Hugh Jackman’s new musical has been a long time in the making.
The film, helmed by Australian director Michael Gracey, tells the story of legendary circus showman P.T. Barnum’s rise from poverty-stricken childhood to the launch of his first circus in New York in the mid-1800s.
It’s been in development for seven years and will finally hit Australian cinema screens this month.
“Up until La La Land, everyone was saying there hasn’t been an original musical in 23 years,” Jackman said.
“So the prevailing thought in Hollywood was, unless you have a brand people know, it’s not a done thing. So it just took a long time.”
Actor Zac Efron plays Barnum’s business partner, who falls in love with a trapeze artist, played by Zendaya. Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson round out the cast.
Jackman said he credits Barnum with contributing “to the invention of show business.” “This was also a time in America where puritans kind of ruled and the circus was the equivalent of some dark-alley-strip-show kind of thing,” he said.
The film started as a traditional biopic, but changed after director Gracey suggested adding song-and-dance numbers. Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, who won a Best Original Song Oscar for La La Land’s “City of Stars” last year, came on board to write the film’s music.
“It is honestly to me one of the greatest joys of my career to collaborate with the both of them,” Jackman said of the duo.
“Of all the things you must get right, the music is key. None of the audience have heard the music or seen it on a Broadway show, it’s not a jukebox musical, or a rehash, it’s brand new.
“You need them to get into the story, hear the songs for the first time and have those songs stick in their head. It’s a very difficult thing. We want everyone from age 5 to 90 to love this.”
The Greatest Showman opens in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day. Watch the trailer below: