Paul Mescal Replacing Blake Jenner In Richard Linklater’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’

Richard Linklater‘s feature film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth‘s musical Merrily We Roll Along is replacing its lead, with Aftersun and Normal People star Paul Mescal stepping into the lead role of Broadway composer Franklin Shepard, replacing original star Blake Jenner.

Mescal joins Ben Platt as Franklin’s creative partner Charley, and Beanie Feldstein as the duo’s good friend, theater critic Mary. The story tracks the trio’s disintegrating friendship as Franklin abandons Charley and Mary to become a successful Hollywood film producer.

But the twist is that the story is told in reverse chronological order, starting with Mary castigating Franklin as a sell-out and ending 20 years earlier with the characters as fresh-faced hopefuls.

Linklater originally announced the project in 2019, with Platt, Feldstein, and Jenner set to play the lead roles and an ambitious plan to shoot the film over 20 years, á la Boyhood.

But just over a year later, Jenner admitted to physically and emotionally abusing a former partner; Jenner did not name her, but his ex-wife, actor Melissa Benoist, posted a video in which she said she is a survivor of domestic violence.

Back in April, Platt said that Linklater had shot the first sequence for Merrily We Roll Along (although technically, the last scene). But it’s unclear whether Linklater started over totally from scratch, reshooting Jenner’s footage with Mescal while preserving Platt and Feldstein’s performances from 2019, or innovated some other filmmaking technique.

Either way, Jenner will not be in the film, and Mescal will be. Although, if Linklater’s plan comes to fruition, we won’t see the film until the 2040s. Linklater said at the time:

“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. 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.”

Unsurprisingly, Merrily We Roll Along doesn’t yet have a set release date.


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