New Line Cinemas is working on a new adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Deadline reports that the studio has tapped Nicole Kassell (who directed several notable episodes of HBO’s Watchmen) to helm the film.
According to Deadline, New Line is looking to “re-imagine” the original book, and it conducted an extensive search for a director to take on the project. “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.”
In a statement, Kassell says that she’s “exhilarated and humbled” at the opportunity, and notes that she’ll be re-imagining the story: “The opportunity to examine the original themes — the quest for courage, love, wisdom and home — feels more timely and urgent than ever.”
Baum wrote the first novel in 1900, and followed it up with thirteen additional books that explored other parts of Oz and introduced a number of new characters. Memorably, the book was the basis of the 1939 film starring Judy Garland (pictured above), but that film was just the tip of the iceberg—the first film adaptation came in 1910, and there’s been dozens of other film and television adaptations of the novels over the years. Deadline points out that because New Line is part of Warner Bros., Kassell will be able to draw on elements that defined the 1939 film, like Dorothy’s Ruby slippers.
What seems likely here is that the studio is positioning the project as a potential new franchise—
should this initial film succeed, there would be plenty of additional material for Kassell or another filmmaker to mine for future films or streaming shows. Now that it’s launched HBO Max, we’ve seen that Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T have been working to build up its library of content, ordering a ton of spinoff shows for its upcoming films, like The Batman, Dune, Suicide Squad, and more. A return to Oz would be another major, recognizable title to add to that growing catalog.