Meryl Streep was the only actor from Disney’s film adaptation of Into the Woods to receive an Academy Awards nomination. The film in general did not do very well in terms of Academy Awards, despite its big budget and financial success. And although Meryl Streep was nominated for her performance, many insiders believe that she may not have a good chance at winning—not because she gave a bad performance, but because the changes Disney made to the Into the Woods story. Let’s take a closer look at why Disney’s changes to Into the Woods may have cost Meryl Streep her Academy Award chances.
First, let’s look at the major changes as they relate to Meryl Streep’s character, the Witch. The Disney film removed several elements of the Witch’s character or, at least, downplayed them.
In the original stage version, she is shown visiting Rapunzel or thinking about her more often, which strengthens the relationship between the two characters—or, at least, the Witch’s own love for Rapunzel. The Witch is also shown more clearly losing her powers after regaining her beauty, and noting that her own happy ending (like, it will be shown later, that of the other characters) has come with a price: the loss of her magic and in some ways, her ability to control the people around her.
The film also removed Rapunzel’s descent into insanity and her eventual death. This not only affects Rapunzel’s story, but the Witch’s as well. In the film, Rapunzel merely runs off with her prince who, unlike the stage version of her prince, seems genuinely in love and concerned for her. The Witch sings an altered version of her “lament” from the show. In the show, her lament comes after Rapunzel dies—and now it comes merely after she runs away on a white horse with a prince who loves her.
Because Rapunzel doesn’t die, the Witch does not lose the only thing she had to live for, unlike the stage version. Her disgust with the other characters is milder and her eventual loss of her wits and desire for death seems out of left field.
These changes remove a huge part of the Witch’s story and, in doing so, robbed Meryl Streep of a complex, richer and darker character arc which would have made her a more likely winner of the Academy Award. Check out these other home entertainment options right here.