EXCLUSIVE: Watchmen director Nicole Kassell has been set to direct New Line’s feature adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s beloved American children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Temple Hill partners Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing with Marc Platt. Isaac Klausner will be executive producer.
Kassell won a DGA Award for dramatic series and an Emmy as executive producer of HBO’s critically praised smash Watchmen adaptation. She was a visual architect of the limited series, directing three of its nine episodes, including the pilot. This is a major priority project for the studio and a big star-making opportunity for Kassell.
Her selection follows an extensive director search by New Line to find a visionary filmmaker to re-imagine The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They liked what they saw in how Kassell acted as a meticulous world-builder in overseeing every step of the Watchmen production, setting the show’s striking visual tone with no detail overlooked and weaving visual cues from the panels of the comic into the series as delicate Easter eggs for fans. Kassell also demonstrated the ability to adapt challenging material, breathing new life into DC’s revered and notoriously difficult-to-adapt graphic novel.
The project keeps Kassell in the WarnerMedia fold, after Watchmen and eps of the HBO series Westworld, The Leftovers, and Vinyl. Kassell also directed the pilot for TNT’s Claws and next directs the HBO pilot The Baby. She also has the film Silver Seas for Participant Media.
Kassell’s feature debut came on The Woodsman, which premiered in competition at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and was distributed by Newmarket Films. It received a CACAE (Art House award) at Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival and other fest awards and got her a nomination for the Spirit Awards for Best First Feature.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and inspired 13 additional Oz books. It long has been a Hollywood fixation — the book is in the public domain — and has been the inspiration of numerous project since the classic 1939 musical film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. That film is in the Warner Bros library, meaning the fresh take on Baum children’s novel can draw on elements like the ruby slippers, something rival projects cannot do. Previous screenplay drafts were written by Darren Lemke and the duo of Neil Widener and Gavin James.
“I am incredibly honored to join Temple Hill and New Line in bringing this beloved classic to the screen,” Kassell said. “While the 1939 musical is part of my DNA, I am exhilarated and humbled by the responsibility of re-imagining such a legendary tale. The opportunity to examine the original themes — the quest for courage, love, wisdom and home — feels more timely and urgent than ever. These are profoundly iconic shoes to fill, and I am eager to dance alongside these heroes of my childhood as we pave a newly minted yellow brick road.”
Kassell is repped by WME, Management 360 and Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.