Paul Mescal to lead Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along
Paul MescalPhoto: Karwai Tang (Getty Images)
After starring in one of the best movies of 2022, Paul Mescal now has a hell of a 2023. He recently landed the lead role in Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated sequel to Gladiator and will now direct Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along, taking over the role from Blake Jenner, Variety reports.
Linklater is taking his extended shooting method from Boyhood and pushing it even further, shooting Merrily We Roll Along over 20 years. Mescal will lead the film as talented Broadway composer Franklin Shepard, who abandons his old friends (played by longtime friends Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein) and his trade to pursue a career as Hollywood producer. The story is presented in reverse order, starting at the height of Shepard’s fame and ending when the friends graduate from high school.
Stephen Sondheim popularized the story of Merrily We Roll Along in the ’80s with his musical adaptation of the original 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Sondheim’s original 1981 production was a legendary flop, but has since developed a cult following over time, even appearing as the high school musical in (also starring Beanie Feldstein) Lady Bird.
“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,” Linklater said. when the project was announced in 2019. “I don’t take this many years of experience lightly, but it seems to me the best way, maybe the only way, to do this story justice on film.”
Known for his preference for indie productions over the allure of blockbuster movies, Mescal is stepping up to the big leagues with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2, where he’ll star as a grown-up Lucius (played by Spencer Treat Clark in the original). For all his amazing work in the last year, he might get a big-budget hit as a small treat.
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Jenner’s recasting comes as no surprise, since shortly after his Merrily cast, he admitted to verbally and physically abusing a former partner. While he did not mention her name, his ex-wife Melissa Benoist later posted a video on Instagram in which she called herself a survivor of domestic violence.