Thank goodness: The Wicked movie on its way. Nearly a decade after plans to adapt the smash-hit musical were announced, two superstar leads were attached to the project: Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande.
Wicked, the spectacular Wizard of Oz prequel from Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, first hit the stage in 2003 and went on to win three Tony Awards and become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. It’s no question that bringing the production to the screen will be a massive undertaking, but it’s also a highly anticipated one with a passionate built-in fanbase. In the Heights director Jon M. Chu took on the grand feat.
Full details on the film are still forthcoming, but Grande fans are already prepared to dust off their brooms and zip to theaters. Here’s what we know so far.
What is Wicked about?
Based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling book of the same name, Wicked tells the story of Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West before they became the legendary figures in The Wizard of Oz. According to this telling, the two met (and clashed) as roommates at Shiz University, where they were then known as Galinda and Elphaba. But they formed an unlikely friendship and an unbreakable bond before pursuing separate paths that led to their famous monikers. The sweeping fantasy includes origin stories for other familiar Oz characters too.
When is it coming out?
So here’s the thing: there’ll be two Wicked films, each premiering on “successive Christmas holidays beginning December 2024,” director Jon M. Chu announced. (More on that below.) The first instalment arrives on November 27, 2024. The second doesn’t have a date yet.
Talks of Universal making the movie musical first bubbled up in 2012. In 2016, the studio announced that the film would hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2019, but after production delays, another musical film, Cats, ended up debuting on that date instead. Now, however, we finally have dates to which we can look forward.
Is there a trailer?
Yes! The first trailer dropped during the Super Bowl and gives a magical first look at the movie musical. Erivo and Grande make appearances as Elphaba and Glinda, and the audio includes snippets of the famous songs, including “Defying Gravity” (and that iconic riff!).
Wait, there’s a sequel?
Yes! Instead of cutting down on songs and characters, Wicked will take one story and break it into two parts, in the style of franchises like Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Dune. Chu first announced the news in April 2022.
“Here’s what happened: 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,” he shared on Instagram. “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!!!! With more space, we can tell the story of WICKED as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprises to the journeys of these beloved characters.”
Who’s in the cast?
Cynthia Erivo will star as Elphaba, a role originated by Idina Menzel on Broadway, while Ariana Grande will star opposite her as Glinda, originated by Kristin Chenoweth.
A vocal powerhouse, Erivo has won a Tony, Grammy, and daytime Emmy for her role as Celie in the revival of The Color Purple, per Variety. She’s also appeared in films like Harriet (which earned her an Oscar nomination) and Widows, and portrayed Aretha Franklin in the TV show Genius.
Grande, an international pop star, has roots on the stage: She made her start in the 2008 Broadway musical 13 from composer Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade). Her other acting roles include Cat Valentine on Victorious in the early 2010s, which launched her into Nickelodeon stardom, Chanel in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. A longtime theater lover, Grande performed “The Wizard and I” from Wicked during an NBC live special in 2018.
Jeff Goldblum will play The Wizard, and Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh will play Madame Morrible, a headmistress at Shiz University, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. The role of love interest Fiyero went to Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey, and Chu says his casting is “perfect.”
Saturday Night Live‘s Bowen Yang will play Pfannee and Bronwyn James (The Dig) will play ShenShen, classmates at Shiz, according to Deadline. The Greatest Showman‘s Keala Settle will play Miss Coddle, Aaron Teoh will play Shiz student Avaric, and Colin Michael Carmichael will play professor Nikidik.
As for who’s working behind the scenes. Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights filmmaker Jon M. Chu will direct, which was announced in February 2021 after Billy Elliott helmer Stephen Daldry dropped out in October 2020. Marc Platt (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land) will produce the Universal film.
Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book for the Broadway musical, and Stephen Schwartz, who composed the songs, are also working on the screenplay together, Variety reports.
Has filming started yet?
Production began in June 2022 in the U.K., per The Hollywood Reporter, on sound stages in the newly built Sky Studios in Elstree, England. On April 3, 2023, Grande shared that the cast and crew were halfway through filming.
“halfway,” she wrote. “savoring every millisecond left with my Galinda (although she’ll be with me irrevocably, forever). she shows me so many new things every day.” Read the full post below.
On April 16, both Grande and Erivo shared first looks of their characters on Instagram. In Grande’s she’s walking up a dark staircase in an enormous pink princess gown.
In Erivo’s image, she’s in full Wicked Witch attire, including a hat and broom with the swirling sky visible out the window behind her.
Production came to a halt, however, in July 2023 due to the writers and actors strike. Chu revealed in a tweet that the work is not done yet, but “Just paused until the strike is over and we can finish the last pieces of the movie. We were only a few days away from being done so we were SO close.” He noted that the release date will remain the same. Read his full statement below:
All good and bad things come to an end, and that included the strike and filming. On Thursday, January 25, 2024, both Erivo and Grande shared pictures to announce the end of their time on set as the movie wrapped shooting.
They each posted a photo of their shadows cast against the wall that clearly look like their iconic characters. In Grande’s caption, she wrote, “like a handprint on my heart,” and tagged Erivo and Chu in the image
Erivo’s picture showed Elphaba on a broom with her well-known witch hat.
She had a bit more to say, writing, “I’ve been trying to think of what I’d say when this day finally came, and I’m failing miserably, because honestly there aren’t enough words to fully express what this experience has meant to me, so I’ll leave you with this.”
She continued, “The universe will take things away to make space for the grand gifts it has waiting for us. THIS moment, this film, these people, this cast, this crew, this director, my Glinda, were the Grandest gift I could ever have asked for, and I am eternally grateful for the chance to bring you This Elphie. I hope when you meet her, you’ll love her as much and as fiercely as I do. And with that I say, that’s a wrap for me, Elphie out!!”
What has the original Wicked cast said about the film?
Broadway favorite Kristin Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda in 2003, and she had the perfect throwback pic to celebrate Ariana Grande taking the reins. On Instagram, Chenoweth posted a few pics, the first of which was a screenshoot of a tweet from Grande in December of 2011, in which Grande wrote, “Loved seeing Wicked again…amazing production! Made me realize again how badly I want 2 play Glinda at some point in my life! #DreamRole.”
The next slide was an adorable black and white photo of Chenoweth posing with a very young Grande.
In the caption, Chenoweth wrote, “I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this proud. From the very first day I met you (swipe to see!!), you were destined for this role. Congratulations @arianagrande! The best Glinda you will be with @cynthiaerivo by your side I love you!!”
Grande responded in the comments, writing, “words don’t suffice. i love you more than i can say, i always have and always will. and her. thank you for holding my hand.”
Fellow Broadway superstar Idina Menzel also celebrated the news. Per E! News, she wrote on Instagram after the announcement: “Congrats to two amazing women. May it change your lives for the better forever and ever as it has for us. So much love. @cynthiaerivo @arianagrande.”