"I wasn't able to commit to the time this role will require," the star says about leaving the project

By Stephen M. Silverman
December 24, 2013 07:35 AM
Jerritt Clark/Getty

The ultimate disappearing act?

Producers of an eagerly anticipated 2014 Broadway musical about escape artist supreme Harry Houdini confirmed Monday that the show has lost its star, the inestimable Hugh Jackman.

“I have greatly enjoyed the collaborative process on Houdini,” Jackman said in a statement. “Ultimately, though, I wasn’t able to commit to the time this role will require.”

Added PEOPLE’s 2008 Sexist Man Alive, whose name on a Times Square marquee (even when he isn’t playing Wolverine) all but guarantees a sell-out, “I have tremendous respect and admiration for the creative team and I wish everyone the best. I know they’re well on their way to making something extraordinary.”

The Tony winner, 45, was first announced to headline the project in January 2012. At the time, the book writer was to be Oscar and Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing, The Newsroom), with Pippin and Wicked composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz doing the score.

Since then, Sorkin has withdrawn from the project, citing a scheduling conflict, with Venus in Fur playwright David Ives taking over the book. Hairspray and The Full Monty director Jack O’Brien is also attached.

Even with the loss of the 6’2″ Australian star – Houdini (born Erik Weisz in Budapest) was 5’6″ – the show will go on, says lead producer Scott Sanders.

“Hugh has been terrific to have on this part of the journey,” Sanders said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward with our remarkable creative team, as they craft this ambitious new musical.”