Richard Linklater adapting Sondheim musical over 20 years with Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt
From this point on, not a day goes by when Richard Linklater isn’t thinking about Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along.
That’s because the filmmaker plans to spend the next two decades bringing it to the screen. Blumhouse confirmed to EW on Thursday that it is attached to produce Linklater’s adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along, which he intends to shoot over the course of 20 years. Yep, you read that right — that means a 2039 release date at the earliest.
Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Booksmart), Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen), and Blake Jenner (Glee) are attached to play the film’s three leads, best friends who find their relationships torn asunder by fame, disappointed dreams, and more.
Merrily We Roll Along has become something of a cult classic among Sondheim’s legendary Broadway work. The original production opened in the fall of 1981 and ran for only 16 performances. Since then, Sondheim has revised the show numerous times for several major restagings. It’s not clear exactly which version of the show (and which songs from the score) might make the cut.
Merrily We Roll Along tells its story in reverse, following Franklin Shepard, a once-gifted Broadway composer who has lost sight of his friends and family to become a Hollywood producer. The musical begins at the height of Franklin’s fame and moves backward in time, showing snapshots of his life up through the first night the idealistic three friends at the story’s core first meet on a New York City rooftop.
According to Blumhouse, principal photography for the first segment of the film has already been completed (though theoretically, given the reverse nature of the storytelling, that could be the final part of the film).
Blumhouse did not specify which actors will play which roles, though other outlets suggest Jenner will portray Franklin. It would seem safe to assume Feldstein will play Mary Flynn, who is Franklin’s friend and a theatrical critic. Fittingly, Feldstein first broke out for her supporting performance in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, in which a high school production of Merrily We Roll Along plays a major role (but not the titular one).
“I first saw, and fell in love with Merrily in the ’80s and I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 20 years than in the world of a Sondheim musical,” Linklater said in a statement. “I don’t enter this multiyear experience lightly, but it seems the best, perhaps the only way, to do this story justice on film.”
This isn’t Linklater’s first years-long project, of course. He famously spent 12 years shooting the Oscar-winning drama Boyhood.