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'Wicked' back on track with Jon M. Chu directing long-developing film of Broadway hit

By Don Kaye

After losing one director, the long-developing film version of the Broadway smash Wicked has gained a new one — who himself was looking for a project after departing the reboot of Willow.

Deadline reports that director Jon M. Chu has taken over the directorial reins on Wicked, which will be adapted from the long-running stage musical that's currently in its 17th year on the Great White Way. Based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire, Wicked tells the story of two friends, Galinda and Elphaba, who eventually become known as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West in a land known as Oz.

Director Stephen Daldry dropped out of the project last October, reportedly due to differences with the studio, Universal Pictures. (Disclaimer: SYFY Wire is owned by Universal parent company NBCUniversal.)

Chu, meanwhile, was set to direct the pilot for the Disney+ reboot of Willow, but dropped off that project last month, citing scheduling conflicts, COVID-related production delays and the arrival of a new baby. The show, a sequel to the 1988 fantasy film, will feature the return of original star Warwick Davis. A new director for the pilot has yet to be named.

Chu is best known for directing Crazy Rich Asians and, to genre fans, for helming G.I. Joe: Retaliation. There's no word yet on a cast for Wicked, although Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Galinda respectively on Broadway.

The triple Tony Award-winning Wicked has been adapted for the screen by the musical's book writer Winnie Holzman and composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz. The stage show has been seen by more than 60 million people around the world, with a film version first announced in 2004 and Daldry on board to direct since 2012. A new release date and start of production for the film has yet to be announced, although several have come and gone already.