Stephen King once summed up life neatly with the phrase “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” John August appears to have taken his advice, making a very busy living writing about one man who knows exactly how he’s going to die. “I’ll be writing some version of Big Fish probably for the rest of my life,” August, 43, tells Newsweek. “It’s a good thing I love it, because I’ve spent a third of my life writing it.”
It was 1998 when August fell in love with the novel Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. He brought it to Sony and wrote the screenplay. By 2003 the Tim Burton–helmed epic swam into theaters, starring Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney as Edward Bloom, a man made fearless with the knowledge of his eventual death—even though the audience is kept in the dark about the particulars. Bloom spins tales of giants and circus performers, woos the love of his life with acres of daffodils—and entirely disappoints his son Will, who chooses reality over a lifetime of story time.
Now, a decade later, the Blooms are coming to Broadway. Full of endless scene and costume changes, this tale was made for the theater. With The Producers powerhouse Susan Stroman directing, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and a script written by August, Tony buzz won’t be far behind. The fantastical narrative stars two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom and Tony nominees Kate Baldwin as his wife, Josephine, and Bobby Steggert as Will. With an October 6 opening date at the Neil Simon Theatre looming, August—who has also penned the scripts for Go, Titan A.E., Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie and writes about screenwriting on his immensely popular blog—discusses the long road to making a musical about mortality, on-stage malfunctions, and the universal quandary of whether children and parents can ever really understand each other.