Paul Mescal to lead Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along

Paul Mescal to lead Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along

Paul Mescal
Photo: Karwai Tang (Getty Images)

After starring in one of the best films of 2022Paul Mescal’s already having a hell of a 2023. He recently snagged the lead role for Ridley Scott’s long-awaited Gladiator sequeland will now lead Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along, taking over the role from Blake Jenner, Variety reports.

Linklater is taking his extended filming method from Boyhood and pushing it even further, shooting Merrily We Roll Along over the course of 20 years. Mescal will lead the film as talented Broadway composer Franklin Shepard, who abandons his longtime friends (played by longtime friends Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein) and his trade to pursue a career as a Hollywood producer. The story is presented in reverse order, starting at the height of Shepard’s fame and ending when the friends graduate 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 audience over time, even appearing as the high school musical in the (also Beanie Feldstein-starring) 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 enter this multi-year experience lightly, but it seems the best, perhaps the only way, to do this story justice on film.”

Known for his preference for indie productions over the lure of major blockbusters, Mescal is wading into the big leagues with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2where he will star as the adult Lucius (played by Spencer Treat Clark in the original film). For all of his astounding work in the last year, he can have a big-budget pay-off, as a little treat.

Jenner’s recasting comes as no surprise, as shortly after his casting in Merrily, he admitted to verbally and physically abusing a former partner. While he did not name her, his ex-wife Melissa Benoist later posted a video on Instagram, in which she called herself a survivor of domestic violence.

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