Will J.J. Abrams or Ryan Murphy really direct ‘Wicked’?

07.12.10 8 years ago 17 Comments

One property that Universal Pictures has been dying to get off the ground is a big screen adaptation of the hit musical “Wicked.” However, with Broadway and touring grosses for the “Oz”-inspired musical still raking it in, producer Marc Platt has resisted all charms from Uni execs to give the green light over concerns a movie version could hurt the stage runs.  Now, he may have little choice in the matter.  With Disney actively developing “The Great and Powerful Oz” with Sam Raimi, Universal (an investor in the musical) and Platt will have to move forward quickly if they want to avoid being the second “Oz” film in theaters over the next few years.

Originally reported by Deadline.com, but confirmed by HitFix, there are four directors who have spoken to Platt and show co-creators Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz about a movie incarnation.  The expected contenders are “Glee” Executive Producer Ryan Murphy and “Chicago” director Rob Marshall.  The unexpected candidates are none other than J.J. Abrams and “Walk the Line’s” James Mangold.  All four have their pluses and minuses, but hardly the fantastical eye you’d expect for source material such as “Wicked.” More intriguing is that HitFix has learned the “Wicked” trio is looking for a filmmaker who has a vision to help bring the musical to the screen.  For all its success, “Wicked” is known for peaking halfway through with the number “Defying Gravity” and then following with a much weaker second act (although that’s not entirely uncommon with many musicals).  Are these four gentleman up to the task?

Here’s a rundown of each candidate and their chances.

Ryan Murphy

Known for: “Glee,” “Nip/Tuck”
Pluses: Just happens to be the creator of a little show called “Glee.”  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?  Murphy knows the pulse of the young female demo.  That could be a big advantage in turning “Wicked” into a hit.
Minuses:  Great in concept, but hasn’t proved it on the silver screen.  His first film, “Running with Scissors,” was a severe disappointment and there is no word on how his Julia Roberts romantic dramedy “Eat, Pray, Love” has turned out.  The critical reception on “Love” may seal his chances.

Rob Marshall
Known for: “Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Nine”
Pluses: Musicals are his bread and butter.  If the script is good, he can create an intriguing number…sometimes.
Minuses:  You know what you’re getting with Marshall.  It will look very theatrical no matter what the context and old school Hollywood.  If that’s the direction Platt wants, great.  On the other hand, word is “Nine” may have soured their working relationship (duh).

J.J. Abrams
Known for: “Alias,” “Lost,” “Mission Impossible III,” “Star Trek”
Pluses: Actually has a music background having composed music for some of his TV shows.  Abrams visual eye improved dramatically with “Star Trek” and he might bring a fresh perspective to a movie musical.
Minuses: He’s a little booked…or is he?  Abrams is currently helming “Super 8” for next summer and then is expected to segue to a “Trek” sequel. Is it possible he drops the former for a chance to do “Wicked”?

James Mangold
Known for: “Girl, Interrupted,” “Copland,” “Walk the Line,” “Knight and Day”
Pluses: Classy, solid filmmaker with a good sense of story. If Platt and Universal decide to move forward as quickly as possible, he’s the most available.
Minuses: Besides some stage performances in “Line” he has no movie musical experience.  More disconcerting, his work is hardly visually arresting or memorable.

Not surprisingly, there are other candidates in the wings who are interested in directing “Wicked” (some more suitable than these four), but timing is a major issue as competing projects are hindering their involvement.  Some of the directors you’d expect Universal and Platt to also consider include Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”), Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) and Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).  This pundit would also suggest Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”), George Miller (“Happy Feet”), Guillermo Del Toro (he’s available and has a Uni deal by the way) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie”), but those are, granted, very unconventional choices. 

How soon “Wicked” can get into production remains to be seen.  Does Universal and Platt wait for an Abrams or for Murphy to find free time in his schedule?  Or, does the pressure from Raimi’s “Oz” force them to pick the best filmmaker “available”?  Curiouser and curiouser.

Who do you think should direct a movie version of “Wicked”?  Share your thoughts below.

For the latest entertainment commentary and breaking news year round, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory .

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