At a Q&A session after screening of the film, James Corden recalled an incident during rehearsals in which Meryl Streep jumped on a table and her foot got caught in her costume. She started falling backwards, head first, toward a concrete floor. Both Corden and director Rob Marshall froze in the fear that they were about to witness the death of Meryl Streep. However, a pregnant Emily Blunt stepped in and caught Streep before she hit the floor.
According to Anna Kendrick, the set pieces used for the woods were so big and realistic, that she and Chris Pine actually got lost while on the sound stage, and had to be rescued by a Production Assistant.
According to Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine was extremely shy about his singing voice, and noted that he would hold back during rehearsals. She only heard his actual singing voice when she was eating lunch in the recording studio. She was in a room by herself and she heard a "beautiful, crooning voice" coming from the hallway, but she assumed that it was a singer from a different project, since multiple records were being recorded in the studio. She then noticed that the singing wasn't stopping, so she poked her head out to see who it was. To her surprise, she discovered that it was Pine, who didn't know that there was anybody else there.
Meryl Streep revealed that after turning forty, she was offered three witch roles in one year, and she implemented a 'no witches' rule. She ended up breaking that rule, after meeting Composer and Lyricist Stephen Sondheim and Rob Marshall for this film.
Slight changes were made to the connotation of "Hello Little Girl" because it strongly alludes to pedophilia. The tempo was made "jazzier" and the producers felt the double-entendres would most likely fly over kids' heads.
Emily Blunt revealed that the "Any Moment" sequence was rehearsed when she was about three months pregnant, and it was filmed when she was about seven months pregnant. The change showed during filming, as Blunt noted that during the scene, Chris Pine dips her during a dance, and that Pine's arms were shaking due to the change in weight.
Chris Pine wasn't aware of the original Into the Woods play, but wanted to audition just based on the cast and the director. On the night before his singing audition, he decided to google the play and to his horror, found pages of fan message boards and comments, along with passionate positive reviews of the play and Broadway show. This made him so nervous, that he didn't sleep at all that night and even briefly considered canceling the meeting with Rob Marshall.
Before being cast as Cinderella, Anna Kendrick believed she was going in for the role of Red Riding Hood, due to the part being played by a young twenty-something woman in the original Broadway production.
A few of the cast members, including Chris Pine and James Corden, have stated in interviews, that working with Meryl Streep was the best professional moment of their career, but it was also intimidating. Corden was highly nervous to work with Streep, because of her star power.
When in negotiations to play Sally Bowles on Broadway in Cabaret, Rob Marshall asked Emma Stone to play the role of Cinderella, but she turned it down, because she didn't think she had the vocal range. She jokingly asked Marshall if she could, instead, "play Jack." Two years later, she accepted the main role in La La Land (2016), and won the Golden Globe as Best Actress in Comedy or Musical, and the Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award.
Overall, the screen adaptation by James Lapine is fairly close to his original stage musical. The only large change is the replacement of the Narrator, using the Baker's voiceover for the narration. Another noticeable change is the cut of the Mysterious Man, some of whose lines are reassigned to the Witch.
Due to the original musical's mature themes and dark content, Disney had to have several scenes omitted or revised, which resulted in a re-written subplot involving Rapunzel, as well as several deaths being implied, by having them occur off-screen.
The songs from the original stage musical that did not make it into the film adaptation are "I Guess This is Goodbye", "Maybe They're Magic", "Our Little World", "First Midnight", "Second Midnight", "Act I Finale: Ever After", "Act II Prologue: So Happy", "Agony (Reprise)" and "No More". Stephen Sondheim also wrote two original songs especially for the film: "Rainbows", which is a duet for Baker and his Wife and another one for the Witch, called "She'll Be Back," neither of which made into the final film.
Rob Marshall was inspired to do a film version of "Into the Woods" after President Barack Obama quoted one of the musical's most popular songs, "No One is Alone", during a memorial service on the 10th anniversary of September 11th terrorist attacks. He said to the families of the victims, "You are not alone. No one is alone." Though the reference was likely unintentional, Marshall stated that the reference made the musical relevant and saw it as "a fairytale for the post-9/11 generation."
The original 1987 Broadway production of "Into the Woods" earned Tony Awards for Best Original Score (Stephen Sondheim) and Best Book of a Musical (James Lapine) beating "The Phantom of the Opera" (Andrew Lloyd Webber). However, "The Phantom of the Opera" took home the Best Musical award.
At one point during his performance in the intentionally broad song "Agony," and again when addressing the panicking palace crowds, Chris Pine does an impression of William Shatner. Pine is also a star of the Star Trek (2009) movie franchise. He plays Captain James T. Kirk, a role originated by Shatner in Star Trek (1966).
In some productions of Into the Woods, the roles of Red Riding Hood and Jack are played by young twenty year olds. In the original Broadway production, Danielle Ferland (the original Red) and Ben Wright (original Jack) were fifteen and sixteen when it opened. In the movie Lilla Crawford (Red) was around twelve years old during filming, and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) was thirteen.
Billy Magnussen, who plays Rapunzel's Prince, played the sexy and self-indulgent role of "Spike" in the Tony Award-winning play "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." In the play, his character dresses up as Disney's Prince Charming for a costume party. Before the play ended its run on Broadway, Magnussen was cast as Rapunzel's Prince for this movie, which is produced by Disney. Magnussen had to leave the show in August, to fly to London, to begin rehearsals for the film.
Originally, after Witch's Lament, there was a new song (which Stephen Sondheim wrote especially for Meryl Streep) called "She'll Be Back", that was recorded, shot, but ultimately cut from the film. The scene is available in the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film.
James Corden played Craig Owens on two episodes of Doctor Who (2005), with Matt Smith. In the second episode, Craig is a new father of a son, about whom he complains "only cries when I hold him." The same complaint he makes, at least twice to his wife, as his role as the Baker in this movie.
Chris Pine was a major character in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). In those movies, Anne Hathaway's character (Princess Mia) learns to wave like a queen by using a slower hand motion so as not to get exhausted. In his role as Prince Charming in this movie, Chris Pine uses the same exact wave throughout the movie.
In this movie, Lucy Punch plays one of Cinderella's stepsisters, Lucinda. She also previously appeared as the stepsister, named Hattie, in another Cinderella-type movie, Ella Enchanted (2004), and in that movie, the fairy godmother is named Lucinda.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the stage production, the witch is typically played by a young actress in old age make-up, who then has the old age make-up removed after the transformation takes place. Meryl Streep admitted that at the age of 64, when she filmed the role, it was more of a challenge to make her appear clearly younger after the transformation takes place.
Other versions of Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk were released within a year of this film. Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella (2015) was released three months later, while Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) was released the year before. Both version of Jack's story feature him, like the Hebrew champion David, using a sling-thrown stone to the forehead to kill the giant.
Some minor characters were cut out from the original play, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella's father, and the Mysterious Man (which later is revealed as the Baker's father, but in the movie the Baker's Father only appears as a vision in Act II, whereas originally, he appears as a real live man since the beginning of the play).