Hugh Jackman is coming off having played Wolverine twice in two years, and he’s getting ready to do it again in 2016 and 2017, which is when (respectively) X-Men: Apocalypse and Wolverine 3 are due to reach theaters. However, even as 20th Century Fox continues to move full-steam ahead with its X-Men movie universe, the studio is looking to get production on a long-gestating Jackman project – the P.T. Barnum musical The Greatest Showman on Earth – into production by next year.
Greatest Showman on Earth is a musical biopic about Phineas Taylor Barnum, the American founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as trail-blazer is the field of show business during the 19th century. Jackman has been loosely attached to play Mr. Barnum in the movie for around five years now, but between his X-Men acting duties and non-Wolverine film appearances (Real Steel, Les Misérables, Prisoners) – not to mention acting on-stage in plays such as The River – he hasn’t exactly been available to work on the project of late.
Deadline is reporting that Fox studio heads, after “much deliberation”, have started making deals to lock down cast and crew members for Greatest Showman on Earth, so that filming can get underway in New York by Summer 2015, somehow fitting around the shoots for Apocalypse and Wolverine 3 (which may or may not be filmed back to back, in part depending on what happens with Greatest Showman).
Still onboard to direct Jackman’s latest cinematic musical is visual effects artist and commercial helmsman Michael Gracey. The project will mark Gracey’s first time calling the shots on a feature-length movie, since Walt Disney Pictures canned his originally-planned directorial debut (the Snow White-inspired historical adventure Order of the Seven) a couple years ago.
The most recent script draft for Greatest Showman on Earth was penned by Jonathan Tropper (This Is Where I Leave You), based on an earlier screenplay written up by Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls). The project, according to Deadline, will also include original songs put together by the Tony-nominated duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (the Christmas Story stage musical), along with singer/songwriters Brian Lapin, Bonnie McKee, and Jake Shears.
Gracey, as a visual artist, has already demonstrated that he has an eye for blending rhythmic filmmaking with show-stopping performance numbers – see his T-Mobile “Dance” commercial. for proof of that. The people responsible for crafting the story and song/dance numbers for Greatest Showman on Earth boast impressive credentials in the musical genre, which ought to help offset any problems that arise from Gracey’s lack of experience in the feature-directing arena.
And really, does anyone want to argue that Jackman isn’t a great choice to play the eponymous role in Greatest Showman on Earth? (In case you needed more proof, watch Jackman’s opening for the 68th Tony Awards, embedded above.) The pieces are there for Greatest Showman on Earth to come together and be the next entertaining original Hollywood musical; now they just have to be assembled correctly.
That also goes for the upcoming end-of-year musical releases, Annie and Into the Woods. Hopefully, these films and Greatest Showman on Earth will be part of a strong new wave of cinematic musicals… and maybe even appeal to those who aren’t usually so crazy about the genre.
We’ll keep you posted on development for The Greatest Showman on Earth.