Chu also tells Collider how working on ‘In the Heights’ prepared him for his next big-screen musical.
As a director, Jon M. Chu is no stranger to spectacle, and a good number of his movies have always featured a lot of powerful musical and dance elements. From two Step Up movies to live concert films such as Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never to the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Tony-winning Broadway play In the Heights, there’s no doubt he’s the perfect person to helm yet another movie musical: Wicked.
Chu was announced as the new director on the project back in February, and when Collider caught up with him to talk about In the Heights‘ upcoming release, we couldn’t resist asking him about how things are proceeding on the big-screen Wicked adaptation. The musical, based on the book by Gregory Maguire titled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, serves as a prequel to the events of The Wizard of Oz, in which the green-skinned Elphaba (played by Idina Menzel in the original Broadway production) and Galinda, who later changes her name to Glinda the Good Witch (Kristin Chenoweth), strike up an unlikely friendship that eventually turns into a rivalry and ultimately, a parting of the ways over differences too great to surmount.
So how did working on In the Heights prepare Chu to tackle the story of Elphaba?
“We’re in the beginning stages of Wicked. However, I think the philosophy of what musicals mean to me personally now that I have actually made a movie musical… you know, there’s theory about what movie musicals mean to me as being a watcher of movie musicals. Now that I’ve gone through it, what really has hit me is the power of music and why musicals exist in the first place when words aren’t sufficient. Nowadays, words really aren’t sufficient for what we’re going through. So for me, it’s finding the truth of each song and working our way inside out of why that exists.”
At the core of the story of Wicked, however, is the friendship — and ultimate falling out — between two women, Elphaba and Glinda, and if you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, that’s only half the story. For Chu, as a storyteller, taking the audience on the highs and lows of that relationship’s journey is the most important part of his plans for this adaptation, as he expanded:
“Yes, of course, we’re going to have Oz, and you’re going to be in this crazy world, and you’re going to revisit this innocent place and you’re going to see that it’s not as innocent as it had been in the past. But you’re also going to see that the relationship between these two women [Elphaba and Glinda] is more real than ever, that we’re going to be that close to them. We’re going to root for them to try to get into that school or when one crosses the other. You’re going to hate the other one at some point. You’re going to want them to make up at another point, and you’re going to feel when they separate. That’s the most important thing. The spectacle? That’s the easy part, we can hire a lot of people to do that. It’s those little moments… that’s what’s going to make that.”
But when asked whether production would begin this year, Chu remained tight-lipped: “I can’t answer that.”
In the Heights will be available in theaters and on HBO Max on June 11. Check back with Collider for more of our interview with Chu.
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