Former Wolverine Hugh Jackman won over audiences in 2017 with The Greatest Showman, but why did the musical take nine years to make, and which song saved it dramatically? The musical was a massive success with audiences (even if critics hated The Greatest Showman), but its production was a surprisingly intense and lengthy labor of love for Jackman and company. The film spent a whopping nine years in production, undergoing numerous rewrites and drafts in the process. Jackman was always set to star in the title role, so what took the creators so long?
Released in time for Christmas 2017, The Greatest Showman was a glitzy all-star musical biopic that lived up to the grand promise of its title. Starring Hugh Jackman as the infamous circus proprietor PT Barnum, the film was a glossy re-imagining of Barnum's life and times which followed the exploits of the philanthropist and the inhabitants of his famous sideshow. Since its release, The Greatest Showman has become a phenomenon, inspiring a stage show, an album of pop covers, and even talk of a Greatest Showman sequel.
Considering the success, the film's labored production may seem confusing, but thanks to a combination of factors, The Greatest Showman was stuck in development hell largely from 2009 to 2017. The movie's melodramatic but lighthearted tone was difficult to capture, with Dreamgirls director Bill Condon rewriting Sex and the City scribe Jenny Bicks' first draft. And despite the idea originally being floated in 2009, it took four years for the producers to hire Dear Evan Hansen duo, Pasek and Paul, to create the film's songs, which proved the key. It was the show's music that took a good chunk of The Greatest Showman's production process, but the songs eventually proved worth the wait. And incredibly, the film was only green-lit because of the one particular song that was only written hurriedly on the way to the movie's pitch meeting.
One of the best songs in The Greatest Showman, 'This Is Me' is the sort of barnstorming belter that manages to reinforce the personalities of Barnum's living attractions, illustrating their personas and dreams, while also providing pure melodramatic musical bliss in its punchy production and catchy composition. According to La La Land songsmith Benji Pasek, the soaring song was written in order to get the film green-lit on the way to a production meeting. Led by the powerhouse vocals of the Bearded Lady, the song is an all-time classic musical number that encapsulates the purely escapist appeal of the film, as The Greatest Showman admittedly altered the real PT Barnum's true story drastically to secure a happy ending.
It's a bombastic and gloriously over-the-top ode to standing out which makes the potentially Jackman-centric story more inclusive and interesting. And like Frozen's "Let It Go" it has that magical extra quality that really transcends typical film content. Sure, the finished film is as historically accurate as Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, but it's also as fun and involving as that earlier musical hit and thanks to "This Is Me", the message isn't as much about the story of one man as it is about the value of difference. While fans would no doubt love to see more from the film's universe and that powerful, uplifting message, there are no updates on The Greatest Showman sequel just yet.