James Lapine Q&A: ‘Into the Woods’ writer
"I don’t think everything lends itself to be a movie," says "Into the Woods" writer James Lapine in a new podcast with Gold Derby (listen below). "Sometimes people will adapt plays or musicals and they’re not cinematic. I think this one is just naturally meant to be opened up and to be seen in a bigger scale."
It took nearly 30 years for "Into the Woods" to make the transition from Broadway to movie theaters, with original writer Lapine handling the screenwriting duties. There is always a challenge in bringing something from the stage to the screen, yet he states in our interview that he felt no such pressure.
It wasn’t until director Rob Marshall came into the picture that the long-gestating project finally began to take shape. "He was just very passionate to do it; it spoke to him," Lapine adds. "He saw it visually, it was a story he wanted to tell… and he was anxious and willing to keep it respectful of the original material."
The show, created by Lapine in 1986 with frequent collaborator Stephen Sondheim, is a musical mash-up of classic fairy tales as filtered through an adult sensibility. He says, "What was interesting was hearing a fairy tale as a child and then looking at it as an adult. It often means something completely different, and you relate to it differently. I think the reason why the show has fortunately been around now for all these years is that people kind of grew up with it the way you grow up with fairy tales."
He elaborates further on the darker undercurrents of the piece: "What we were playing with was, what is this notion of ‘Happily Ever After,’ and are we feeding our children a slightly false hope in reading these stories to them?" He explains how the era of the 1980s – of Reaganomics and the AIDS crisis – had a profound impact on the writing, saying, "I think the idea behind it was to take a look at what we want as individuals and how that effects us as a community."
Lapine has won three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical: "Into the Woods," "Falsettos," and "Passion", as well as a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "Sundays in the Park with George," an honor he shared with Sondheim.