Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2) announced on social media yesterday that he would no longer be able to fulfill the position of director and executive producer on Disney+’s upcoming Willow reboot starring Warwick Davis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Willow), via Twitter. Chu explained that COVID-19 lockdowns in the UK will now cause production on the series to interfere with the birth of his third child, via Twitter. “The timing is just not going to work for me and my family,” Chu explained in his announcement on Twitter.
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) January 11, 2021
Though a blow for fans looking forward Chu’s take on the nostalgic fantasy series, this announcement also served to deliver the happy news that the director and his wife are expecting. “Surprise!” Chu exclaimed in a parenthetical, after revealing the exciting news that his third child is due this summer, via Twitter. Chu’s passion for the movie Willow and for his family go hand-in-hand, as the director named his oldest daughter Willow after the 1988 film.
Ok Ive been hiding this for a while now…but…IS THIS REAL LIFE???!!! Do I really get to work with this team on this story????? I mean I literally named my daughter Willow…literally. ‘Willow’ Sequel Series Officially a Go, Jon M. Chu to Direct https://t.co/L8fh0nJhe7 #Willow
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) October 20, 2020
Chu was selected to direct the pilot episode and serve as executive producer on Willow around the time the series was announced in October. Producer Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Cinderella Man) said at the time that “[Chu’s] vision for what this will be is exciting and cool” (Twitter). As the movie captured Chu’s imagination at a young age, the director came to the project with a built-in love for the story that undoubtedly guided his vision.
“Crushed to lose [Chu] who’s enthusiasm has been a north star for us,” Willow writer and producer Jon Kasdan (Solo: A Star Wars Story) spoke to Chu’s vision for the series on Twitter. “Ironically, the qualities we love most about him,” Kasdan continued “are exactly what now prevent him from joining us on this adventure” (Twitter).
Crushed to lose @jonmchu who’s enthusiasm has been a north star for us. Ironically, the qualities we love most about him — his heart, warmth, devotion — are exactly what now prevent him from joining us on this adventure. We admire you, brotha, and we will win this war for you! https://t.co/cNOxulZSgg pic.twitter.com/AXikbRCdIo
— Jon Kasdan (@JonKasdan) January 11, 2021
Though stepping down, Chu assures audiences that he’s still eager for Willow, as a fan who was granted a glance behind-the-curtain. “Like a kid seeing Willow for the first time in the 80s,” Chu said in his Twitter announcement “I will look forward to watching this magical new world unfold as a very enthusiastic fan.”
Variety notes that Willow will occupy a unique position at Disney+, as it’s the first non-Star Wars Lucasfilm project produced since 2015. With ten new Star Wars series announced during Disney’s Investor’s Day, Willow will serve as a nice change-of-pace for those, like Chu, who harbor nostalgia for Lucas’ other creative endeavors.
As Entertainment Weekly points out, Chu has not been a stranger to project disruptions caused by COVID-19 as his film adaptation of the Lin Manuel-Miranda (Hamilton, His Dark Materials) musical In the Heights has seen it’s release shelved indefinitely due to the virus.
As television productions aim for some consistency after the stop-and-start nature of COVID-induced delays, scheduling conflicts that impact the both on and off screen narratives have started to crop-up on sets. Recently, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood) had to make an early departure from NBC musical dramedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist for this exact reason reason.
As for Willow, it’s not yet known who will fill Chu’s directing shoes, but the show’s team includes showrunners Wendy Mercile (Arrow, Desperate Housewives) and the previously mentioned Howard and Kasdan.