Movie of 'Wicked,' early adopter of 'origin story' trend, gets release date

A film version of the hit musical will be released by Universal and the studio has announced the date on which it will hit theaters. The Broadway version of 'Wicked' starred Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.

Joan Marcus/File
'Wicked' starred Idina Menzel (l.) and Kristin Chenoweth (r.) when it first debuted in 2003.

A release date has been set for a film version of the hit musical “Wicked,” which is based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire and was an early example of the recent trend of adapting a well-known story with an angle audiences haven’t heard before. 

A movie version of “Wicked,” which purports to tell the real story of the life of the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” will be released by Universal in December 2019.

The original Broadway version starred Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. The stage show is still on the Great White Way after debuting in 2003. 

December has become a common time to find the newest movie musical at the multiplex, with recent films such as “Into the Woods” (2014), “Les Miserables” (2012), and “Nine” (2009) all having been released at year's end. 

Meanwhile, “Wicked” was an early example of a new take on a classic story, one that attempts to bring in movie- or theatergoers by claiming to be a take on the tale of which viewers are unaware. Debuting in 2003, the Broadway version of “Wicked” was just a couple of years before the 2005 film “Batman Begins” (and the book of "Wicked" was two decades before it), which became one of the most popular origin stories of a superhero, with the movie filling in the blanks about how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

There has even been another attempt to try this strategy with “Wizard of Oz” with the movie “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which came out in 2013 and stars James Franco as the Wizard, depicting his adventures before Dorothy arrives in Oz. 

Disney has been one of the most popular purveyors of this strategy in recent years with their live-action versions of their animated movies. Some of their earliest successes in this arena such as 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” and the 2014 film “Maleficent” told “new” versions of these stories. “Maleficent” in particular did this in a “Wicked” fashion, taking the person who is seen as the villain of the piece and giving them a sympathetic backstory.

Another film that somewhat recasts a villain and his or her motivations will reportedly come from Disney in the future – the studio has announced it will release a movie that tells the story of “101 Dalmations” villain Cruella de Vil.

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