Rob Marshall on why She’ll Be Back was cut from Into the Woods, and a clip from the scene

Updated March 2nd, 2015. There’s now an excerpt from She’ll Be Back in a video player at the bottom of the story.

Adapting Stephen Sondheim‘s stage musical Into the Woods for the screen was not an easy task for writer James Lapine and director Rob Marshall, and amongst their difficult decisions will have been the tricky business of deciding which songs to cut.

To further complicate matters, Sondheim actually wrote a new song for the movie. She’ll be Back was to be sung by Meryl Streep, who plays The Witch; it was recorded and even included in early versions of the film, but the decision was ultimately made to remove it.

I attended a recent preview of Into the Woods, and afterwards Marshall explained why the song was cut and when you’ll be able to hear it or, indeed, download a copy. Here’s what Marshall said.

You can hear Meryl’s song on the DVD extra that’s coming out in January [Note: nowhere on Earth is the film being released in January]. It’s a spectacular song and Meryl does it brilliantly, as you can imagine, and we all thought it would work. What’s amazing about a film is that it starts to tell you, at a certain point, what works and what doesn’t work. We put it in front of the first test screening that we had and it was great… and then ten, fifteen minutes later it started to feel like we had overstayed our welcome.

And then we got to Last Midnight, which was her next song, and it didn’t do what it needed to do, because we’d already heard from The Witch. And we realised we’d taken a route that we shouldn’t have taken. The thing is people think it’s all done and finished. It isn’t, it’s a thing, a moving, living, breathing thing that’s learning to crawl and walk and run. That’s why you have the process of film editing, test screening, all those things. I realised it, Stephen Sondheim realised it and John [DeLuca] realised it. And Meryl Streep realised it.

It was so beautifully done. It’s called She’ll be Back and it’s a wonderful piece. It didn’t push the story forward in the place where it needed to, so you must always do one thing and that’s serve the piece. Not me, not Meryl, not Stephen Sondheim, no-one. You’re serving the piece. So, we decided it’s better and stronger without. And those are the toughest decisions but the ones you have to make.

I remember making those decisions with John and Coleen [Atwood] when we did Chicago. I love the song Class. Who doesn’t love Class? It’s so wonderful. It didn’t work in our film. because it sat there in a place where we were wrapping it up. It’s different on stage. You can set things on stage that you can’t on film. It’s a different place, it’s a different medium. The great joy of this piece is that James Lapine, who wrote the screenplay for us, and Stephen Sondheim, who worked with us throughout, understood that. They understood that it’s a film and were incredibly flexible and free about that.

It’s rare that a song of Stephen’s is a standalone number, because they’re so integrated into the world of what they’re doing… They’re not generic numbers that you can sing on Star Search…[Anna Kendrick laughed at this, so Marshall changed the reference to the more modern choice of X Factor]. It’s not that kind of thing. They work as an integral part of the piece. If you pulled a song out of a Stephen Sondheim scene there’s no scene, because the richest part of the material happens in the song…

This is what we decided to do, because the recording comes out prior to the film, after the film comes out it will then be available to download.

Here’s a clip from the scene as it will appear on the Into the Woods Blu-ray.