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Stephen Daldry revisits 'Billy Elliot' musical for cinematic broadcast

Stephen Daldry revisits 'Billy Elliot' musical for cinematic broadcast
Stephen Daldry, front, with former and present members of the "Billy Elliot" cast. (Adam Sorenson)

It's been nearly 15 years since Stephen Daldry made his film breakthrough with "Billy Elliot" and almost a decade since he first staged the musical version based on the popular movie.

That's a lot of distance but in many ways, Daldry has never really left "Billy Elliot." The three-time Oscar-nominated director has helped oversee cast changes for the long-running musical, and more recently, returned to the London production for a special cinematic broadcast.

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"Billy Elliot: The Musical Live" will be shown in U.S. cinemas for three days starting on Wednesday. (The other screenings will take place Saturday and Nov. 18.) The transmission, which has been pre-recorded for the U.S., includes an introduction by composer Elton John, a backstage tour and a newly choreographed reunion of 25 actors who have appeared in "Billy Elliot" over the years.

Daldry has a busy slate in the coming months. In the spring, he will direct the Broadway transfers of "The Audience," starring Helen Mirren, and David Hare's "Skylight," with Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy. In London, he will re-stage "The Audience" with Kristin Scott Thomas, starting in April. And he has a new movie, "Trash," based on the Andy Mulligan novel, coming out next year.

The director recently spoke by phone from London. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Have you been surprised by the longevity of the "Billy Elliot" musical?

The success of the film was the surprise. It was a small British film. And that was the same case when we came to the musical. The musical took us many years to bring to life. I have to say it has brought me some of the greatest and most joyous moments of my life.

Joyous how?

In the past 10 years, you have the journey of the children growing up. The broadcast will celebrate the legacy of the show by bringing together the young men in a extraordinary mash-up.

How involved have you been with "Billy Elliot" over the years?

You can never let a show go. On this show, it's always been time worth spent and incredibly joyous. And we have prepared for the broadcast, getting the young men back into the show. We always joke -- each time we get together, it feels like a big Polish wedding.

What was it like working on the cinema broadcast?

It's hard when you're used to playing in a theater to understand where the cameras are and what the cameras might do. So we spent a few weeks rehearsing that.

Can you talk about the upcoming London production of "The Audience" with Kristin Scott Thomas?

We wouldn't have done it if Kristin Scott Thomas hadn't said yes. Helen said someone should take the role and we were racking our brains and Kristin immediately came to mind. We've built a new show around her.

So Peter Morgan has re-written the play?

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Peter will always be re-writing! For Broadway, it will be essential. The end will have to change quite radically to reflect the exact moment in current events.

Do you ever have reservations about stage productions being experienced in cinemas?

I admit that I have. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a hybrid. With "Billy," it works I think. I've watched it now -- I introduced a screening in Paris -- and it has a real vibrancy and energy.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

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