Producer Frank Marshall on Why ‘Diana: The Musical’ Opened on Netflix Before Broadway
Before long, Marshall and his collaborators got restless. He recalls, “It seemed to me, as a movie producer, we’ve got the sets, and we’ve got the cast ready to go — everything was kind of in place at the theater. And it had just been announced that Hamilton [the filmed version for Disney+] had been moved up a year. I thought, ‘Maybe we could try to do this ourselves.’ So Beth [Williams, one of Marshall’s Broadway partners] and I called [Come from Away Tony winner] Chris Ashley, our director, and he said, ‘I’m in.’ And then I called Netflix.”
The streamer signed on, and then it was up to Marshall and his team to carry out a safe shoot. As it turned out, his work as a producer of major motion pictures helped him to prepare. “At that same time,” he says, “we were trying to get Jurassic World: Dominion back up and running in London, so I was able to learn from that experience how to film in COVID times.”
The Diana shoot took place over four days in September 2020. Marshall emphasizes, “It really wasn’t what’s called ‘live capture,’ which Hamilton was, because we didn’t have an audience. We shot it much more like a film. We were able to put the camera in the right places and not have to shoot around the audience, and we didn’t have reaction shots, we didn’t have to wait for applause or anything, so Chris Ashley designed into the show cinematic transitions. It’s much more like a movie.”
Marshall says the experience of filming Diana has convinced him to pursue a similar course with future theatrical productions, even if or when COVID is no longer a consideration.
“This is a way to reach a broader audience with a Broadway show,” he argues. “I don’t think it competes at all with the stage version; I think they actually help each other. We saw that with Hamilton and even, looking back, Chicago. The movie Chicago didn’t impede the Broadway production at all. It actually helped. And they also saw ticket sales on Hamilton go up after the Disney+ release. So I just think of it as another way to see things. Now, millions of people around the world get to see our show.”
But will they check out another project about Princess Diana coming off of an Emmy-winning season of Netflix’s The Crown in which she figured prominently or with Pablo Larrain’s film Spencer, which centers on the late princess, currently rolling out on the film fest circuit? “Well, she was an amazing woman, and there’s a lot of ways to celebrate her life, and we’re one of them,” Marshall says. “She’s fascinating, and I think the public is really interested in seeing behind the curtain.”
Diana: The Musical is on Netflix now. Broadway previews will resume on Nov. 2 with opening night on Nov. 17.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.