EXCLUSIVE: Fox 2000 emerged from a bidding battle that resulted in a substantial seven-figure deal for an untitled original musical fantasy about Hans Christian Andersen. It’s the first original musical from composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz since Wicked, and it will be scripted by David Magee, the Life of Pi scribe whose latest is the Rob Marshall-directed Mary Poppins Returns which Disney releases Christmas Day. The film will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind Chicago and the upcoming Jesus Christ Superstar Live! which they are producing with Marc Platt. Schwartz will also be producer. Magee is exec producer with Mark Nicholson, who runs development and production for Zadan/Meron Productions.
Ansel Elgort is circling and is expected to become attached, sources said. He’s not only an actor but also a musical artist who is a trained singer and dancer. The musical isn’t a biopic; it was pitched as a four quadrant epic musical fantasy in which Andersen as a young man gets trapped in a world of his own imagination. And as Hans searches for a way back to reality, he comes face-to-face with characters from his own fairy tales, nearly all of whom try to trap him in their world forever. The ambition is a musical Harry Potter, a potential movie franchise that can later translate to a Broadway musical like Frozen.
Andersen’s fairy tales include The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina. The pitch got studios all hot and bothered, particularly as an electric piano was brought to all 11 stops. After Magee pitched the story and characters, Schwartz played and sang one of the musical’s big numbers. There were six firm offers, but they chose Fox 2000 and its chief, Elizabeth Gabler. She will supervise the project with Marisa Paiva. It will be fast tracked for production for a large screen holiday release. Fox is coming off another original musical hit in The Greatest Showman.
Elgort isn’t attached yet, but he’s the one they want and it is expected to formalize soon. He’s CAA and Brookside Artist Management.
Schwartz, who beyond Wicked has musical credits that include Pippin and Godspell, is repped by attorney Nancy Rose; Magee is CAA; Zadan and Meron are ICM Partners and attorney Kevin Yorn.