The musical biopic The Greatest Showman was one of the biggest surprises of 2017. Starring Hugh Jackman as the legendary P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, the flick offered a high-energy, enthralling account of a fascinating troupe of performers, and a selection of amazing songs and vibrant musical numbers.
It also turned out that Jackman has a really nice set of pipes, and he threw himself into the role in admirable fashion, helped along by a strong supporting cast. Released a couple of weeks before Christmas, the $84 million dollar picture was considered something of a gamble, but it charmed the heck out of audiences, and cleaned up at the international box office to the tune of $435 million dollars, making it the third-highest grossing musical in history.
Even though the flick told a neatly self-contained story, that kind of performance will cause studio executives to start throwing around the “S” word early and often, and sure enough, Jackman confirmed this past April that The Greatest Showman 2 has entered the early stages of production. Here’s everything we know so far.
It would seem like a no-brainer to assume that Jackman will be back for The Greatest Showman 2, but this isn’t necessarily the case. It’s just as possible that the sequel could focus on other characters from the first film, such as Zac Efron’s fictional Phillip Carlyle and Rebecca Ferguson’s Jenny Lind, the famed Swedish opera singer whose stateside fortunes were bolstered by Barnum’s involvement in her career.
Speaking with NME, Jackman raised this possibility himself, saying that while he knows that the first film’s director and screenwriters are working on a treatment for the sequel, he doesn’t know for sure whether he’ll be invited back. Jackman told the outlet,
“I would like to be part of it for sure, [but] I don’t know if it would be centered on my character.”
The Greatest Showman was a film that took a great many liberties with its historical subject matter in the interest of telling an awesome story. While some critics accused the film of engaging in revisionist history, we submit that a Hollywood musical biopic should not necessarily be expected to be a stickler for historical accuracy. It’s simply a fun time at the movies, and the fact that it plays fast and loose with its subject matter could very well end up working out in a potential sequel’s favor.
This is because, to an extent, The Greatest Showman 2 could take any narrative direction the filmmakers desire. Like Jackman alluded to, its focus could be on secondary characters or even new ones not featured in the first film. Rather than putting the spotlight squarely on Barnum, the movie could instead examine the people he influenced and the lives he touched, whether real or fictional.
Failing that, The Greatest Showman 2 could take a look at Barnum’s later years, during which he leveraged his well-documented experience as a hoaxster in order to debunk fraudulent entertainers such as mediums and spiritualists, whom he felt took undue advantage of the public by exploiting their desire to communicate with lost loved ones.
Of course, since the project is just barely beyond the “twinkle in the filmmakers’ eyes” stage, we don’t have anything resembling a release date yet. But, even though the sequel is likely to be a high priority for studio 20th Century Fox and its new parent company, Disney, it’s likely that The Greatest Showman 2 will take a bit longer to make it to the screen than your average sequel.
We only advance this opinion because the original film’s production, from conception to completion, took a whopping seven years.
This delay was, in part, due to an offhand remark. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly in advance of The Greatest Showman’s release, director Michael Gracey cheekily reflected on the film’s drastic change in direction, saying,
“I said, ‘If you’re going to call it The Greatest Showman, you should play to your strengths and we should make it a musical.’ That ridiculous remark cost me seven years of my life.”
While the sequel will obviously be conceived as a musical from the beginning, Jackman has also gone out of his way to point out that these things can sometimes take awhile to come together, telling NME,
“[The Greatest Showman] did take eight years to get it made and that wasn’t all eight years of convincing people. It takes a long time to write stuff.”
Considering that The Greatest Showman 2 is still in the very early stages, and that it’s likely to eventually be pegged for a holiday release of the sort, we’re thinking that we’re not likely to see the sequel come down the pike until 2021 at the earliest. We’ll have a better idea of a time frame for the movie’s release once production ramps up in earnest.
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