Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Marc Forster|
Richard N. Gladstein|
|Screenplay by||David Magee|
The Man Who Was Peter Pan |
by Allan Knee
|Music by||Jan A. P. Kaczmarek|
|Edited by||Matt Chesse|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
Finding Neverland is a 2004 American semi-biographical film about playwright J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan, directed by Marc Forster. The screenplay by David Magee is based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee.
The film was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Johnny Depp's portrayal of J. M. Barrie, and won the 2004 Academy Award for Jan A. P. Kaczmarek's musical score.
The story focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons named George, Jack, Peter, and Michael, who inspire the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up.
Following the dismal reception of his latest play, Little Mary, Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her four young sons in Kensington Gardens, and a strong friendship develops between them. He proves to be a great playmate and surrogate father figure for the boys, and their imaginative antics give him ideas which he incorporates into a play about boys who do not want to grow up, especially one named after troubled young Peter Llewelyn Davies. Although Barrie sees this family as wonderful and inspirational, people question his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Sylvia was a widow: her husband died from cancer and left her with four boys to raise on her own. Barrie's wife Mary, who eventually divorces him, and Sylvia's mother Emma du Maurier, object to the amount of time Barrie spends with the Llewelyn Davies family. Emma also seeks to control her daughter and grandsons, especially as Sylvia becomes increasingly weak from an unidentified illness. Along the way, Barrie goes on these adventures with Sylvia and her boys. He too is a boy at heart and spending time with the family is special. Barrie and his wife did not have any children of their own. Barrie takes those adventures he has with the boys and sees within them and makes it into a play, Peter Pan.
Producer Charles Frohman skeptically agrees to mount Peter Pan, despite his belief that it holds no appeal for upper-class theatergoers. Barrie peppers the opening night audience with children from a nearby orphanage, and the adults present react to their infectious delight with an appreciation of their own. The play proves to be a huge success. Barrie is all set for his play, but when Peter arrives alone to the play, Barrie goes to Sylvia's house to check up on her, and misses the show. Peter on the other hand attends the play and realizes the play is about his brothers and Barrie.
Sylvia is too ill to attend the production, so Barrie arranges to have an abridged production of it performed in her home. He gets the actors, props, and musicians together in the living room of the into the Llewelyn Davies house. At the end of the play, Peter Pan points to the back doors and implies that Sylvia should go off to Neverland. She takes the hands of her boys and slowly walks out into Neverland. The living room and backyard transform into Neverland and Sylvia continues to walk on her own.
In the next scene everyone is at Sylvia's funeral. Barrie discovers that her will says that he and her mother should look after the boys, an arrangement agreeable to both. The film ends with J. M. Barrie finding Peter on the bench in the park where they first met after Peter ran off from the graveyard. Peter is holding his book where he wrote the plays that he ripped apart and that his mother glued back together for him. Barrie sits down and puts his arm around Peter to comfort him. They both fade, and all that is left is the bench.
In addition to Johnny Depp as Barrie and Kate Winslet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the film stars Dustin Hoffman as producer Charles Frohman, Julie Christie as Sylvia's mother Emma du Maurier, and Radha Mitchell (who had starred in Forster's Everything Put Together) as Barrie's wife Mary. Hoffman had appeared a dozen years earlier in title role of the Peter Pan sequel Hook (1991). The original screenplay for this film included a scene in which his character – the play's skeptical producer – was to put on the Captain Hook costume and read some of his lines to point out how silly he found it. Hoffman objected to this, so the scene was rewritten for him to simply read aloud and ridicule character names from the play.
The Llewelyn Davies boys are portrayed by Freddie Highmore (Peter), Nick Roud (George), Joe Prospero (Jack), and Luke Spill (Michael). Highmore's performance in this movie led Johnny Depp to suggest him to Tim Burton for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Highmore played Charlie Bucket and Depp played Willy Wonka. Ian Hart appears as Barrie's friend Arthur Conan Doyle. Oliver Fox plays Mary's lover Gilbert Cannan.
Within the film are scenes of a production of the play, featuring Kelly Macdonald as "Peter Pan", Angus Barnett as "Nana", Toby Jones as "Smee", Kate Maberly as "Wendy Darling", Matt Green as "John Darling", Catrin Rhys as "Michael Darling", Tim Potter as "Captain Hook"/"George Darling", and Jane Booker as "Mary Darling". Mackenzie Crook plays Mr. Jaspers, the theatre usher. Eileen Essell, 82 years old at the time, makes one of her first feature film appearances, as Mrs. Snow, an elderly friend and fan of Barrie's. Like Highmore, she also followed Depp to a role in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Jimmy Gardner plays her husband.
Finding Neverland originally was scheduled to be released in the Autumn of 2003. Columbia Pictures, which owned the film rights to Barrie's original play and was adapting it for theatrical release the same year, refused to allow Miramax to use scenes from the play in Finding Neverland if it were released during the same year. Miramax agreed to delay the release in exchange for the rights to reproduce scenes from the stage production within the film. Finding Neverland opened in 2004, 100 years after Barrie's play opened.
Richmond Theatre in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames doubled as the Duke of York's Theatre - the venue in which Peter Pan was first presented. Exterior scenes were filmed in Hyde Park, Brompton Cemetery and Kensington Gardens. According to commentary on the DVD release, the structure used as Barrie's summer cottage was located near Kent. Interiors were filmed in the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire and the Shepperton Studios in Surrey.
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It was shown at the Telluride Film Festival, the Haifa Film Festival, the Athens Panorama European Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, and the Leeds International Film Festival before opening in the UK on October 29, 2004.
It had a limited release in the United States on November 12, 2004, and opened more widely on November 24, 2004.
The film was budgeted at $25 million. It grossed $51,676,606 in the US and $63 million in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $115,036,108.
In her review in The Times, Wendy Ide called the film "charming but rather idiosyncratic" and added, "A mixture of domestic drama, tragedy and exuberant fantasy, the film blends moist-eyed nostalgia with the cruel disappointments of a marriage break-up; a childlike playfulness and unpredictability with a portrait of a treacherously unforgiving and rigid Edwardian society. It could appeal to everyone from preteens to pensioners, or it could appeal to no one at all. Ultimately this unconventionality is probably one of the film’s main strengths. And if the tone veers a little haphazardly between fantasy and cold, hard reality, well, perhaps that is the most effective way of taking us into the mind of the film's mercurial protagonist."
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said it "is the kind of film where even the smallest crack has been sealed. Instead of real quirks, strange habits, moments of everyday gas, gurgle and grunting, movies like this give us sumptuous production design, meticulous costumes and stories meant to leave us dewy-eyed and thoughtful, if never actually disturbed… The problem isn't the liberties the filmmakers take with reality, but that this isn't an engaging bowdlerization… Johnny Depp neither soars nor crashes, but moseys forward with vague purpose and actorly restraint… [he] and Ms. Winslet are pleasant to watch, as are the actors who play the Davies boys, but they haven't been pushed to their limits."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle observed the film "ends so beautifully, so poignantly and so aptly that there's a big temptation to forget that most of what precedes the ending is tiresome drivel, that Johnny Depp's performance… is precious and uninsightful, and that almost all of the movie's magic derives directly from scenes lifted from Barrie's play. … Winslet's no-nonsense strength is especially appreciated… Another actress would have followed Depp into the quicksand of faux-poetic self-indulgence. But Winslet is direct, grounded and heartfelt in a recognizably human way. Dustin Hoffman, as Barrie's producer, also steers clear of Depp's rhythms, though he has trouble deciding whether the producer is British or American."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film 3½ out of a possible four stars and called it "glorious entertainment… magical, not mush." About Depp he said, "It's too early to speculate on how [he] will grow as an actor. Based on Finding Neverland, it's not too early to call him a great one."
In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall graded the film B and commented, "A first viewing of Finding Neverland was tear-inducing and completely satisfying. Seeing it again was a mistake, less of my own than Forster's, who didn't make a movie that can sustain its magic beyond first impressions. Problems with David Magee's screenplay that initially could be shrugged off—occasionally slow pacing, melodramatic plot twists—became glaring. With familiarity, the fantasy simply wasn't as fanciful. It felt like growing up, and it was disappointing. On the other hand, many of the film's qualities are too strong to falter, starting with another fascinating man-child performance by Johnny Depp as Barrie."
Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "gently seductive, genuinely tender and often moving without being maudlin" and added, "Depp and Winslet share a rare combination of airiness, earthiness and sharp, wry intelligence."
On February 6, 2011, La Jolla Playhouse, California, announced that they would produce a new stage musical based on the film with the book by Allan Knee, score by Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics), and directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford. A planned production at La Jolla Playhouse was not held. A developmental reading was held in New York on March 31, 2011, with Julian Ovenden, Kelli O'Hara, Tony Roberts, Mary Beth Peil, Michael Cumpsty, and Meredith Patterson, directed by Ashford. The adaptation had its world premiere on 22 September 2012 at Curve in Leicester. Directed by Rob Ashford, it stars Julian Ovenden as J.M Barrie and West End actress Rosalie Craig as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.
On September 4, 2013, it was announced that producer Harvey Weinstein has hired Barry Weissler as executive producer. They plan on opening a revised version of the musical at the American Repertory Theater (ART), Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2014. The revised musical has a new creative team, with Diane Paulus as director, a new book by James Graham and 22 songs by Gary Barlow, with a few songs from the original composers. A private reading was held in September 2013 with Brian d’Arcy James as Barrie and Jason Alexander as the "nagging theater producer".
This version is expected to run at ART from July 23, 2014 to September 28, 2014, with songs by six-time Ivor Novello winner Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, the book by James Graham and choreography by Mia Michaels; ART artistic director Diane Paulus is the director. The full cast and creative team was announced on June 2, 2014, with Jeremy Jordan as Barrie and Laura Michelle Kelly as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies featured. The cast also includes Michael McGrath as Charles Frohman, Carolee Carmello as Madame du Maurier, Jeanna de Waal as Mary Barrie, Aidan Gemme as Peter, Alex Dreier as Michael, Sawyer Nunes as George and Hayden Signoretti as Jack. Roger Bart who was originally announced for the character of Charles Frohman has been replaced by Michael McGrath.
On August 14, 2014, it was announced that the show would transfer to Broadway in March 2015. The show will play at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. On 10 November 2014 it was announced that Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe-nominee Matthew Morrison will take Jordan's place in the portrayal of J.M. Barrie in the production's Spring 2015 move to Broadway. Kelsey Grammer will star as Charles Frohman and Laura Michelle Kelly will again play the role of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.
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- "Episode 4". The Sound of Musicals. Season 1. 3 December 2013.
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- Official website
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- Finding Neverland at Box Office Mojo