James Lapine and Lilla Crawford Talk Into the Woods DVD/Blu-Ray Release
Theater is not dead!
Musical theater lovers, rejoice! The film version of Into the Woods, starring James Corden, Emily Blunt, and the inimitable Meryl Streep as The Witch, is out on DVD/Blu-ray TODAY! To celebrate this theater classic’s release, The Mary Sue chatted with Into the Woods‘ original book writer and screenwriter on the film, James Lapine, and Lilla Crawford, who plays the snarky-but-endearing Little Red Riding Hood!
Lapine always saw Into the Wood‘s potential to make a great film, and is thrilled that it’s finally happened. “When [Into the Woods] first came out, it was the heyday of Disney and Beauty and the Beast and the animateds,” he explains. “And I actually got in touch with Jeffrey Katzenberg and said Gee, I think Into the Woods would be a perfect movie for you guys, but they weren’t interested in doing it. And some years later, it got optioned by one of the studios – and I had nothing to do with that – and it never got made. But I always thought it could be an interesting movie, so when Rob Marshall came calling, I couldn’t have been happier. I mean, it’s a little bit after the fact – it’s 28 years old or something – so it was kind of a thrill that it’s still lived on and that he was interested in doing it!”
When I mention the fact that Into The Woods seems to be the precursor to the Fables, Wickeds, and other postmodern fairy tale re-tellings of today, Lapine chuckles and says, “Katzenberg ended up doing Shrek, so…”
Crawford, who is only 14, owes her exposure to the show to the DVD release of the original stage production, though it didn’t start there. “My first time seeing Into the Woods live was the Shakespeare in the Park production with Amy Adams – she played The Baker’s Wife – in 2012. So that was my first time,” she says. “Ever since then, I became completely obsessed with it! So, definitely before the movie I knew the story and the songs quite well.”
Having Lapine writing the script for the film set a many theater-lovers’ hearts at ease, and the intense fervor of those fans both delights and amuses him. “In a funny way, it was good, because everyone was already ready to dislike it, for no other reason than it was being done,” he laughs. “But having the guy who wrote it – and Steve [Sondheim], too – being involved in it…it’s our baby. And if we’re okay with our baby like this, then put a lid on it!”
Lapine actually thinks that many of the things that were added to the film enhanced the storytelling:
Actually the newest thing that was added – that was Rob and Disney, and they were quite right – is writing more to specify why, at this moment in time, they have to undo the spell. So, we just wrote a little thing about there being a blue moon, and it’s like Hailey’s Comet where it only comes like every twenty years, and you’ve got three days before it arrives to make this happen, and that helped the storytelling. And then in visual storytelling, I think actually seeing the backstory of the witch on-screen is much more exciting than onstage where you just have to sit and listen to it. And I just love things like seeing Jack go up the beanstalk – that’s just delicious.
Of course, I miss “No More.” It’s a wonderful song – but I only miss it because I know it, and I don’t have a problem with it being gone. You can’t be precious. And I have to say, Sondheim couldn’t have been better about it either. He’s the same way, you know – It’s a movie. If it’s not working, take it out!
Both Lapine and Crawford think that the release of things like Into the Woods on DVD/Blu-ray will actually go a long way toward encouraging more people to love live theater. Though Crawford is insistent that, despite theater’s popularity with teens not being as high as it used to be, it isn’t dead by any means.
It used to be more popular than it is now. Like, social media has taken over, and pop stars, and no one really listens to….Like, my friends will be like LOL. OMG Dubstep! And I’ll be like LOL. OMG, Pippin! I’m always the one listening to the Broadway showtunes, like Sutton Foster, you guys! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with pop – I’m a pop lover, too – but I’m a theater person.
The theater community is definitely a big one, too. For example, I went to a theater festival, and there were 5,000 kids there that were all into theater. So, theater isn’t completely lost. I think how we can bring musical theater back more is through something like Into the Woods, bringing a classic to film. But I definitely think it’s not completely lost. There are still plenty of kids, like me, who are really into theater.
Lapine is equally convinced that a film version of Into the Woods will only help, not hurt, people’s love of theater. He’s also grateful that he was allowed the opportunity to adapt his own work, a rarity in Hollywood.
One of the reasons I’m glad the movie was made is that I think it will continue to generate stage productions. By bringing it into the zeitgeist in a way, it exposes it to schools and maybe community theater groups that maybe hadn’t thought to do it. So obviously, as an author who’d like to see his work have a life, that’s cool! I think they’re always going to be different experiences – I don’t know that you can compare them, frankly.
What we tried to do was not do the stage production as a movie, because I think that would’ve been a real snore. I think that shows that do go that route tend to be real snores. Rob was really smart. He’s a theater guy, but he knew he had to make a movie-movie, and we always talked about it in filmic terms not in theater terms.
The other thing is, you can do things in shorthand on film that you can’t do on stage. So, one image can tell you everything you need to know without having to write a scene. It was a wonderful challenge for me as a writer to go back to something I wrote and take it apart and sew it back together again. I enjoyed that! I really did. And I was so grateful that he gave me the opportunity to do it, because that so rarely happens. They almost always go to someone else to do write these things, so I’m forever grateful to him for that.
One thing that was added, but eventually didn’t make the final cut, is a new song by Stephen Sondheim – “She’ll Be Back” – which was written exclusively for the film. However, the DVD/Blu-ray includes Meryl Streep performing the song, and you get to see it in the context of the film with commentary by Rob Marshall.
The DVD/Blu-ray also includes plenty of Behind-The-Scenes featurettes and cast interviews, as well as a “Music and Lyrics” feature where you can jump directly to your favorite songs from the film. If you missed seeing Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Lilla Crawford, or Johnny Depp in Into the Woods in theaters, or you’re a hardcore fan who wants a deeper experience, check out the DVD/Blu-ray of Into the Woods, which is available today!