Ever since Chicago ushered the movie-musical back to the big screen with panache, the song-and-dance genre has had a bumpy road in Hollywood (here’s lookin’ at you, Rock of Ages). But the man behind the 2002 Best Picture winner hopes to turn the trend around with another tuner, this time based on one of Broadway’s most beloved Stephen Sondheim musicals. Director Rob Marshall takes the reins on Disney’s Into the Woods, and he’s gathered an A-list cast and creative team to conjure up a glossy adaptation of the 1987 fairy tale fantasy that’s decidedly different from any storybooks you might have gathering dust on the shelf.
In this week’s Entertainment Weekly—which features four exclusive covers of the fairy tale epic’s all-star cast—we dive headfirst into the design of the dark, sprawling world of Into the Woods, the musical tale about a childless Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who attempt to lift a witch’s curse by venturing into an enchanted forest filled with classic characters like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy). But this isn’t your mother’s Cinderella VHS—nor your daughter’s DVD, for that matter. “I didn’t want this to look like a cartoon world,” says Marshall. “It’s not sunny, sunny, sunny—we wanted a sense of danger.”
With the chance to re-invent the iconic musical, it wasn’t hard for Marshall to reunite members of his Chicago design team and lure top acting talent to the project—including Johnny Depp as the big bad Wolf and Meryl Streep as the Witch. “I’ve been offered many witches over the years, starting when I was 40, and I said no to all of them,” the actress tells EW. “But this was really fun because it played with the notion of what witches mean. They represented age and ugliness and scary powers we don’t understand. So here’s my opportunity to say, here’s what you wish for when you’re getting old.”
Come for the woods (and your first look at Depp’s Tex Avery-style lupine), but stay for the rest of our annual holiday movie preview, which includes candid chats with season stand-outs Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, a behind-the-scenes look at Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Imitation Game, and the final Hobbit film, and of course, the calendar that will guide you through it all. The only question is, which cover will you pick?