Whether they're sharing a stage or an Instagram Live recording, Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt are forever bonded over Broadway.
The longtime best friends teamed up last month for a duet of "It Takes Two" from Into the Woods, with choreography and everything, adding to the epic star-studded celebration that unfolded online for Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday.
They're also in the middle of starring in an ambitious film adaptation of Sondheim's historically misunderstood Merrily We Roll Along, the plot of which unfolds backwards onstage, being directed by Richard Linklater. And though the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to most productions for the time being, luckily for everyone involved there isn't a pressing deadline to finish.
"We did the first sequence this summer, and the idea is to follow the schematic of the show literally, in the sense that if there's a scene that takes place in '57 and one in '61, we'll wait four years and shoot the next one," Platt, whose Ben Platt: Live From Radio City Music Hall special is dropping May 20 on Netflix, explained to IndieWire in October. "So we're corresponding with the map of the show. Other than that, it's sort of like —'let's get together and make a short film'—and then disperse, and do that nine times."
That's right, Ben and Beanie are going to be filmed off an on over the course of 20 years to better capture the two friends at the heart of the show in real time. But they were going to be hanging out anyway, so they might as well make a movie while they're at it.
The devoted pair's friendship dates back all the way to a little bit before they attended high school together in the San Fernando Valley, where they could've only dreamed (and probably did) of attending the Golden Globes together one day—as they did in January, both as nominees.
"What a ridiculously surreal, special morning," Feldstein tweeted in response to her nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, for the super-badass Booksmart. "Thank you to the HFPA for this beautiful nomination amongst the most extraordinary women. To get to be there with my partner on this journey - [co-star] @KaitlynDever, my life partner - @BenSPLATT, and my Lady Bird is too much for my heart."
As for Ben Splatt, er, Platt, nominated for Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for his role as a scarily ambitious teen with designs on the presidency in Ryan Murphy's acerbic satire The Politician, he tweeted, "Thank you so very much to the HFPA for recognizing our @the_Politician family and for making both of these goober prom dates @goldenglobes nominees!"
The goober prom dates being himself and Feldstein.
Feldstein and Platt, graduates of the Harvard-Westlake School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., both started nourishing their love of performing at an early age. In fact, they first bonded over their mutual love of theater at a Bat Mitzvah in the mid-'00s (and both had respective theater-themed Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, of course).
"Our friend was like, 'You should meet each other, you both love theater,'" Platt told BuzzFeed last year, "so we sat down and started talking about theater...We missed the entire Bat Mitzvah. Our mutual friend is still upset to this day."
Then they parted ways, only to be reunited by fate and their parents' decision to send them to private school.
"This was before cell phones," Feldstein explained on Late Night With Seth Meyers. "We didn't have any way to stay in touch."
Luckily, they both ended up at Harvard-Westlake in Studio City, Calif., and Feldstein remembers the first time she saw Platt, "wearing that shirt with a recycling symbol on it, I'll never forget," she told Vanity Fair in 2017. "And light gray Urban Outfitters tight jeans," Platt added.
Feldstein told Meyers, "We instantly became best friends—and, sort of like the way that he knew we were best friends was the second week of school."
What happened was, she continued, Platt had just got his braces off, so he texted her—and she left her class right then to see his teeth. "And I'm such a good-goody and I love school," Feldstein added, "so he was like, 'I must mean a lot to you.'"
And they've meant a lot to each other ever since. To put it mildly.
Both a couple of child actors, Beanie (who happens to be Jonah Hill's little sister) and Ben (father Marc Platt is a veteran producer whose credits include La La Land) also bonded over balancing school with their side gigs in showbiz.
The first show Platt ever saw on Broadway was Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002 when he was about 9, and watching it, he just knew he had found his calling. In fact, he would make his professional debut in a production of The Music Man that same year at the Hollywood Bowl. His first movie role was "Boy Scout #1" in Red Riding Hood, a 2006 film we didn't know existed but which stars Henry Cavill as the hunter who saves the day and Joey Fatone as the wolf.
Still, Platt later admitted he was disappointed not to be cast as Tevye in a high school school production of Fiddler on the Roof, but ultimately appreciated playing Motel the tailor.
"It was a good lesson in casting," he told BuzzFeed.
Feldstein's professional acting debut also came in 2002, on an episode of the ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids. But like Platt, she too knew early on that her heart belonged to Broadway.
"I did my first little kids musical, The Sound of Music, at 5, in a jungle gym, essentially," Feldstein told Vogue in 2017. "I was a made-up Von Trapp child, Ingrid Von Trapp. The way other kids would watch The Little Mermaid or Sesame Street, I would watch Fiddler on the Roof."
Naturally, she and Platt co-starred in a school production of Our Town and car singalongs were the norm.
"On his 16th birthday, I gave him monogrammed cuff links," Feldstein emotionally recalled to Vogue. "I actually cut out construction paper and, with a Magic Marker, wrote, 'For when you win your first Tony.' I think back to us riding to school together singing Gypsy in the car, or Next to Normal...just being able to watch him, and for him to watch me, it's been really emotional. It's truly out of our wildest dreams."
They danced up a storm at that senior prom—which Platt asked her to using lyrics from Funny Girl. They went their separate ways geographically after graduation, but luckily cell phones were all the rage by then.
"I think it was good because I think we always both knew that, as actors, we were going to be in different projects at different times, and be wherever we were," Platt told Vanity Fair.
Platt got into Columbia University but took a detour to Louisiana to shoot Pitch Perfect. He did enroll in college the fall of 2012 but left after six weeks to join the Chicago production of The Book of Mormon. Then, in 2014, he fatefully read for the role of a teenager with social anxiety who gets caught up in a lie that takes on a social media-fueled life of its own in the thoroughly modern musical Dear Evan Hanson.
It premiered in 2016 and was nothing short of a Broadway phenomenon.
"Ben is truly the mayor of the Upper West Side," Feldstein told Vanity Fair. "The Upper West Side is the key Broadway demo, and when we walk to dinner in the Upper West Side, they're like, 'BEN!' It's just like these Jewish mothers, I love it."
Feldstein, meanwhile, graduated from Wesleyan University (Lin-Manuel Miranda's alma mater) in Connecticut with a degree in sociology and attended the famed New York theater camp Stagedoor Manor. But she too balanced her stage ambitions with screen work, making her film debut in 2016's Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and then landing a solid supporting role in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, playing the best friend of Saoirse Ronan's title character.
Feldstein also bonded with Lady Bird actor Lucas Hedges, a Golden Globe nominee last year for Boy Erased, and he has since become a member of the Ben-and-Beanie circle of friends. "Sweet, sweet Lucas Hedges, who we both love so much," she shared with Vanity Fair.
The erstwhile eighth Von Trapp child made her Broadway debut in 2017, playing Minnie Fay in Hello, Dolly! alongside Bette Midler, basically a patron saint of musical theater. When her run ended in 2018, Feldstein was cast in Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, about two bookish best friends who decide to pack in all the fun they didn't have for four years on the eve of high school graduation.
Another one of Feldstein's besties, Molly Gordon, played her nemesis Triple A in the film, and after living with her onscreen BFF Kaitlyn Dever for 10 weeks (Wilde thought it would help their bond feel more authentic—which it did), they ended up super close, too.
Dever was nominated at the Golden Globes this year for Best Actress in a Limited-Series or TV Movie for the heartbreaking true-crime drama Unbelievable and Feldstein also reunited with Ronan, a nominee for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama, for Little Women.
"It's just completely surreal, it feels like a morning out of my wildest dreams," Feldstein told The Wrap after the nominations were announced. "I get to be there with my closest, truest friends."
The squad went home empty-handed, but we bet the after-party was lit—no one parties quite like the musical-theater kids.
All the while, especially when Feldstein finally ended up in New York after college, she and Platt remained each other's nearest and dearest, both singing their hearts out whenever possible; staying active in causes important to them, including LGBTQ rights; and being each other's go-to date for premieres.
When their demanding Broadway schedules overlapped for a time, they described their lives to Vanity Fair as "lunch, shopping, [and then] we just sit and watch TV like this," curled up together, "usually half asleep."
"It's weird that we're doing an interview together," Platt told the magazine. "But the individual thing, the way that it's worked out time-wise has been...that's what's the most surreal, because each thing has happened one after the other. We can kind of take them in one at a time; it's been really helpful. I feel better since we get to go through it together."
Feldstein chimed in, "It really is not to be believed. I can imagine us in high school if we read about a best-friend duo that was on Broadway. We'd be like, 'We're obsessed with them!' We would watch every Broadway.com interview they did."
It only made cosmic sense that Beanie was at Ben's apartment in New York, along with his mom and a few other friends, when he found out he had been nominated for the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Dear Evan Hansen, and she was at the Tonys in June 2017 to see him win and then helped celebrate afterward with some drunk karaoke.
"I remember when he won the Tony," Feldstein gushed to Extra, "and I looked around and everyone's looking at him like I have always looked at him."
And yes, Platt wore the cuff links she gave him in high school that night.
Ben, in turn, was by Beanie's side when Booksmart premiered at the 2019 SXSW Festival in Austin, including while she was getting ready for her big night.
Asked if she and Platt used to get up to shenanigans akin to what Molly and Amy get up to in the movie, Feldstein told Extra at the premiere, "I wouldn't say we're a rowdy type. We're more of, like, a pajamas-and-Thai-food type."
They're also, incidentally, a Dorothy-and-Tin Man type, the pair going all out on Oct. 31 for Bette Midler's Hulaween Charity Gala, with a Hollywood golden-age theme. The night included a performance with the Divine Miss M herself, no big deal.
It had been years, however, since they had formally performed together when they did so last August for A Night of Giving, Friendship and Music, put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
"We love supporting each other but we've never really gotten to sing together since we were 17, so we're really excited to reunite," Feldstein told the HFPA, beaming at Platt. "And to do it for a wonderful cause," he added, "philanthropy is the cherry on top."
They performed a mash-up of "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "Get Happy," in honor of the only time Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland ever sang together—a video Ben and Beanie always loved watching. "Naturally, we are the heirs to the Judy Garland-Barbra Streisand crown," Platt joked.
Both Golden Globe-nominated actors, Broadway veterans and, at long last, movie co-stars. They're certainly venturing into legendary territory.
Ben Platt: Live From Radio City Music Hall is streaming now on Netflix. Feldstein's latest movie, How to Build a Girl, co-starring Emma Thompson and Chris O'Dowd, is available on VOD.
(Originally published Jan. 2, 2020, at 4 a.m. PT)