The original film was directed by Garry Marshall and starred Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. Menzel plays the Midler role, CC Bloom, the singer who struggles with lounge gigs before finally becoming a huge star, while Long plays Hillary, who meets CC as a child singing at the beach and keeps in touch with her through thick and thin — until the end, which is responsible for more ugly cries than The Notebook.
Lifetime presented a panel with Menzel, Long, director Allison Anders, and producers Denise Di Novi, and Alison Greenspan for the Television Critics Association. Afterward, Di Novi, Greenspan, and Anders spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the Lifetime movie’s new songs, new themes, and new cast.
Here are the 10 ways their Beaches stands on its own.
1. MENZEL SINGS A NEW ORIGINAL SOLO
All the classic Beaches music gets a new, modern spin from 2004 Tony winner Menzel — the voice of Frozen’s Elsa — but this Beaches has a new song Menzel also performs. “Last Time” is a power ballad that CC records during a rough patch with Hillary. You don’t even have to wait for the movie to hear it. The soundtrack is already out!
The lyrics, “Don’t let the last time I hurt you be the last time I heard you” are a musical apology, and “Don’t let the last time I saw you be the last time” is haunting.
“We knew she would live up to the greatness of Bette Midler and also find a way to make these iconic songs her own which she did,” Greenspan said.
2. MENZEL SINGS OTHER SINGERS’ HITS, TOO
Beaches always included covers. “Wind Beneath My Wings” was a cover and CC still sings “The Glory of Love” as a child and an adult to bookend the film. Lifetime’s Beaches adds Menzel covering The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” a personal favorite of Anders. Music supervisor Marianne Goode actually surprised Anders once she cleared the song.
“Adele did a cover of a Cure song and made a hit with it,” Anders said. “[I asked,] ‘Isn’t there some kind of cover CC could do? Maybe she’s into The Pretenders.’ I see an e-mail a couple weeks later, ‘We didn’t want to tell you until it was all cleared, but we got you a Pretenders song for her.’”
3. “WIND BENEATH MY WINGS” IS IN MENZEL’S BLOOD
The original Beaches is best known for the Midler rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which became a big hit. That coincided with Menzel’s early career as a wedding and bar mizvah singer, where “Wind” was in heavy rotation.
“Every single 13-year-old boy danced with his mother to ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’” Menzel said during the panel. “I’ve been singing it. I am well rehearsed.”
4. THIS BEACHES HAS A NEW MANTRA
Remember this phrase: “Not all strength is loud.” This is the new theme of Beaches. CC and Hillary say it to each other at pivotal moments. In a world where bullies keep getting louder and louder, it’s important to remember the strength in quiet.
“What does strength look like in one woman compared to another woman?” Di Novi said. “Sometimes it’s quieter or less obvious. Sometimes it takes a while to grow and your friend may surprise you. She’s always been the quiet one and then she comes out of her shell. I think showing all the different forms of female strength and friendship was really beautifully done.”
5. KEEPING IN TOUCH IS EASIER NOW
Anyone who’s gone on summer vacations with family has made friends from different places. Once the summer is over, relying on snail mail to keep in touch could be a friendship deal breaker. Writing letters took so long it often proved impossible to maintain the momentum of a friendship. In 2017, CC and Hillary can keep in touch via e-mail and texting.
“It was kind of quaint in the original movie how they stayed in touch,” Di Novi said. “It’s obviously easier these days to stay in touch. Clearly, the scenes where they’re together and connecting in human form are the more powerful scenes. It was one of the things we had to say, ‘How do we update that and make that true to today?’”
6. DIVERSITY ISN’T AN ISSUE — IT’S REAL LIFE
Casting diverse actors in Beaches is making strides towards more diverse representation on television. Even more importantly, they never discuss racial differences. Anders said Lifetime wanted this before they hired her.
“Nia is playing the privileged one, and we don’t make a thing about it,” Anders said. “The African-American girl is the privileged girl and the white girl is the less privileged. To not discuss it was even better.”
Di Novi concurred: “I think Beaches having an inter-racial friendship, without any discussion of race, is an important thing to do. Just showing strong female characters, whatever the story is, showing a woman balancing work and family, they don’t have to be a dose of medicine. I think we have a responsibility to reflect the world we live in and the world we live in is diverse.”
7. THE KIDS ARE ALSO BEST FRIENDS
For the beginning of the film, Gabriella Pizzolo and Grace Capeless play young CC and Hillary respectively. (The original Beaches discovered young Mayim Bialik in the CC role.)
“We went out to Broadway,” Greenspan said. “We thought, ‘How are we going to ever find a young girl who is sort of young Idina Menzel with all that talent and a pint-sized body?’ We were submitted Gabriella Pizzolo. Right away we cast her. She has a dynamite voice you’ll hear at the start of the movie. Shortly thereafter, we got a note saying, ‘Her best friend is also on Broadway. They’re best friends in real life. Why don’t you meet her?’”
8. IT’S 30 MINUTES SHORTER, BUT NOTHING IS MISSING
A two-hour block on Lifetime is really only 90 minutes to make room for commercials. The original Beaches was a full two hours long, so what didn’t make the cut? Fortunately, nothing is omitted. Some sections are just sped up a little. Greenspan said the “keeping in touch” portion could be condensed thanks to modern technology.
“As it turned out, that kind of helped us with being more reflective of today, because with modern technology and texts and voice mails and instant messages, it is harder to be out of touch for a longer stretch of time,” Greenspan said. “That’s the period of the movie, our movie, that’s condensed.”
Anders added that CC and Hillary’s parents had less time to make an impression, but still conveyed the importance of those relationships.
“There might have been a little bit more between Barbara Hershey’s character and the father [in the original],” Anders said. “Maybe a bit more with CC’s mother, but not much.”
9. MIDLER GAVE HER BLESSING
Marshall sadly passed away before production on Beaches began. Midler, however, let the filmmakers know she supports them.
“She was made aware of the project, and she’s a huge Idina fan and expressed her support,” Di Novi said. “We expressed our gratitude to her.”
Marshall left his mark on Anders’ Beaches though. She made it known in the panel that the final shot of her movie was ripped straight from his. She gave Rotten Tomatoes the details on the one thing she didn’t update.
“It’s basically Bette and Little Tory are walking backstage,” Anders said. “She’s just sung ‘The Glory of Love,’ and they’re walking through all the stuff backstage. It’s all one take through them talking about, ‘When I was a little girl when I first met your mom…’ It’s a long take on the side of them and then it’s on their backs as they walk off together into their new life. I don’t know how I do any better than that.”
10. IT’S FOR TODAY’S YOUNG WOMEN
Remakes make any die-hard fan skeptical, and everyone should certainly see the original Beaches. Menzel acknowledged, however, that some young girls just don’t know what Beaches is. She said that some even thought it was a Julia Roberts movie. So she wanted to make a version of Beaches for young girls today to get across the story’s important messages.
“If it can open a new discussion at this time about where women are, and how we balance and navigate all of these passions we have and ourselves, career, and our family, I think it’s similar to back then, but I think things have changed,” Menzel said during the panel. “It’s just another way to start a conversation.”
For Long, Beaches will always be relevant no matter who is making it: “This is really a film about friendship, about sisterhood and about girl power.”
Beaches airs Saturday, January 21 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime