Stephen Sondheim spills the beans on 'Into the Woods' movie

Stephen Sondheim spills the beans on 'Into the Woods' movie
Stephen Sondheim, with Bernadette Peters, in 1987. (Los Angeles Times)

Stephen Sondheim has publicly revealed some of the plot changes that have been made in the movie version of his musical "Into the Woods," which Disney will release in December. Few people would risk the wrath of Disney's publicity department, but then again, the outspoken Sondheim is 84, a winner of an Oscar and multiple Tonys and apparently secure enough in his legacy that he felt free to spill the beans.

The revelations appear in a New Yorker article by Larissa MacFarquhar. The Talk of the Town story followed Sondheim to a recent talk that the songwriter gave to high school drama teachers in New York during which the subject of "Into the Woods" came up.


Sondheim revealed to the audience that the changes made to the plot concern the fate of certain characters, a song that has possibly been cut and a new song written for the movie to cover some of the changes. (Here's the full article, which contains plot spoilers.)

The original "Into the Woods," by Sondheim and James Lapine, is a dark stage musical inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. It premiered in 1986 at the Old Globe in San Diego before transferring the following year to Broadway, where it became a critical and popular success.

The movie version, directed by Rob Marshall, stars Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt. Disney has set the official U.S. release date for Christmas Day.

Since the New Yorker article appeared, some media outlets have criticized the perceived Disney-fication of "Into the Woods," complaining sight-unseen that the company has sanitized some of the musical's darker elements.

"There is big money in happy endings, after all, and Disney can complicate its brand only so much," wrote one commentator in the Washington Post.

Disney has made plot changes to some of its fairy-tale movie adaptations, including 1989's "The Little Mermaid," in which the title character has a happy ending instead of dying. 

Sondheim has been known to speak publicly on potentially touchy subjects. The songwriter spoke out against the recent Broadway production of "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," saying that he objected to changes made to the original opera.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT