Before Disney’s live-action film “Maleficent” flipped the perspective of a classic fantasy story by making Sleeping Beauty’s antagonist fairy the titular Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) the main character, the most famous production using the reverse POV would have to be “Wicked,” the hit musical where the Wicked Witch of the West in the Land of Oz was the hero. Having powerful songs like “Defying Gravity” (especially sung by Idina Menzel for instance) helped make it perhaps even more memorable than the original 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire. Almost two decades since its theatrical debut, “Wicked” is getting a cinematic adaptation. With the departure of a director comes a more high-profile replacement.
Variety tells us that John M. Chu has been tapped by Universal Pictures to take the helm for their blockbuster movie take on top Broadway musical “Wicked.” This particular project has been in the works for more than 10 years now, and in October last year the previous attached filmmaker, Stephen Daldry, stepped down from the job due to conflicts in schedule. Among Daldry’s directorial efforts are 2000 British film “Billy Elliot” and more recently, several episodes in the first two seasons of Netflix drama “The Crown.” Chu in turn is a big name for upcoming projects since the success of “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018).
Upon hearing of his being given directing duties for Universal’s “Wicked,” Chu got on social media to share the news and his excitement. He also admits to being a fan of the source musical, having actually attended its 2003 performances in San Francisco during the production’s workshop tryout. As he writes on Twitter, the idea that he is now being given the reins to interpret the stage musical as a musical film is, says he, “Like I’ve been invited to Oz by the Wizard himself.”
“Wicked” tells the story of the rise of Elphaba, from her start as a university student, her unlikely friendship with academic rival Galinda/Glinda, her dream of working for the Wizard of Oz being shattered by her disillusionment at rising social issues at Oz, to becoming the Wicked Witch rebelling against the Wizard’s authority until Dorothy arrives and unwittingly defeats her. At present, Universal has not yet made any casting for characters in the movie, which will bring in the musical’s original composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman, as part of the production crew.
Chu is also director for the Warner Bros. musical film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pre-Hamilton musical “In the Heights,” premiering in June. He is also being considered for another Warner project, a biopic of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda and his amazing journey to becoming vocalist of the rock band Journey.
Image from NBC News