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Ponsoldt Reveals First Details On PIPPIN Movie Musical

Ponsoldt Reveals First Details On PIPPIN Movie MusicalDirector/screenwriter James Ponsoldt discusses preliminary details about his screenplay for the forthcoming feature film adaptation of Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson's celebrated coming-of-age musical PIPPIN in a new interview.

Ponsoldt is currently helming the big screen biopic RODHAM - based on the life of Hilary Rodham Clinton - and juggling that project with commitments to a number of other cinematic endeavors, all in various stages of development, among them a stage-to-screen adaptation of PIPPIN.

In May, uber producer Harvey Weinstein announced that he possessed the screen rights to PIPPIN and had hired Ponsoldt to craft a script for the feature film and this is the first new development on the status of the actually ten-years-aborning tuner since that time (it was originally rumored as heading for the screen as far back as 2003, immediately following the success of CHICAGO and Weinstein purchasing the screen rights).

In commenting upon the challenge of adapting the inherently theatrical piece - that very nature which has been exploited to the nth by directors Bob Fosse and Diane Paulus in their two distinctly different, though both very successful Broadway treatments of the material; Fosse's on the original production in 1972 and Paulus's on the currently-running hit 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Revival - Ponsoldt says he already has a firm grasp on the tricky material.

Despite the plethora of in-production projects, Ponsoldt says, "On Pippin, I'm writing all the time, or adapting all the time."

Ponsoldt elaborates on the process of adapting the story of Charlemagne's son to the silver screen at length, stating: "I would say that with the tone, what's really great about Pippin, is that it was written by Stephen Schwartz, who did Wicked, Bob Fosse directed the original. But it's not like dark Bob Fosse's. It's not like All that Jazz or Chicago. The tone is like The Princess Bride or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's an absurdist, episodic take that's irreverent. At it's core, it's a coming-of-age story about a guy who's 22 and wants to live an extraordinary life, but can't even figure out what that means and how to make himself happy."

He continues, further qualifying his credentials for crafting one of Broadway's most unique musicals for movie audiences, relating, "In many ways, I think I'm a good person for it. I mean, I'm not a musical theater dude. Or rather, I don't watch everything, and love everything, and have every album. The ones that I love - like I've seen The Wizard of Oz a hundred times. West Side Story I love. I love Singing in the Rain, I love White Christmas. I love the Dennis Potter ones like Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven. I love Sondheim. I think now more than ever there's so much available honesty that you can find on the Internet. You can go on to YouTube and find really, really vulnerable, really verité stuff. It's not even verité, it's real! It's people confessing very private things. In a world with "It Gets Better" videos where people are trying to keep themselves alive and speak out to other people and are really brave and courageous. All the more a cheesy musical seems fake, so it requires a level of honesty to be injected or an acknowledgement of that which is fake and fun about musicals, and it isn't necessarily escapist. Like there are great musicals like Once, which feel very almost like a mumblecore musical. I love Once. It's great."

Ponsoldt concludes, "What I think is great about Pippin, specifically, and I wouldn't make this generalization about all musicals, is that it is about how we tell stories and the way stories are very subjective. How we tell some things and leave other things out in the way The Princess Bride is or The Wizard of Oz is, which both have a framing device."

Check out the original story on the matter here.

So, what are your thoughts on a movie musical iteration of PIPPIN hitting the screen sometime very soon? Furthermore, who would you like to see star in it - both as The Leading Player and Pippin himself?

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.