Richard Linklater’s ongoing fascination with the passage of time has seen him use lengthy shooting schedules to make some of the most beloved independent films of the last quarter century. He famously spent a decade shooting “Boyhood” in order to accurately showcase the process of his actors aging, and the 18-year gap between “Before Sunrise” and “Before Midnight” (with “Before Sunset” coming in between) allowed him to capture a relationship from its initial spark to the domesticity of marriage. But his upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along” might be his most ambitious undertaking yet.
Sondheim’s musical — which has a book by George Furth and is based on George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s play of the same name — famously tells the story of three friends whose lives change over the course of 20 years as they pursue diverging career paths in show business.
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The “Dazed and Confused” director is preparing to helm a film adaptation starring Paul Mescal, Beanie Feldstein, and Ben Platt. But in true Linklater fashion, the shoot will take place on and off over the next 20 years in order to allow his actors to age naturally. It has the potential to be a groundbreaking experiment, but his leading man is aware that it’s a daunting undertaking.
In a new interview with British Vogue, Mescal expressed his excitement about working with Linklater on the Sondheim adaptation and finally getting to show off his singing voice on screen.
“It’s great,” Mescal said. “The thing that’s different about this is that it’s obviously a pre-existing Sondheim musical. I love musicals. I’m singing — the whole shebang.”
Mescal revealed that he still has trouble wrapping his mind around the elaborate, decades-spanning shooting process that Linklater has conceived — but the actor appears ready to embrace the challenge.
“We’ll be sporadically shooting that over the next 20 years, which is like… it sounds so bizarre even coming out of my own mouth,” he said. “We’re still in the infancy of it to be totally honest.”
“Merrily We Roll Along” might not be the only upcoming project that allows Mescal to indulge his interest in theatre. The actor, who recently headlined a West End revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” said that he is eager to return to the stage as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
“I just love it,” Mescal said of acting on stage. “It’s so gratifying – it’s a very difficult thing to commit to because the schedule is so grueling but, ultimately, it feels like an elixir. I think it’s so important, and I’d be a lesser actor if I didn’t give myself the time to do it. I think it’s rare to come across a film script that is as good as Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. So, if someone’s giving you an opportunity to do that, or do Shakespeare, I think you’d be crazy not to do it. So, there are plans to go back in the not-too-distant future.”
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