2017 Awards Profile: ‘The Greatest Showman’ from 20th Century Fox

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “The Greatest Showman”
PRODUCERS: Donald J. Lee Jr, Laurence Mark, Deb Dyer, Hugh Jackman, Peter Kohn
DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

DIRECTOR: Michael Gracey
WRITER: Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Zac Efron, Michele Williams, Zendaya

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): The story of American showman P.T. Barnum, founder of the circus that became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced in January that they are closing this May. The news was met with mixed reactions, though declining ticket sales suggest few are particularly upset about it. However, the demise of one of the oldest circuses has sparked renewed interest in its origins. Now seems the perfect time to bring P.T. Barnum’s story to the screen.

One thing was clear with the success of “La La Land”: audiences are open to original musicals. Even though most movie musicals are adapted from the stage, occasionally an original story hits. And on the subject of ‘La La Land,’ the music for ‘The Greatest Showman’ is written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They won an Oscar for Best Original Song last month and were nominated twice.

The writing team is a talented trio. Michael Arndt won an Oscar for ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and was later nominated again for ‘Toy Story 3.’ Jenny Bicks won an Emmy for her work on the television series ‘Sex and the City.’ And Bill Condon, still reveling in the nearly billion dollar live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ also brings an Oscar and a nomination to the mix.

The rest of the crew, including cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, has a collected eight Oscar nominations and at least 5 Prime Time Emmy nominations among them. This is a crew that produces quality work.

And then you have Hugh Jackman in the lead role. Jackman built his early career on the stage and has two Tony Awards. His Oscar nomination came for the film version of ‘Les Misérables.’ Jackman truly is a showman and will no doubt thrive in another musical. Zac Efron, who came to fame with the ‘High School Musical’ franchise, also stars. Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Williams aren’t known for their singing abilities, but neither was Nicole Kidman before ‘Moulin Rouge!’ came along.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: It’s hard to imagine that all of this talent won’t lead to awards. However, director Michael Gracey is the potential weak link here. And the director is a pretty significant link. His filmography is short and this is his first feature film. He did visual effects for a few projects in the early 2000s, but has spent most of his time making commercials in Australia. With little to go on, it’s hard to predict how well he will pull everything and everyone together.

In addition, the writers are exceptionally talented. However, it’s possible that this could turn out to be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. It would be a shame to see a messy script from these three.

Also, people love musicals, but, as we saw with ‘La La Land,’ they tend to get a lot of nominations, but not a lot of wins. Prior to ‘Chicago’s 2002 win, the last musical to win Best Picture was ‘Oliver!’ in 1968. Not impossible. But certainly a challenge to overcome.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Director–Michael Gracey
  • Lead Actor–Hugh Jackman
  • Lead Actress–Rebecca Ferguson
  • Supporting Actor–Zac Efron
  • Supporting Actress–Michelle Williams
  • Original Screenplay–Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks, and Bill Condon
  • Cinematography–Seamus McGarvey
  • Original Song–Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
  • Original Score
  • Film Editing
  • Production Design–Nathan Crowley
  • Costume Design–Ellen Mirojnick
  • Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions

and see where “The Greatest Showman ranks!