Richard Linklater to Adapt Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ in 20-Year Film Project

Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt and Blake Jenner to star in adaptation of 1981 musical


Richard Linklater, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing “Boyhood” over the course of 12 years, is embarking on an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1981 stage musical “Merrily We Roll Along” that will be filmed over the next 20 years.

Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”), Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”) and Blake Jenner (“Everybody Wants Some!!”) will star in the project, which follows the careers and lives of three aspiring creative talents over two decades — but is told in reverse.

The project was announced Thursday by Blumhouse, which is producing the film through Jason Blum. Linklater, Ginger Sledge, and Jonathan Marc Sherman are also producing.

Created by Sondheim and George Furth and based on the 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, “Merrily We Roll Along” is a tragicomic tale about Franklin (Jenner), a talented Broadway composer who became a rich Hollywood producer at the cost of losing his friends, his marriage, and his principles. The original Broadway production notoriously closed after just 16 performance but lived on thanks to hit songs like “Not a Day Goes By” and “Old Friends.”

The story unfolds in reverse chronological order, going back in time to show step-by-step how Franklin slowly sold out for fame and fortune.

As with “Boyhood,” Linklater is filming with the same cast to allow them to age with their roles, with the final scene already shot. In addition to Jenner, Feldstein plays Frank’s longtime writer Mary Flynn while Platt plays Franklin’s writing partner and lyricist Charley Kringas.

“I first saw, and fell in love with ‘Merrily’ in the ’80s and I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 20 years than in the world of a Sondheim musical. I don’t enter this multi-year experience lightly, but it seems the best, perhaps the only way, to do this story justice on film,” Linklater said in a statement.

Rick Pappas brokered the deal on behalf of the authors of the musical, Stephen Sondheim & George Furth.

Beanie Feldstein is repped by Brillstein, WME, and Danny Passman (attorney). Ben Platt is repped by CAA, One Entertainment, Adam Mersel and Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer. Blake Jenner is repped by Atlas Artists, CAA, Viewpoint, and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern. The project was first reported by Collider.

For the record: A previous version of this post had the actors assigned to incorrect roles.