repeated vamp in “In-to-the-WOODS” heard over and over in the score, was intended to be a satiric jab at Disney music.
I doubt we have one, and if we do, he’s been bribed, but I’ll look into it.
Ted & Hellen
The Red/Wolf things is SUPPOSED to be creepy, people…and there are a myriad of filming/directing techniques to make kids appear on film to have been directly involved in sexually suggestive situations without in any way actually exposing them to anything like that during filming and rehearsal.
@Ted & Hellen:
While reading this thread I have been thinking of a 6 year old Robert Arryn suckling on a middle-aged Lyssa Arryn’s teat. Creepy and fake. Cinematic magic and all. I was also thinking about Chloë Grace Moretz Picture in the original Kick-Ass (13 when released, 11 or 12 when filming.) and the bloody carnage she dealt out. I realize Americans are much more comfortable with kids being hyper-violent than even remotely sexual, but casting kids in these roles is a ship that has sailed. (See also any show with dancing kids, child beauty pageants, etc etc.)
Bernadette Peters, where’s Bernadette Peters?! It’s not Into the Woods without her. Also, how is Disney supposed to produce this unironically? It can’t be done, so it shouldn’t be.
A Humble Lurker
I’ve seen that version. You know what bothers me about it? They cut the sexuality out of the wolf’s solo (which I get) but they leave the whole ‘stepsisters cutting off bits of their feet’ thing. WHAT? That shit bothers me at my age.
Also, I could see a ten year old working. Generally the chemistry between Red and the Wolf is that of a young woman curious about sexuality lured into a not healthy situation. But if you play it as a little girl suddenly getting attention when she doesn’t usually…it could work. I also like the idea of that whole situation being darker because of that. However, since Disney’s doing this I know that’s not what they’re going for.
Did you know that in the original oral Red Riding Hood story there’s no huntsman and Red saves herself from being eaten? Plus, cannibalism. Kind of funny that Into the Woods’ Cinderella is closer to the original but not Red.
Regarding age appropriateness, the JR version of Into the Woods is literally Act I. They don’t go into the bad stuff that happens in Act II. That’s how middle/elementary schools do the show. I’m shocked Sondheim signed off on eliminating the moral of the story but there you go.
@Jack the Second: Yes. Jack is little Gavotte from the awful Les Mis film last year. At least he can sing and act. Acting has yet to be confirmed on that little girl from Ellen’s talk show playing Red.
@A Humble Lurker:
I don’t remember anything about feet being cut off, but it was many years ago. Nephew just started college. There was one scene where sex was implied, where a couple of kids kissed than went behind some stage props out of sight. I thought that was a bit too suggestive for middle school, but I don’t think everyone in the audience was as taken aback by it as me, i.e. I was raised with some very prudish standards.
Anyway the Disney version of many a Grimm’s Fairytale we take as the “true” version now have all been greatly sanitized for mass consumption.
Neither one of these is true in the universe in which I live.