Into the Woods, one of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s most acclaimed stage productions, is a modern twist on what happens when several beloved fairy tales cross paths with each other. It’s entertaining, funny and heart-breaking, all at once, with memorable music that explores themes of greed, ambition, loss, family, love, and the consequences of wishes. From director Rob Marshall (Chicago), the film stars Meryl Streep (“Witch”), Johnny Depp (“Wolf”), Emily Blunt (“Baker’s Wife”), James Corden (“Baker”), Anna Kendrick (“Cinderella”), Chris Pine (“Cinderella’s Prince”), Christine Baranski (“Stepmother”) and Tracey Ullman (“Jack’s Mother”).
During a roundtable interview at the film’s L.A. press day, co-stars Emily Blunt, James Corden and Anna Kendrick talked about their preparation for this project, why doing a musical in on every actor’s bucket list, and their favorite Disney films growing up. Corden also talked about why he thinks there’s no greater film trilogy than Toy Story, and why he’s constantly amazed by the volume of adults who spend actual time thinking about The Avengers, while Blunt talked about whether she’d have any interest in being in a Marvel superhero movie. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: What was your preparation like, for this project?
EMILY BLUNT: They were pretty thorough, actually. We were given five weeks of rehearsal, and even before the official rehearsal started, we had our own time. I certainly had tons of singing lessons and weeks to prepare, which was wonderful. You never normally get that on a film. When you’ve got a creative like Rob Marshall, the attention to detail is so vast. And Colleen Atwood designed the costumes, working with the D.P. on how the light was going to look and what colors were going to work. There’s so much that goes into it, before you show up on set. I think everyone felt really prepared, at the end of the five weeks, to just go in there and try to do it justice.
Emily, you were also pregnant during this shoot.
ANNA KENDRICK: Were you?!
BLUNT: You just thought I was fat. It was not method putting on weight to play the baker’s wife.
KENDRICK: It wasn’t too much bread?
BLUNT: It was so much bread. I was pregnant, yeah. I found out I was pregnant, the same week I found out I had the job. It was a predicament, for sure, but Rob Marshall was very supportive and wanted to still cast me, which was a relief.
JAMES CORDEN: I also supported her, in solidarity. I was just indulging, and I’m still holding onto a bit of baby weight. Don’t judge me on that.
Is it just on every actor’s bucket list to do a musical?
CORDEN: I’ve always wanted to be in musicals, not just in film, but on stage. I think it’s a wonderful medium. I think it’s joyous and brilliant. Some of my greatest times, growing up, were watching Grease or Guys and Dolls. They’re fantastic. So, to get to be in an adaptation of a musical that’s so beloved by musical theater goers, at the very moment it’s committed to film with such a cast and such a director, is thrilling. When done right, I don’t know if there’s anything better.
KENDRICK: I can’t speak for anybody else, but certainly, it was on my bucket list. And to get to do this piece, in particular, is a trip. I wanted to be Little Red from the time that I first saw it, and was thoroughly disappointed that an actual child stole the role right from under me, being young and whatever. We all just always want to do something different, whether it’s a different genre or a different kind of character. Everybody gets bored easily, so I would imagine that, for anybody who’s ever even once sung in the shower, being in a musical is probably on the list.
Did you guys grow up watching Disney films?
BLUNT: I grew up watching all of the Disney movies. I remember the first Disney movies I had were Robin Hood and The Sword in the Stone. My sister and I got one each for Christmas, and we watched them 55 times. They were so good. So, I would say, for nostalgic reasons, those two were my favorites because they were my first experience with watching Disney movies.
CORDEN: Beauty and the Beast was a huge thing for me. I loved that film so much. It’s amazing. And now my son, who’s only three, is equally as into it. It’s great. There was a great run of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid. Just because they’re animated, it does not mean that they should be discredited as fantastic musicals. Frozen, also. These are really great musicals that are brilliantly constructed and brilliantly written. For some reason, because they’re animated, I don’t know if they’re classed in the same way, but I feel that they should be. And there’s no greater trilogy than Toy Story. I don’t care what you say. Bring your Star Wars and your Indiana Jones. As three films, there is no better trilogy than Toy Story. I’m 100% serious, from the way it’s constructed and the way the characters develop. Return of the Jedi is not as good as The Empire Strikes Back. That is just a fact. And Godfather III is nowhere near as good as Godfather II. It’s true that doing it three times is almost impossible, and Toy Story is a genuine master class.
KENDRICK: Cinderella, the cartoon, scared the shit out of me, when I was a kid. When the stepsisters rip her dress apart, that was really horrifying. I identified most with Gus, the fat mouse. The Little Mermaid was a big one for me.
BLUNT: Yeah, the songs are so incredible in that.
KENDRICK: My parents got the VHS for me, when I was a kid, for my birthday one year. I didn’t really understand that anybody could get a VHS. I thought there were probably a hundred in the whole world, and I lost my mind. I was like, “It’s too much! You’ve done too much! I can’t accept it!” That was a big day for me.
Into the Woods feels like The Avengers for fairy tales. Did that occur to anyone while you were making this?
KENDRICK: It did.
BLUNT: Did it?
CORDEN: I spend almost no time thinking about The Avengers. I literally could not spend less of my day thinking about it, and I’m constantly amazed by the volume of adults who do. Each to their own and I wish them well, but I do not. It’s preposterous. I don’t think I’m talking myself out of a big Marvel franchise. I don’t think it’s coming, anytime around the corner. But, I do find the whole notion of it odd. Just think about how much of your day you’re acting. How much are you getting to act? Really and genuinely, if you’re an actor and you’re in those movies, what is your day’s acting? I don’t know. I find it strange.
BLUNT: I’d love to see you in a Marvel movie, right now. After that, it would be so great.
Emily, a lot of people want to see you in a Marvel movie, as Captain Marvel. Are you more open to it than James Corden is?
BLUNT: It’s funny ‘cause I’m hearing this Captain Marvel thing from a lot of people. I have no official offer, whatsoever. No one’s called. I don’t know where the hell it’s come from, in all honesty. For me, I just think that the part has gotta be awesome. I just want to play great parts, and it’s sometimes hard to find within those big superhero movies. The female parts are not usually great, but recently, they’ve been better. I don’t know. It has to be the right thing.
Emily, you tend to play down your singing ability. Now that the film is done, how do you feel about it now?
BLUNT: I’m from England, where we play down most of the things that we can do. How do I feel about it now? Probably feel the same. I don’t think I’m the best singer in the world, for sure, but I loved doing it. I’ve always enjoyed singing. I find it joyous. This music gave you such space and allowed for you to be an actor within it. You didn’t have to hit a high-C perfectly. You didn’t have sing live perfectly, every time. It allowed for these songs to be an extension of the character. They were emotionally so challenging and complex. I think we were all encouraged to focus more on making them conversational and making the audience want to listen. I’ll always find it tough, singing in front of people.
Into the Woods opens in theaters on Christmas Day.