Rebecca Ferguson's voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. Ferguson had studied music and admitted that she can carry a tune but since Jenny Lind, her character, is considered the best singer in the world, dubbing her voice would be in service of the movie. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming.
Many of the costumes used in the ensemble circus scenes at the beginning and end of the film were borrowed from Feld Entertainment, the current owners of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and were used in productions of "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Barnum's American Museum was so popular that the crowds inside would linger much too long, thereby cutting into profits. To make way for additional paying customers, he posted signs indicating "This Way to the Egress." Unaware that "Egress" was another word for "Exit," people followed the signs to what they assumed was a fascinating exhibit, and they ended up going outside.
When the movie was in the process of being green lit, Hugh Jackman had surgery on his nose to remove skin cancer. Hugh Jackman had 80 stitches and was told by his doctor to not sing. Hugh Jackman followed the doctor's recommendation until it came to the last song From Now On where Hugh chose to sing. Halfway through he noticed his nose was bleeding.
In January 2017, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that their doors were closing forever, due to decreased attendance and evidence of widespread animal abuse. Their last shows were in May 2017.
The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016). From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film's 1800s setting. As Pasek said, "The choice was to express not just the characters' feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn't bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one."
Rebecca Ferguson admitted in an interview that she was extremely nervous when she had to perform a song in the film because she had to sing in front of a full audience, plus the entire crew. She commented that it was Hugh Jackman and his encouraging response to her performance that really helped her at the time.
At one point, when the circus is struggling, Barnum's girls suggest that he get something "sensational" like a unicorn or a mermaid. In reality, Barnum famously bought and exhibited the "Fiji Mermaid", a monkey carcass sewn to the body of a fish.
In reality, P.T. Barnum dabbled in several industries before "show business", including the lottery business. In an early apartment scene, various old signs can be seen lying against a corner wall, including one that says "Barnham Lottery" in large letters -- a nod to his many colorful endeavors prior to becoming the greatest showman.
Among Barnum's "freaks," the film portrays Asian conjoined twins. The actual twins were Chang and Eng Bunker, two brothers born in Siam (modern day Thailand), whose heritage was the basis of the term "Siamese twins." Chang and Eng retired after their life in Barnum's circus to North Carolina, got married and had eleven children and ten children, respectively. However, they became destitute after the American Civil War and went on tour again. They both died in 1874, Chang from a brain blood clot and Eng from heart failure, or shock (the sources differ), merely three hours later.
Sam Humphrey, the 22-year-old Australian actor who plays Tom Thumb in The Greatest Showman is 127cm or 4'2" in real life. The real Tom Thumb never grew taller than 103cm and was adopted by P.T. Barnum at the age of 4 to join Barnum Circus. Sam Humphrey had to walk on his knees in the movie, to make him look smaller. His real lower legs and feet were digitally edited out of the shots where they would have showed, but mostly he is filmed sitting or standing with his lower legs out of shot.
Hugh Jackman and director Michael Gracey met on a commercial shoot. Jackman told Gracey he wanted to make a film with him, and Gracey took it with a grain of salt - every famous person he'd worked with had made similar noises. To his surprise, Jackman later sent him the script of The Greatest Showman.
During the scene where Barnum (Hugh Jackman) tries to persuade Carlyle (Zac Efron) to join his circus, Barnum says that Carlyle has a flair for show business. The scene originally ran longer, with Carlyle remarking that he doesn't know what 'show business' means, to which Barnum responds that it is because he just invented it. This line featured prominently in trailer, but was cut from the finished movie.
Although the film portrays Barnum as a champion of racial equality his record on the subject was decidedly mixed. One of his first exhibits was an elderly African-American slave he had purchased and exhibited as "George Washington's Nursemaid". However in his later career as a politician he campaigned ardently for the abolition of slavery, swapping from the Democrat to the Republican party and declaring "A human soul, 'that God has created and Christ died for,' is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot - it is still an immortal spirit."
Counterintuitively, Shannon Holtzapffel, the actor who portrays "Tattoo Man," has no tattoos of his own. However, the real life "Tattoo Man," also known as "Prince Constantine," (real name George Costentenus) was genuinely covered from head to toe in tattoos (save for portions of his ears and the soles of his feet). All together he had 387 separate tattoos including exotic animals, geometric shapes, flowers, and writing in various languages.
James Mangold was brought in by the studio to oversee a week of reshoots and post-production, because the studio were concerned that director Michael Gracey would be overwhelmed by the scale of the production. Mangold was given an executive producer credit as a result.
Surprisingly, this film did not portray James Anthony Bailey who was a co-founder Of Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus although he had a major impact on the circus and would later go on, with P.T Barnum to create "The Greatest Show On Earth".
The large arched art nouveau stained glass window that is shown prominently above the entrance to the refurbished American Museum building is a replica of the large window above the main entrance to Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne Australia.
Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Keala Settle (Bearded Woman) and Will Swenson (Barnum's Father) were all in Les Miserables. Jackman played Jean Valjean in the 2012 Les Miserables movie. Settle and Swenson were both in the 2014 Broadway revival of Les Miserables, portraying Madame Thenardier and Javert, respectively.
When Barnum gives Caroline the *wishing machine* and the girls start singing, Barnum looks into the spinning lights, circus animals appear faintly in the lights. This is both to show that he's being inspired and it's also callback to when Phineas and Charity were young and he shined a light on the chandelier casting animal shadows on the walls.
The headline of first newspaper review describes Barnum's show as a "Circus of Humbug". When he's given his top hat before the next show, someone had put a gold crown around the top hat which says "Prince Humbug" or "Prince of Humbug". The words gets mentioned another couple of times in the movie: when introducing Jenny Lind on stage in New York for the first time, Barnum says that people might dismiss the performance as "Barnum Humbug," and when he comes home part way through her tour, he tells his wife that he has come home because he misses her and their girls. She tells him that sounds "like humbug". One of the titles of the real P. T. Barnum's books is "The Humbugs of the World." (1865)
Sam Humphrey plays General Tom Thumb who met Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington. However, he looks like one of Barnum's other performers, Admiral Dot, the Eldorado Elf. The Admiral met Abraham Lincoln at the White House.
The musical "Barnum" played at the St. James Theatre on Broadway from April 30, 1980 to May 16, 1982. Two members of the original Broadway cast are background actors in this film. Marianne Tatum played Jenny Lind, and Leonard Crofoot played Tom Thumb.
Both Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum) and Shuler Hensley (Lead Protestor) were cast members of the 1999 London West End revival of Oklahoma, as Curly and Jud Fry, respectively. The pair were also cast in Van Helsing as Van Helsing and the Frankenstein Monster, respectively.
Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya have each played characters in films adapted from Marvel comics. Jackman played Wolverine in the X-Men film franchise, Williams played Anne in Venom (2018), and Zendaya played Michelle in Spiderman: Homecoming (2017).
Near the beginning of the film, a shot of an unfinished Brooklyn Bridge appears in the background. Hugh Jackman previously starred in Kate & Leopold (2001), which also prominently features the Brooklyn Bridge in its unfinished state. In addition, the latter film was directed by James Mangold, who is credited as 'executive producer' for this film.
Near the beginning of the film, young P.T. Barnum is caught stealing a loaf of bread. Hugh Jackman had previously played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables where he has been sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread.