Cyrano musical

Joe Wright, the director behind movies like Atonement, Hanna, and Pan, is making his first musical.

Wright has been hired to direct MGM’s Cyrano musical, based on a stage play by Erica Schmidt which was adapted from Edmond Rostand’s famous Cyrano de Bergerac. The film’s four major roles have already been cast: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, Swallow), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) are all set to star. And as an added bonus, the Grammy-winning rock band The National is handling the music.

Cyrano de Bergerac is about a man with an exceptionally large nose who is self-conscious about his appearance, so he uses another man to help him woo the girl of his dreams. If that premise sounds familiar, it’s because Hollywood has tweaked that basic idea time and time again over the years in both direct adaptations and loose ones, with famous examples being films like Roxanne, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, and this year’s The Half of It.

Playwright and actress Erica Schmidt (who happens to be married to Dinklage) wrote and directed the stage play and The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner wrote the music, with lyrics by The National’s Matt Berninger and the band’s frequent contributor Carin Besser. Her production debuted on stage in Connecticut in 2018, where Dinklage and Bennett played the roles of Cyrano and Roxanne, respectively. They’ll be reprising their roles in this movie adaptation.

Here’s an excerpt from a document Schmidt wrote describing her vision for the play:

This idea is born out of working on the play and listening to The National. This is a new idea: to live-score the play with a band on stage and to have songs that don’t function in a traditional musical theater way. I hope that you will go along for the ride.

The play in its original form is very verbose, almost bloated with words. But the central idea—a proud man with a big nose who loves a woman so deeply he agrees to woo her for another man—is an enduring, moving, beautiful story. What I have done is make the language very spare, very modern. I have pruned the story and changed a couple of plot points. I have focused on the humanity of the characters. For Cyrano, his insecurities are not about his nose, not really—his downfall is his own pride. It is the way he sees himself, not the way the world sees him, that finally defeats him.

I have also emphasized that Roxanne is willfully ignoring the signs that Cyrano has written the letters; she wants the beautiful illusion so much that she deceives herself. I believe most people can recognize themselves in this well-intentioned self-deception and self-destruction.

(You can visit this page to see a few photos of Dinklage and Bennett in the lead roles in the stage version.)

Wright has directed a couple of movies that felt as if they were just one nudge away from becoming full-fledged musicals already, so this seems like a natural choice for him. Hopefully it will prove to be a bounce back after this year’s upcoming adaptation of The Woman in the Window (which, after its iffy trailer and the fact that Disney is trying to shuffle it off to Netflix, doesn’t exactly seem like a winner).

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