Hot off the upcoming adaptation of In the Heights, Jon M. Chu is set to bring another hit musical to the big screen, as he has signed on to direct the Wicked movie for Universal, Collider has confirmed.
Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) was previously attached to direct, but he exited the project last fall due to circumstances stemming from the pandemic. Essentially, Daldry wanted to stay close to home and shoot in London, but stage space there was in short supply and Universal wanted to get moving, seeing as how the studio has been developing the Wicked movie for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, Chu recently exited the Willow series on Disney+ as COVID-related delays hampered his involvement. With his schedule newly open, Deadline reports that the timing simply worked out for Chu and for Universal, as the studio was in the middle of its search.
So what does this all mean, really? Well, I think you can interpret Chu‘s hiring as a sign of confidence in his In the Heights movie, which is expected to debut in theaters and on HBO Max later this year, though Chu and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda expressed disappointment regarding that decision and the way it was communicated. The duo had several offers on the table for In the Heights and chose to make it at Warner Bros. due to the studio’s commitment to the theatrical experience.
Based on Gregory Maguire‘s bestselling 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. The story serves as 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. Wicked composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman teamed on the script for the movie, which will be produced by Marc Platt (La La Land), and overseen by Universal executives Erik Baiers and Lexi Barta.
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, since the feature adaptation is almost certain to be a hit. Meanwhile, speaking of cash cows that have been disrupted, it’s unclear what this means for Chu‘s long-planned sequels to Crazy Rich Asians. Perhaps those movies will be shot back-to-back after the pandemic, when it will be easier to shoot crowd scenes with hundreds of extras.