EXCLUSIVE: While Disney is at Comic-Con today to unveil some details on its Sam Raimi-directed Oz: The Great And Powerful, Universal is finally moving forward with its screen adaptation of the cash cow musical Wicked. I’m told that the studio is courting Stephen Daldry to direct the film, and I’m optimistic that he’ll make a deal. At the same time, Jon Favreau is in negotiations to direct Jersey Boys. Both Wicked and Jersey Boys are among the top-grossing Broadway musicals on a weekly basis.
Favreau has been the rumored front runner for some time to helm Jersey Boys, but Daldry is a surprise. Universal and the musical’s producer Marc Platt have been meeting with helmers since last year, as this was one of the most coveted gigs to come along in a long time. Wicked, a Wizard of Oz prequel, is based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West and focuses on the early relationship between Glinda the Good and Elphaba, a green-skinned beauty before she ended up flying on a broomstick. Wicked began as a movie development project with Platt and Universal, before they changed course and took it to the stage first. It was an immediate sensation, quickly recouping its $14 million capitalization in 2004 and becoming one of the biggest-grossing tuners of all time, with the Broadway show and eight touring companies. The Broadway musical routinely tops the weekly gross charts — $1.4 million per week is average, but the musical has broken the $2 million mark more than once. The musical shows no signs of winding down and its global following has Universal feeling this could be another Mamma Mia!, which became one of the studio’s highest-grossing global films ever.
Daldry most recently helmed Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, and before that The Reader and The Hours. He won a Tony for directing An Inspector Calls.
Favreau, meanwhile, revisits that period male bonding territory that marked his early career with Swingers. John Logan has written the latest draft of the script for Jersey Boys: The Story Of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons after book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the script. That project has been a high priority since it was acquired by GK Films’ Graham King and Tim Headington, who are producing with Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio serving as executive producers. It is anticipated that the project will be produced in partnership with Columbia Pictures, with Columbia handling worldwide distribution of the project except for some international territories that GK may potentially sell. GK spent millions to get the property, which was chased by every studio.
Favreau helmed two Iron Man films before helming Cowboys & Aliens. He’s also aligned to The Magic Kingdom, a potential family tentpole for Disney.
The play tells the story of how Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi went from blue-collar wrong side of the track origins to become an American pop sensation, selling 175 million records worldwide before they were 30 years old. The play has done over $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales since its 2005 Broadway opening, when it was directed by Des McAnuff and produced by Dodger Theatricals. It won four Tonys, including Best Musical and the cast album won the Grammy. When it transplanted to London, Jersey Boys won the 2009 Olivier Award for Best Musical.