Hugh Jackman read some three dozen books on PT Barnum to prepare for the title role.
Rebecca Ferguson's voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. Ferguson had studied music and admitted that she can carry a tune but since Jenny Lind, her character, is considered the best singer in the world, dubbing her voice would be in service of the movie. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming.
Barnum's American Museum was so popular that the crowds inside would linger much too long, thereby cutting into profits. To make way for additional paying customers, he posted signs indicating "This Way to the Egress." Unaware that "Egress" was another word for "Exit," people followed the signs to what they assumed was a fascinating exhibit, and they ended up going outside.
Many of the costumes used in the ensemble circus scenes at the beginning and end of the film were borrowed from Feld Entertainment, the current owners of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and were used in productions of "The Greatest Show on Earth."
According to Hugh Jackman, the film's nine-year development process from conception to completion was, in part, due to studios' unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. What finally sold the deal at 20th Century Fox was the future Oscar-nominated song "This is Me", which had literally been written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul during the two-hour flight to the studio meeting where the film was green-lit.
When the movie was in the process of being green lit, Hugh Jackman had surgery on his nose to remove skin cancer. Hugh Jackman had 80 stitches and was told by his doctor to not sing. Hugh Jackman followed the doctor's recommendation until it came to the last song From Now On where Hugh chose to sing. Halfway through he noticed his nose was bleeding.
Zac Efron said that the kiss that he and Zendaya had in this film was his favorite kiss of all time.
In January 2017, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that their doors were closing forever, due to decreased attendance. Their last shows were in May 2017.
Rebecca Ferguson admitted in an interview that she was extremely nervous when she had to perform a song in the film because she had to sing in front of a full audience, plus the entire crew. She commented that it was Hugh Jackman and his encouraging response to her performance that really helped her at the time.
The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016). From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film's 1800s setting. As Pasek said, "The choice was to express not just the characters' feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn't bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one."
At one point, when the circus is struggling, Barnum's girls suggest that he get something "sensational" like a unicorn or a mermaid. In reality, Barnum famously bought and exhibited the "Fiji Mermaid", a monkey carcass sewn to the body of a fish.
This is Michael Gracey's directoral debut. He spent 20 years as an animator, digital compositor, and visual effects supervisor.
In reality, P.T. Barnum dabbled in several industries before "show business", including the lottery business. In an early apartment scene, various old signs can be seen lying against a corner wall, including one that says "Barnham Lottery" in large letters -- a nod to his many colorful endeavors prior to becoming the greatest showman.
Among Barnum's "freaks," the film portrays Asian conjoined twins. The actual twins were Chang and Eng Bunker, two brothers born in Siam (modern day Thailand), whose heritage was the basis of the term "Siamese twins." Chang and Eng retired after their life in Barnum's circus to North Carolina, got married and had eleven children and ten children, respectively. However, they became destitute after the American Civil War and went on tour again. They both died in 1874, Chang from a brain blood clot and Eng from heart failure, or shock (the sources differ), merely three hours later.
This is Zac Efron's fifth musical along with the High School Musical trilogy and Hairspray (2007).
Hugh Jackman stated that this film was the hardest he prepared for compared to Logan (2017).
Hugh Jackman and director Michael Gracey met on a commercial shoot. Jackman told Gracey he wanted to make a film with him, and Gracey took it with a grain of salt - every famous person he'd worked with had made similar noises. To his surprise, Jackman later sent him the script of The Greatest Showman.
Sam Humphrey, the 22-year-old Australian actor who plays Tom Thumb in The Greatest Showman is 127cm or 4'2" in real life. The real Tom Thumb never grew taller than 103cm and was adopted by P.T. Barnum at the age of 4 to join Barnum Circus. Sam Humphrey had to walk on his knees in the movie, to make him look smaller. His real lower legs and feet were digitally edited out of the shots where they would have showed, but mostly he is filmed sitting or standing with his lower legs out of shot.
During the scene where Barnum (Hugh Jackman) tries to persuade Carlyle (Zac Efron) to join his circus, Barnum says that Carlyle has a flair for show business. The scene originally ran longer, with Carlyle remarking that he doesn't know what 'show business' means, to which Barnum responds that it is because he just invented it. This line featured prominently in trailer, but was cut from the finished movie.
Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) were fictional characters, along with their love story, made up for the film. However, Carlyle is based on James Anthony Bailey (Barnum's co-founder and show business partner in real life) and James Llewellyn Hutchinson. Anne is mostly based on James Bailey's wife Ruth Louisa Bailey (nee McCaddon).
Although the film portrays Barnum as a champion of racial equality his record on the subject was decidedly mixed. One of his first exhibits was an elderly African-American slave he had purchased and exhibited as "George Washington's Nursemaid". However in his later career as a politician he campaigned ardently for the abolition of slavery, swapping from the Democrat to the Republican party and declaring "A human soul, 'that God has created and Christ died for,' is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot - it is still an immortal spirit."
Rebecca Ferguson, the actress who played Jenny Lind, and the actual Jenny Lind were both born in Stockholm, Sweden.
After a slow start in the UK and Ireland, the film became an unexpected smash hit. Earnings in the 11th week of release increased 26% over the previous weekend, which is almost unheard of.
The role of Tom Thumb , portrayed by Sam Humphrey was re-voiced by actor James Babson
Shannon Holtzapffel, the actor who plays "Prince Constantine" or "Tattoo Man," wears a body suit throughout the film to give the illusion that he has tattoos.
Counterintuitively, Shannon Holtzapffel, the actor who portrays "Tattoo Man," has no tattoos of his own. However, the real life "Tattoo Man," also known as "Prince Constantine," (real name George Costentenus) was genuinely covered from head to toe in tattoos (save for portions of his ears and the soles of his feet). All together he had 387 separate tattoos including exotic animals, geometric shapes, flowers, and writing in various languages.
Hugh Jackman sang a preview of one of the musical numbers on his Hugh Jackman: Broadway to Oz tour.
James Mangold, who directed Hugh Jackman in Kate & Leopold (2001), The Wolverine (2013) and Logan (2017), was brought in by the studio to oversee a week of reshoots and post-production, because the studio were concerned that director Michael Gracey would be overwhelmed by the scale of the production. Mangold was given an executive producer credit as a result.
Ziv Zaifman provides the singing voice for young P.T. Barnum for the song "A Million Dreams". It was Ziv's singing debut in a major motion picture.
The large arched art nouveau stained glass window that is shown prominently above the entrance to the refurbished American Museum building is a replica of the large window above the main entrance to Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne Australia.
Surprisingly, this film did not portray James Anthony Bailey who was a co-founder Of Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus although he had a major impact on the circus and would later go on, with P.T Barnum to create "The Greatest Show On Earth".
P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel, CT, and lived in Bridgeport until he died at 80. He is buried at Mt. Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport. Tom Thumb was a lifelong resident of Bridgeport.
Originally Diahann Carroll was going to play as Joice Heth a 161-year-old African-American slave who is hired by P. T. Barnum. But her scenes were cut out of the final film.
Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Keala Settle (Bearded Woman) and Will Swenson (Barnum's Father) were all in Les Miserables. Jackman played Jean Valjean in the 2012 Les Miserables movie. Settle and Swenson were both in the 2014 Broadway revival of Les Miserables, portraying Madame Thenardier and Javert, respectively.
Rewrite the Stars is similar to the song Rewrite this Story from the tv show Smash. It was also written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Carey Mulligan and Ellen Page were originally considered for the role of Jenny Lind, but director Michael Gracey wanted Rebecca Ferguson for the role.
When Barnum gives Caroline the *wishing machine* and the girls start singing, Barnum looks into the spinning lights, circus animals appear faintly in the lights. This is both to show that he's being inspired and it's also callback to when Phineas and Charity were young and he shined a light on the chandelier casting animal shadows on the walls.
Barnum was embarrassed by one picture of himself with a lady performer. A photo taken in Matthew Brady's studio shows him ogling a dancer named Ernestine de Faiber in 1864.
This is Hugh Jackman's third movie musical after Oklahoma (1999) and Les Misérables (2012).
The title "E. Sundahl" appears above a window, presumably of a business, a number of times in the movie. While watching credits, look for set designer Eric Sundahl.
Sam Humphrey plays General Tom Thumb who met Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington. However, he looks like one of Barnum's other performers, Admiral Dot, the Eldorado Elf. The Admiral met Abraham Lincoln at the White House.
Both Zac and Zendaya are Disney channel stars, Zac was in High School Musical, and Zendaya was in Shake It Up.
The headline of first newspaper review describes Barnum's show as a "Circus of Humbug". When he's given his top hat before the next show, someone had put a gold crown around the top hat which says "Prince Humbug" or "Prince of Humbug". The words gets mentioned another couple of times in the movie: when introducing Jenny Lind on stage in New York for the first time, Barnum says that people might dismiss the performance as "Barnum Humbug," and when he comes home part way through her tour, he tells his wife that he has come home because he misses her and their girls. She tells him that sounds "like humbug". One of the titles of the real P. T. Barnum's books is "The Humbugs of the World." (1865)
Barnum's wife's family's name is "Hallett." This is pronounced the same way as "Howlett," which was the last name of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character (James "Logan" Howlett) from the X-Men movies.
Michael Gracey said the movie is similar to West Side Story (1961), Mary Poppins (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965).
The musical "Barnum" played at the St. James Theatre on Broadway from April 30, 1980 to May 16, 1982. Two members of the original Broadway cast are background actors in this film. Marianne Tatum played Jenny Lind, and Leonard Crofoot played Tom Thumb.
Zac Efron and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II previously worked on Baywatch (2017). Michelle Williams debuted in Baywatch (1989).
Young P.T. Barnum is caught stealing a loaf of bread. In Les Misérables, Hugh Jackman played Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's children.
P.T. Barnum served as treasurer and ticket seller for Aaron Turner's Old Columbian Circus on a 6 month tour in 1837.
Both Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum) and Shuler Hensley (Lead Protestor) were cast members of the 1999 London West End revival of Oklahoma, as Curly and Jud Fry, respectively. The pair were also cast in Van Helsing as Van Helsing and the Frankenstein Monster, respectively.
This is the second movie for Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams since Deception (2008).
The song "Rewrite The Stars", performed in the movie by Zac Efron and Zendaya, was later covered in Anne-Marie & James Arthur: Rewrite the Stars (2018), and became a hit for James Arthur and Anne-Marie.
Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya have each played characters in films adapted from Marvel comics. Jackman played Wolverine in the X-Men film franchise, Williams played Anne in Venom (2018), and Zendaya played Michelle in Spiderman: Homecoming (2017).
Near the beginning of the film, a shot of an unfinished Brooklyn Bridge appears in the background. Hugh Jackman previously starred in Kate & Leopold (2001), which also prominently features the Brooklyn Bridge in its unfinished state. In addition, the latter film was directed by James Mangold, who is credited as 'executive producer' for this film.
The director of Barnum's acting company in 1850 was Francis Courtney Wemyss. He bore a striking resemblance to Emmy winning actor John Larroquette.