The lions and tigers and bears (and witches) of The Wizard of Oz have inspired endless spinoffs and adaptations — most famously, Gregory Maguire’s prequel novel Wicked, which Stephen Schwartz adapted into a beloved musical in 2003. Now, rich source material in mind, director Jon M. Chu has announced his upcoming film adaptation of the story, starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, will be split into two parts.
“As we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of WICKED into a single film without doing some real damage to it,” Chu explained in a statement. “As we 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. So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one WICKED movie but TWO!!!!”
Given that Wicked’s Broadway show manages to fit the plot of the novel into two hours and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission (per its official site), cynics could paint Chu’s decision to make two films as a simple cash grab. Despite this, the director promised to bring “even more depth and surprise to the journeys of these beloved characters” with the extra space.
With Schwartz and original Wicked scriptwriter Winnie Holzman on board for the project, here’s hoping Grande delivers an especially inspired Glinda the Good Witch. The singer got her start on Broadway, after all, portraying Charlotte in the musical 13. Meanwhile, Erivo, who plays Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, won a Tony and a Grammy Award for her portrayal of Celie Harris Johnson in The Color Purple.
Check out Chu’s full statement below. The Wicked films are set to hit theaters on successive Christmases, with the first installment arriving in 2024.
Special #Wicked Movie Announcement… ??????sent from my OzPhone: pic.twitter.com/4qPpvVD4rR— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) April 26, 2022