Universal’s long-gestating adaptation of the hit musical Wicked has just lost its director, as Stephen Daldry has been forced to bow out due to complications stemming from the pandemic, Collider has confirmed.
Deadline broke the news, reporting Daldry’s exit as amicable, and simply the end result of unfortunate circumstance. Apparently, he’d hoped to shoot the film in London, but due to a shortage of stage space, that won’t be possible given Universal’s timetable. Waiting for stage space to free up would’ve forced the studio to delay the project, and Universal is reportedly eager to start production before the end of next year.
Daldry is a three-time Oscar nominee who has been attached to direct the Wicked movie for several years now, so I’m not sure how Universal wanted to move faster than he was comfortable moving, but again, given the fragile state of the world during this pandemic, his exit is certainly understandable.
Universal executives and producer Marc Platt are pounding the pavement right now looking for a new director, and Deadline reminds readers that J.J. Abrams, James Mangold, Ryan Murphy and Rob Marshall were among the filmmakers who seemed interested in Wicked back in 2010, when a feature was first put into development. The trade also notes that Steven Spielberg is currently looking for his next directing vehicle after wrapping West Side Story, but I personally have a hard time believing he’d direct two musicals in a row.
Songwriter Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman teamed on the script for Wicked, which is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz that focuses on the early relationship between the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. Based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical went on to become one of the highest-grossing Broadway shows of all time.
Wicked actually started out as a feature film before Universal and Platt changed their tune and decided to take it to the stage first. The musical has performed so well for Universal’s theater division over the years that the studio’s feature team has been patient in developing the project, not wanting to rush it and risk disrupting a cash cow. The feature adaptation is almost certain to be a hit, so long as it doesn’t become the next Cats. Speaking of which, we hear Tom Hooper is available!