Before Disney released a trailer and an assortment of first- (well, second-) look photos at Into the Woods in late July, there wasn’t much information available about the upcoming movie adaptation of the beloved 1987 Broadway musical. That’s why fans latched on tightly earlier this summer, when composer Stephen Sondheim indicated that the film had made certain changes to the show’s script—ones pertaining to death and sex and the elimination of fan-favorite songs.
Sondheim wasn’t pleased with the backlash. Despite the theater legend’s follow-up explanation, some fans had already decided that Disney was making a squeaky clean adaptation of an otherwise dark, adult show.
But director Rob Marshall, the man behind movie-musicals like Chicago and Nine, wants to put fans at ease by clearing up a few things.
“It’s ironic that happened at all, because Steve’s been part of every single step of this movie. And the truth is, we’ve been incredibly faithful to the original,” says Marshall, who worked closely with Sondheim and the musical’s librettist James Lapine on the film’s screenplay. “I’m actually really impressed Disney’s doing this film, because it’s very brave. I don’t feel we’ve watered it down in any way, shape, or form. We’ve just made it a film. But I never thought in terms of ‘the Disney’ of it all, ever. None of us did.”
As for the songs and scenes that some fans worried about—the Baker’s Wife’s tryst, the creep-tastic Wolf, Rapunzel’s unfortunate end—Marshall promises, “All of those things are in the film. ‘Any Moment’ is in the film…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.”
“Listen,” Marshall tells EW. “It’s a very grown-up piece in many ways, and there’s a lot of entertainment and a lot of fun to it, but it doesn’t shy away from any of those adult themes at all.”
Still, as is necessary for any adaptation, some changes have been made. The song “Ever After,” for example—which separates the show’s two acts—is now purely instrumental. (Marshall says the biggest change from stage to screen is the dispersion of acts—Woods’ second act has been condensed and re-tooled for the film, which has a more traditional three-act structure.)
Expect to see Meryl Streep’s rap breakdown during the prologue, but don’t count on any new songs making their way into the film. “Rainbows,” a duet between the Baker and his wife, was originally written by Sondheim for a scrapped film version of Woods in the ’90s—but contrary to other reports, Marshall says it was never intended to be in this movie. Sondheim wrote another new song specifically for Streep that was filmed but ultimately cut—as Marshall puts it, “It was beautiful and spectacular, but it was very clear, as good as the song was, that [the movie] was stronger without.”
Marshall also wants to clear up another Woods rumor—that the flick was back in production for reshoots as recently as July. As it happens, Marshall and his team did not re-shoot; rather, they spent three days shooting new material that had been cut and re-added to the script after Disney screened the movie. (The two scenes in question are character flashbacks.)
“We built this thing using the best parts of Into the Woods, which is so much of it. So much of it is there and make it work on film,” Marshall concludes. “It’ll all be very clear when people see it. They’ll understand, it’s all there.”
Find out more about Into the Woods and 87 new movies in this week’s Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly.