I thought the direction on The Greatest Showman was pretty impressive, but it looks like Michael Gracey, who made his feature debut on the musical, had a bit of help from a veteran helmer. According to Variety, James Mangold was called in to oversee a week of reshoots after 20th Century Fox became concerned that Gracey had become overwhelmed on the project. Since Gracey had only previously done commercials (he met star Hugh Jackman on a 2010 ad for Lipton Iced Tea), the studio decided they needed a seasoned director who also had a rapport with Jackman.
Mangold’s involvement seems to be that he helped oversee the reshoots and pitched in on the editing process and received an executive producer credit and a seven-figure salary for his contribution. However, a source close to the studio says Gracey never lost control of the picture and that Mangold’s extensive input was simply in an advisory capacity. The film’s testing reportedly improved following the reshoots.
Although it may be tempting to call this production “troubled”, it seems like everyone here made the responsible decisions. Gracey wasn’t removed, Mangold didn’t completely redo the project (a week of reshoots is pretty standard), and the result is fine. The problems The Greatest Showman suffers from come more from the script and the songs, and while those should have been sorted out before filming began, neither sinks the picture. And audiences seem to have warmed to the picture, giving it an “A” CinemaScore, so it should be interesting to see how it performs at the box office over the holidays.
Here’s the official synopsis for The Greatest Showman:
Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.