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Director Richard Linklater’s next feat? 20 years filming a Sondheim musical

Richard Linklater
Film director Richard Linklater at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Director Richard Linklater’s ambitious approach to time-spanning filmmaking just got even more ambitious.

The acclaimed director, who famously spent 12 years shooting his Oscar-winning coming-of-age film “Boyhood,” will now spend 20 years filming a feature-length adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Merrily they’ll roll along, indeed.

Principal photography has already been completed on the Blumhouse Productions project, which bills young stars Beanie Feldstein (“Lady Bird,” “Booksmart”), Ben Platt (“The Politician,” “Pitch Perfect”) and Blake Jenner (“The Edge of Seventeen”) in its cast.

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In fall 1981, the most anticipated new musical of the Broadway season was an adaptation of the 1934 Kaufman and Hart play “Merrily We Roll Along,” with lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, a book by a George Furth and direction by Hal Prince.

“I first saw, and fell in love with ‘Merrily’ in the ‘80s and I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 20 years than in the world of a Sondheim musical,” Linklater said Thursday in a statement Thursday. “I don’t enter this multi-year experience lightly, but it seems the best, perhaps the only way, to do this story justice on film.”

Based on George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1934 play, the Sondheim musical unfolds in reverse and follows three characters, Frank, a composer; Charlie, his writing partner; and Mary, a budding novelist, who have come to New York in the late 1950s to find fame and fortune. Over 20 years, they grow bitter and wreck their friendships and personal lives. As the story moves backward, they become younger and more likable.

Jenner will reportedly play Frank, Platt will star as Charlie and Feldstein will portray Mary, who will all be two decades older when the film is released. Linklater, by then, will be in his late 70s.

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The horror-loving Blumhouse Twitter account took a pithier approach to the film’s premise, joking that the most ambitious thing about the project “is that we boldly assume there will be a planet in 20 years.”

Linklater’s most recent film, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” starring Cate Blanchett is now in theaters. He’ll reteam with producer Ginger Sledge on “Merrily,” which is also being produced by Blumhouse’s Jason Blum (“Whip Lash,” “Get Out”) and Jonathan Marc Sherman.

Richard Linklater spent 12 years making his coming-of-age opus “Boyhood,” but the auteur doesn’t usually take quite so long to deliver the goods.


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