Kenya Barris says the script is ready and his remake of The Wizard of Oz is moving forward.
The You People director and Blackish creator recently sat down for an interview with Variety at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss some of his upcoming projects, including a Richard Pryor biopic, and his new take on The Wizard of Oz.
Barris told the outlet his version of Dorothy lives in the Bottoms, an apartment complex in his hometown of Inglewood, California, instead of in Kansas.
“The original Wizard of Oz took place during the Great Depression and it was about self-reliance and what people were going through,” Barris said.
“I think this is the perfect time to switch the characters and talk about what someone imagines their life could be,” he continued. “It’s ultimately a hero’s journey, someone thinks something’s better than where they’re at, and they go and realize that where they’re at is where they should be. I want people to be proud and happy about where they’re from.”
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Barris announced his plans to write and direct a “modern reimagining” of the film in 2022.
The writer-director offered more details in a January 2023 interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, saying he initially wanted to remake The Wiz, but the studio that owns the rights shut him down.
“Me and Rashida Jones, who’s my sister, we wanted to do The Wiz. You know, her dad did the music for it, and we thought it would be great. We went to [MGM] who owns The Wiz, and I love the people, but they were kind of hedging, and then we realized they were never going to let us do it because they had Wicked coming out, and they had invested so much money in Wicked,” Barris told Fallon.
The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 and is considered one of the most iconic American movies ever made. Based on the 1900 children’s fantasy novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film starred Judy Garland as Dorothy — a teenager who was swept from her Kansas farm by a tornado and landed in the magical Land of Oz with her dog Toto.
The film won two Academy Awards and was a huge hit at the box office, earning $25 million worldwide on a budget of $2.7 million.
Director Sidney Lumet adapted the Broadway version of the story into The Wiz, a 1978 film featuring a Black cast. The movie musical starred Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor.
The film was praised by fans, although it only made $21 million at the box office against a $24 million budget.