Ben Platt has nothing but raves for Paul Mescal. The two actors are joining forces for Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim and George Furth musical that’s being filmed over the course of two decades. Variety reported earlier in January that Mescal had replaced Blake Jenner in the lead role of Broadway composer Franklin Shepard. Platt said at the Variety Studio presented by Audible at Sundance that working with Mescal is already “wonderful.”
Platt is starring in the musical as Franklin’s creative partner and lyricist Charley, while Beanie Feldstein is taking on the role of their good friend and theater critic, Mary. The story tracks the trio’s disintegrating friendship as Franklin abandons Charley and Mary to become a successful Hollywood film producer. The story is told in reverse chronological order over 20 years, so Linklater and his actors are shooting parts of the film every year for nearly two decades.
“We shot the first sequence,” Platt told Variety’s Rebecca Rubin. “The film is structured that it’s nine different sequences over 18 years, so we’ll see how we do. We’ve done the first one and the next one is coming this year. It’s wonderful.”
“Sondheim is the ultimate god of the theater, so to get the opportunity to do a beautiful short film of Sondheim is wonderful, especially with Beanie who is a dear friend and Paul who is just one of our greatest screen talents,” Platt added. “I’m hoping we can make it to the finish line.”
Platt is at Sundance as the star of “Theater Camp,” directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Liebrman. The film is set at a scrappy theater camp in upstate New York that’s a haven for budding performers. After its founder (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma, her clueless son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is tasked with keeping the the camp afloat and making sure opening night runs smoothly. Platt co-stars opposite Gordon, Noah Galvin and Patti Harrison.
Gordon and Galvin joined Platt at the Variety Studio presented by Audible at Sundance. Gordon and Platt are childhood friends, while Gordon and Galvin last starred together in Olivia Wilde’s breakout directorial debut “Booksmart.” The duo got “Theater Camp” off the ground after taking the project to producer Jessica Elbaum, who also worked on “Booksmart.”
“The film was birthed out of just wanting to make something together and being inspired by people who came up together,” Gordon said about “Theater Camp.” “It just felt like this big friend hang that was also really hard and took 19 days and was a crazy thing.”