Despite having no actual film directing credits to his name yet, VFX veteran and commercials creator Michael Gracey is winning big jobs all over. Earlier this month, he was handed the job of bringing Disney’s Snow White re-working Order of the Seven to life, and now Hugh Jackman has decided Gracey’s the man to tackle his PT Barnum project The Greatest Showman on Earth for 20th Century Fox.
Jackman has been developing the film for a couple of years now, ever since he hosted the 2009 Oscars and worked with show producer Laurence Mark and former Sex and the City writer Jenny Bicks, who contributed material to the awards gala’s script.
Bicks has penned the screenplay for the musical take on consummate entertainer Barnum’s life, a story that will see him hoaxing the gullible, creating the three-ring circus and, since you always need a little romantic interest in a musical, becoming infatuated with Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind. But while Jackman was targeting Anne Hathaway (who performed a memorable duet with him on the Academy Awards show) to play that role, it’s not known if she’ll end up with the part.
In any case, Gracey should be comfortable with the song-and-dance aspect, since one of his previous jobs was as an animator on Happy Feet. And there’s time for Showman to fall into place, as Gracey will be making the Disney film first and Jackman’s schedule is filled by The Wolverine and a likely starring role in Les Miserables for King’s Speech filmmaker Tom Hooper. So the prospect of Jackman as Barnum will have to wait in the wings for a while yet.
There’s a worry that if they delay too long, Sony’s competing, currently nameless Barnum project could sneak up and hit screens first, but there’s been little forward movement on that one.