Disney’s Into The Woods is based on the musical stage production by celebrated composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and boasts an all-star ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Emily Blunt.
The musical takes classic fairy tales Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel and ties them all together with an original story.
Hannah Ross spoke to Billy Magnussen, who plays Rapunzel’s Prince about the film ahead of the film’s release on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 18th May.
Hey Billy, where are you today?
I’m in New York. It’s cold, but it’s nice. Where you at?
London. It’s exactly the same where we are.
I miss London so much.
It was all filmed in London, right?
Yeah, I feel like I became a local.
What drew you to accepting the part in Into The Woods?
Um… That they hired me? [laughs] When you get work, especially in that calibre, you’re not gonna turn that away. It’s awesome. I’m lucky to be in that position. This was a great opportunity, and of course I couldn’t turn it down, because A, out of respect - just the material itself, all of the people involved… and I got to be a prince! How cool is that?
And a Disney prince, at that. What kind of challenges did you face going into it?
Going into it? I was just excited about the whole thing. I wasn’t scared of it, I was more: “Oh shit, this is going to be awesome.” I was so excited. Challenges? Having to sing, I guess.
You come from a musicians background - you’ve performed on stage before. Was this any different, performing on a stage to performing on a film set?
No. Not really. Singing is like talking, just with a lot of air in it. That’s what I think it is.
Had you seen the stage production before you worked on it? Or did you go in blind?
I went in blind. So blind. I had no clue. I had never seen the show before, and I didn’t know what it was about.
Well, it worked out for you. I absolutely loved it.
You did?! I’m glad.
When I was told I was interviewing you I was super excited…
Thanks! Oh gosh. Next time I’m in London, we should so hang out. I’m serious!
What was it like working with people like Meryl Streep?
Miserable. Miserable! Every second, Jesus Christ. It was all: Meryl this, Meryl that… God!
No. She’s awesome. There’s a reason she’s the queen, you know? That’s the truth. She’s so giving and loving and caring, and just dedicated to what she does. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. She shared it with me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
What was it like working with Stephen Sondheim?
It was great. He put a lot of trust into Rob Marshall. He was there, hanging out, and cracking some jokes and stuff like that, and then he’d wander off and fall asleep, so… You know.
What, or who surprised you the most when you went into it? Did anything shock you?
I wasn’t shocked, but more thankful than anything. I think I gained a group of really great friends, and people I can trust.
A nice family on set.
Yeah. I’ve got this memory now… It feels weird to say this… but this is my life! Which is crazy. You don’t realise how crazy this is. This is a part of my life. This is who I am now. Forever. Which is kind of cool. I’ll always have that memory.
I know you guys had a rehearsal period before you started shooting. How did that play into helping you develop your character?
Well… I truly believe no one knows what’s going on, or what they’re doing in life, and we’re all just going by the feel of our hearts… So… We were just faking it until we figured it out. That’s what we did in rehearsal. We just played - you can’t fault someone for having fun. I just enjoyed it. We just played a lot. And that was what was cool with Rob. He made a playground and was like, ‘let’s see what happens’.
What was it like when you went on set for the first time? Did it blow you away?
No, the first time that blew me away was when I showed up at Shepperton [studios] on the first day – the first, first day of the read through of everything, when everyone was there. It was so surreal. It was like, ‘wow, this is actually happening right now’.
Were there any really funny moments on set? Who was the funniest?
No. She took it seriously. The biggest joker on set? That Jack kid, Daniel [Huttlestone]. That kid… He’s going to slay the ladies. I’m just going to say that. He’s a lady killer.
I was half expecting you to say James Corden.
Oh James? James is fun, but Daniel… that kid. I hung out with Daniel on set all the time. We’d played soccer – or football, whatever you want to call it – all the time when we were on set, in between shoots, and stuff.
When you and Chris Pine did Agony… the whole shirt ripping thing – was that improv or was it scripted for you two to pull open your shirts in a river?
Oh yeah, it was improvised. Yeah, it was me and Chris just messing around and stuff, and we discovered it.
My friend warned me about the scene.
[Laughs] I think it’s crazy… That moment - I think ripping open my shirt has been the defining moment of my career.
It’s a good defining moment, though. You can look back on this, and think, ‘I’ve done this and that, but I did rip my shirt open in a river’.
Exactly that [laughs].
When was the first time you saw the completed film?
At the actual opening of the film! The premiere! I was so nervous. I had my whole family there – extended family too – and some of my friends. Do you know how nerve wracking that is?! I was thinking: “This could suck!” It could have gone the other way. I lucked out.
Did they like it?
They did. They really liked it. I liked it too. I remember being so nervous.
Do you have any future projects coming up? What’s next in the works for you?
Yes! I’ve got two films coming up this year that I’m ready to work on. I’ve got that Spielberg thing [Bridge of Spies] coming up now, I believe this year. And my band too, I keep playing with my band a lot, which - Oh! We came out to London, we played Dublin Castle, and the Macbeth when we were out there.
Into The Woods is out on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD now.