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With such a strong dramatic turn in Denis Villeneuve’s kidnapping thriller Prisoners, on top of his generally strong work as the claw wielding Wolverine, it feels like much longer than 10 months since we saw Hugh Jackman showing off his vocal pipes in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. Luckily his next musical endeavor, the circus superstar P.T. Barnum’s biopic The Greatest Showman on Earth, is moving forward again with The Fifth Estate director Bill Condon hired on to rewrite the 20th Century Fox project. I’m sure Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would much rather see Condon dramatize someone else’s life for a while.
Condon will be putting his Academy Award-winning screenwriting talents – he took home the trophy for 1998’s Gods and Monsters – to the script originally written by Jenny Bicks (The Big C), according to THR. He’s no stranger to the musical genre, having written both 2002’s Chicago and 2006’s Dreamgirls, which he also directed. He was also responsible for directing both parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. So I’m probably not alone in thinking we’re all far better off having him write this movie rather than direct it, not that he was ever the problem with anything he’s helmed.
The Greatest Showman on Earth will be directed by visual effects artist and commercial director Michael Gracey, who created the T-Mobile flash mob ad. Gracey is also on board to direct the Elton John biopic Rocketman, which recently added Tom Hardy to star as the legendary musician. Production on that film is set to begin next fall, which puts the Barnum project in quite a weird position. Will it somehow be a quick production, assuming Condon bangs out a quick revision, or will it be pushed back until after Rocketman is completed? There’s always the chance Gracey could drop out, but that should happen sooner than later so Fox could find a worthy replacement.
The biopic will follow Jackman as he becomes the iconic entertainer who went from cheap funhouses to giant three-ring circuses, which he perfected with James Baily. Part of the film will focus on "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind, the talented opera singer with whom Barnum became infatuated, paying her mountains of cash for her performances. No actresses have been attached to the role just yet.
Once he’s finished with the Greatest Showman script, Condon is set to direct the retired Sherlock Holmes feature A Slight Trick of the Mind with Ian McKellen. But until then, you can hit the theaters and be the 23rd person to catch The Fifth Estate before it zips right to Blu-ray and DVD.