Benj Pasek interview: ‘Spirited’ songwriter
“We are really proud to be a part of ‘Good Afternoon,’ and it’s been really exciting to see how it has sort of taken on a life outside of the film,” says songwriter Benj Pasek about the musical number from the film “Spirited” that has made the Oscars shortlist for Best Original Song. “The idea was actually pitched originally by Ryan Reynolds to say, what if actually this term really in the 1800s did mean FU.” We talked to Pasek as part of our “Meet the Experts” songwriters panel. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Spirited” is a musical retelling of “A Christmas Carol” in which the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) attempts to redeem an “unredeemable” media consultant, Clint Briggs (Reynolds). Their journey leads them to 19th century England where Clint learns that “Good Afternoon” was an offensive phrase and encourages Present to use it — copiously. “We thought, wouldn’t it be so fun to take that notion and to basically write our own PG-13 or R-rated ‘Mary Poppins’ song that really used that turn of phrase … It’s also a really wonderful thing to see Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell get to do what they do best in the sense of being comedy men, but then also exercise this whole new element that we’ve never seen before of them being song-and-dance men.”
“Good Afternoon” is a complex production number with a lot of moving parts, “so for us, we really had to construct the song along with [Sean Anders and John Morris], who wrote the script and really be very, very involved in understanding how the story was going to unfold.” Pasek, along with his fellow songwriters Justin Paul, Khiyon Hursey, Mark Sonnenblick and Sukari Jones had to be “really aligned and know how we were unspooling story along with the script.” With music directors and choreographers also involved, “it really was a huge, huge village to be able to create it … Being able to bring that to the big screen and getting audiences to get to experience that is so thrilling.”