Paul Mescal Replaces Blake Jenner In Richard Linklater's 20-Year Adaptation Of Merrily We Roll Along

Variety is confirming a story first reported by Above the Line that up-and-comer Paul Mescal is replacing Blake Jenner as the lead in Richard Linklater's ambitious film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along." Linklater is taking a "Boyhood" style approach to this adaptation where he'll be shooting this film over the course of 20 years, so I guess if they were going to make any big changes now's the time to do so!

Jenner, who worked with Linklater in "Everybody Wants Some," has been mired in controversy recently after admitting to psychological and physical abuse against his partner. Officially, there hasn't been a statement from Linklater or the studio over whether or not Jenner was let go because of controversy or whether there was another reason (like the always dependable catch-all known as "creative differences"), but the end result is the same: Jenner is out and rising star Paul Mescal has replaced him as Franklin Shepard.

Mescal first turned heads with Hulu's "Normal People" and last year really impressed critics and audiences alike with his turn as a single dad in Charlotte Wells's "Aftersun." He was even recently reported to be cast as the lead in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" sequel. Mescal joins Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein in the film.

A twenty year production schedule is incredibly ambitious

The project seems to be tailor-made for Richard Linklater as it tells the story of three friends whose friendship dissolves over 20 years. The catch is this story is told in reverse, so it starts with the older versions of these friends at each other's throats and ends with them happy and optimistic about a future they don't know is already doomed.

Instead of recasting the older actors or employing Marvel/"Star Wars" style de-aging, Linklater is taking his "Boyhood" route and actually filming this thing in chunks over the next 20 years so that the actors will age with the story. 

Mescal has apparently already filmed his first segment, which is likely a reshoot of what Jenner had already filmed. Given the reverse storytelling going on, this is the first part of the story, but the last thing we'll see in the film.

It's an ambitious plan with a talented cast. Hopefully, this is the only hurdle Linklater and crew have to jump as they film over the next two decades. With that long of a production schedule, a whole lot can change with the actors and creatives behind the camera, but we know Linklater's track record is about as solid as it can be with these long-form shoots.