Universal Pictures has been working on a feature film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical "Wicked" since 2004. At various points in time, people like J.J. Abrams, James Mangold, Ryan Murphy, and Rob Marshall were linked to the movie, but award-winning director Stephen Daldry of "Billy Elliot" and "The Crown" fame ended up in the director's chair in 2012. However, with plenty of false starts over the past 18 years, the filmmaker exited the Emerald City in 2020 over schedule conflicts. Finally, the ball officially got rolling on the "Wizard of Oz" reimagining in 2021 when "Crazy Rich Asians" and "In the Heights" director Jon M. Chu boarded the project.

Now, as the cast begins to take shape and prepares to ship off to dear old Shiz, let's take a look at everything we know so far about the highly anticipated movie musical about the gravity-defying witches of Oz.

When And Where To Watch Wicked

While the long-gestating "Wicked" movie has mainly been discussed as a single epic installment, Chu announced in April 2022 that the story would be split into two parts. In a statement on Twitter, he revealed that "as [they] tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years."

Legendary songwriter Stephen Schwartz, who composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the stage musical, expanded on the decision by saying that it would be extremely difficult to keep going after the show-stopping number "Defying Gravity." In the June 2022 installment of his fan newsletter, he said, "That song is written specifically to bring a curtain down, and whatever scene to follow it without a break just seemed hugely anti-climactic."

With the new direction in place that will hopefully preserve the integrity of the story, the beginning of "Wicked" is set to premiere in theaters on December 25, 2024. Then, scheduled for the same day a year later, the conclusion of Galinda and Elphaba's tale will debut in theaters on December 25, 2025.

What Wicked Will Be About

You may know the story of "The Wizard of Oz" thanks to L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel or the 1939 MGM movie starring Judy Garland. However, the world of "Wicked" isn't exactly your grandparents' Yellow Brick Road. The two upcoming films will follow the same plot as the 2003 blockbuster musical by Stephen Schwartz, with a book by Winnie Holzman, which itself is based on the 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire.

This prequel/reimagining tells the story of unlikely friends named Elphaba and Galinda as they dance through life together at university and into adulthood with their opposing personalities, viewpoints, and reception to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As they learn more about how their world works and its corrupt government, the audience discovers how these women grow to become the iconic characters known as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, respectively.

If the films are laid out in the same way that the play acts break down, then the first movie will reveal the untold story of Elphaba's origins that includes her complicated family life, her introduction to magic, and her relationship with a prince named Fiyero (who Glinda also has feelings for). Meanwhile, Elphaba also discovers a conspiracy that seeks to silence the animals of Oz. As for the second movie, we'll learn the origins of classic characters like the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, who all have connections to Elphaba and Glinda, as well as how the power of friendship has changed these two witches for good. Essentially, it fills in the bits of Oz that Dorothy Gale doesn't get to see during her quick trip away from Kansas.

What We Know About The Cast Of Wicked

With principal photography beginning in November 2022 in the new Sky Studios in Elstree, England, casting news has finally begun to emerge for "Wicked." Stepping into the coveted leading roles originated by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth will be Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo as the green-skinned Elphaba and acclaimed singer and former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande has been cast as the popular, bubbly Galinda.

The duo are joined by an incredible roster of talent, starting with Jeff Goldblum as a sentimental man a.k.a. the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, breakout "Bridgerton" star Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero, and previous Chu collaborator Michelle Yeoh as Shiz University headmistress Madame Morrible. Plus, Ethan Slater from "SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical" on Broadway has been cast as the lovesick Munchkin Boq.

According to the latest report from Variety, the latest crop of casting includes "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bowen Yang and "Lockwood & Co" star Bronwyn James as Shiz students Pfannee and ShenShen, "The Greatest Showman" standout Keala Settle as Miss Coddle, and Marissa Bode in her feature film debut as Elphaba's sister Nessarose. Also rounding out the cast will be Aaron Teoh as Avaric and Colin Michael Carmichael as Professor Nikidik.

When it comes to main cast members, the biggest question mark remaining is who will play Dr. Dillamond, a goat that serves as the only animal professor at Shiz that faces discrimination. Aside from that role, there's a very good chance that the production makes a big deal about Dorothy's casting as well. In both cases, we'll likely get answers very soon as production continues to roll on.

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The post Wicked: Everything We Know About Jon M. Chu's Two-Film Musical Adaptation appeared first on /Film.