Director Sam Raimi’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is the ultra clever origin story of a few of cinema’s most beloved characters from the 1939 classic film THE WIZARD OF OZ. Inspired by author L. Frank Baum’s fourteen novels set in the Land of Oz, the Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire penned film tells the story of Oscar “Oz” Diggs as he finds himself in a curious predicament in a far off land. There he meets a slew of colorful characters such as the evil Evanora (Rachel Weisz), the trusting Theodora (Mila Kunis), Glinda the good (Michelle Williams), the charming China Girl (Joey King), and the faithful Finley (Zach Braff).
Since we had so much at the press conference (held at Pasadena’s gorgeous Langham Hotel) for the film that’s about finding yourself in strange circumstances, we want to share with you the most fascinating tidbits the stars, director and producer shared with all of us journalists.
10. James Franco and Mila Kunis read L. Frank Baum’s books. Says Kunis, “The first full length book that I read when I was nine years old in English was Return to Oz.” Franco waxes nostalgic saying, “This is the day before Harry Potter so these were basically my Harry Potter series and I read all of them on my own. They were some of the first books I read on my own and I loved it.”
9. One of the biggest misconceptions about the film is that it’s purely CG-driven. Producer Joe Roth explains, “We built seven complete sets. Sam wanted both the tactile version and the CG version. You could come to those stages in Detroit and think there wasn’t going to be any CG in the film at all.”
8. Michelle Williams found Glinda’s voice not from the original film, but from other films from the time. She says, “What I saw on the page was very different from the original film. I saw somebody who had the kind of spunk and vigor of a ‘30s, ‘40s screwball romantic comedy heroine. We wanted to make a Glinda that was a little bit more human.”
7. Astute viewers will note there’s mention of a “John Gale” in the film, perhaps alluding to the story of what’s to come in Dorothy’s journey. Raimi explains, “That’s David Lindsay-Abaire’s tricky mind suggesting something like that. I didn’t want to bring that up because it would be confusing, but that’s what he was subtly implying, that perhaps Annie went off and married John Gale and their daughter was Dorothy, and maybe Annie grew up to become Aunty Em.”
6. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz contributed to their costume design. The film’s breathtaking costume design by Gary Jones and Michael Kutsche is an integral part of the film, complementing aspects of the witches character traits. Williams says, “we spent a lot of time working on them, to the point where I think we even pushed shooting for a day because I was still trying to get comfortable in the costume. I would spend a lot of time in the wardrobe department talking about the feel and the flow.” Weisz loves her feather epauletted dresses and says her input was ever-so-slight. “My feather collar would go up and down according to my hairdos. So I was adjusting my collar.”
5. They used a real China Girl puppet on-set and Sam Raimi gave it direction. Franco says, “There was a great puppeteer who would manipulate [a China Doll puppet]. He was so good, he was not only good at manipulating the doll, he would also have an earpiece so he could hear Joey’s performance and he would make the doll behave in a way that matched Joey’s performance. He was so effective that Sam started giving his directions to the doll. He would just talk directly to the doll, like she was her own being.”
4. James Franco studied with master magician Lance Burton. He says, “I think I can still do the tricks and Lance did let me in on some of the secrets of the trade that I will not reveal. It’s hard for me to do the tricks without the best magician’s assistant in the world, so I can’t really do a lot of the things at parties. If the people at the Magic Castle want to invite me as a member, I’d be happy to join.”
3. Mila Kunis is not afraid of heights. She says, “I’ve jumped out of planes before. So I was like, ‘this can’t be worse,’ and it’s not. I think it’s really bad if you so happen to have fear of heights. I do not so I’m okay with that part, and you’re, what, 30, 35 feet in the air? You’re strung up on multiple wires. Should anything happen, there’s an emergency brake and there are many elements that go into play that you really aren’t even given the opportunity to be nervous.”
2. There are similarities between OZ and ARMY OF DARKNESS – there’s even a Bruce Campbell face slap in OZ. Raimi says, “It’s always good to hit Bruce when you can.” Acknowledging there are further similarities, he says, “…but they’re distant. He eventually become a leader of those people, so that much is similar with James’s character. He comes from another place and time, another reality and eventually comes to lead those people. It’s very similar.”
1. Pop culture enthusiasts take note: Like its classic predecessor, Sam Raimi confirms his film syncs with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon.” But, he advises, “You’ve got to wait about four seconds for the needle drop and then it works perfectly.”
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL opens on March 8.