How did you interpret this idea of ‘the woods’?
Rob Marshall: The woods is so many things. It’s the place you go into to learn, to get your wish, to grow, to change. It’s fearful, it’s seductive – it’s all of those things, and it’s life. So you go in and learn and come out again a different person. And every character goes into the woods to get something. I love the desperation that everybody has – they need something so badly. And then once they have that, is it what they wanted? Cinderella’s mother in the tree says that beautiful thing: ‘Are you certain what you wish is what you want?’ And you think it is but Cinderella realises maybe it’s not where she’s comfortable and where she should be. So the woods is all of those things. It’s a metaphor for life, really.
Among the strongest themes of Into The Woods is this relationship between parents and children. How do you think kids will respond to this today and have your kids seen this movie?
Meryl Streep: Well, my kids are 35, 31, 20-errr and 23. Grace is 28, right? Yeah. Some of the girls have seen it and they loved it. I mean they lo-lo-loved it. But little children? When Rob was saying that childhood was different when he was a child, I think it is. But in a way it’s gone back to some time when children knew everything because there was no division and no protection of children. Children were in the mix of everything – they saw life, death, illness in the house. And we lived for a little halcyon moment, in the ’50s and ’60s maybe, differently. But I think maybe now kids see everything. The things that very young children see, to me, is appalling. And yet they somehow are resilient, some of them. Anyway, the world is dark and full of joy – both. And they know that from the time they are very little.
I was thinking about my son, who used to draw monsters all the time. I thought, ‘Why doesn’t he draw the lake and the island? It’s so beautiful out there. And he was always drawing things that were terrifying because they have to get ready and in themselves they know they have to get ready for the bad stuff, the big stuff’s going to come. I think children of all ages, as they used to say, will respond to this because it’s deep and joyful and scary and funny – thanks to Chris.
Anna Kendrick: And his chest.
Meryl Streep: And his hair.
Anna, you’ve sung in roles both on stage and in the movies. Can you walk us through the differences between performing for the big screen and in theatre?
Anna Kendrick: It’s been a long time since I performed on stage. The last thing I legitimately performed on stage within the context of a theatre show was A Little Night Music, when I was 17. So it’s been a long time and the challenge is always about if you’re not going to sing live or if you are going to sing live and in this case trying to find a balance that made sense for this movie. If I’m going to be running up and down the steps of the palace in a Colleen Atwood corset some of it is going to have to be pre-recorded. Otherwise it’s gonna be real breathy. In cases like that it made sense because Rob and I could find the performance and craft the performance in the studio and make the decision of the emotional journey she takes in the song. Whereas something like ‘He’s A Very Nice Prince’ with Emily, we’re sitting on a rock having a conversation and there was so much to discover that it didn’t make sense to do it in the recording studio. We would have been locked into these performances and had no freedom to really look at each other and be challenged by each other in that scene and really go, ‘No, I’m trying to make you understand.’ So we were lucky enough to get to do both in whatever situation made sense for that scene.
Did you know some of these songs already?
Anna Kendrick: Well that’s the thing about Sondheim, you think you know. You’re like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that song.’ And then Paul Gemignani plonks it out for you on piano and you take a big gulp and sit down in front of your sheet music and your tape recorder and you just torture yourself.
Chris, I understand you discovered this musical through this screen adaptation. Surely you know the essential stories of Cinderella and Jack And The Beanstalk but I’m curious what you responded to in this screenplay and how it makes these fairy tales, which we all knew as kids, so much more complex?
Chris Pine: Having really thought about it, for me the most resonant thing was… I’ve heard a lot that in high schools oftentimes when they perform the first act of the play when things are nice and cosy and what we know, because in the send act there’s so much destruction and mayhem and life happens – much of what we know life to be. And I thought how interesting, especially in western culture things like death and pain and sorrow and all these things we consider to be ugly or that we don’t want to look at or are verboten are pushed aside. Yet they are a part of the cycle of life. And I think there’s something beautiful about incorporating that into the story that we tell each other, that these things do happen and to invite children into what it means to be an adult human being. There is much joy and there is much laughter but there’s also much pain and much sorrow – but there will always be hope. You can always choose to hope and I think there’s something beautiful about that.
As for my character, I just loved his two-dimensionality. His utter fascination with himself. Just the opportunity to work with everybody is so fantastic but there’s a moment before agony where me and leather pants are walking through the woods and we get to the stream and Billy says, ‘Well no maiden would run from us’ and I say, ‘Yet one has.’ And there’s a camera out to my far left and the Prince just looks at the camera. And I just love the idea that he knows that somewhere out there someone is watching him say this. So for all these wonderful people doing all these complex and in-depth psychological studies, my character is not that.