After the billion-dollar-making Alice In Wonderland, Disney is reworking another classic kids’ tale for the 3D treatment. Oz: The Great And Powerful is a prequel to the 1939 Judy Garland-starrer that imagines the origins of the Wizard of Oz. “I get to play all these sides of American heroes,” says James Franco in the titular role; “he’s part cowboy, part weird magician, part conman, and a romantic man so I really got to play everything from classic American cinema.”
Oz… will be tipping its witch’s hat to the original by beginning in monochrome and transitioning into colour to mark their entrance into the Land of Oz. “There’s a tendency in these huge movies to make the action bigger, the explosions bigger and make the violence more intense,” Franco continues, “but in this world you don’t have to do that. It’s a movie for everyone.”
The wizard’s real name is Oscar Diggs, a circus magician with “dubious ethics” who finds himself hurled from Kansas to Oz. There, Diggs is dragged into a war between three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who doubt his supposed powers. Also joining the cast is Zach Braff (Scrubs), playing the circus assistant and voicing winged monkey Finley, who accompanies the wizard on his journey.
The movie not only reveals the origin story of the Wizard, but how the Wicked Witch of the West (Theodora) and the Good Witch Glinda became sworn enemies too. Actress Mila Kunis (Black Swan) is understandably anxious about taking on the role made legendary by Margaret Hamilton, “It was very nerve-wracking for me because I think the character became such an icon for what she was that I would never want to take it and copy it because I don’t think anyone could do that,” says Kunis. “So you try to take a character and reinterpret it and give a reason as to why they became who they became. Once you have that honesty behind it the character takes on its own vision.”
Realising the vision is director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man trilogy), who Kunis has enjoyed working with so much that she’s on board if a sequel happens. “Sam (Raimi) is brilliant,” she says, “I adore him so much and I would love to go at it one more time with him.”
Oz: The Great And Powerful is released in cinemas March 8th, 2013.