James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis on Oz, The Great and Powerful.
The wonderful world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz is back on the big screen for the first time in nearly thirty years this week. Oz The Great and Powerful, a prequel to the original 1939 Wizard of Oz film, tells the story of how the circus performing magician gets transported to Oz and becomes ruler of the land of which he shares his name.
Director Sam Raimi, former enfant terrible famous for the Evil Dead and the Spiderman trilogies, introduces his dazzling interpretation of the much loved world of munchkins, witches and whirlwinds that has been absent from cinemas since Disney’s Return To Oz in 1985. i-D online caught up with Raimi and the cast at the film’s press conference in London to talk about their characters, the influences behind the production and how they brought the world of Oz back to the big screen.
Sam Raimi (Director): At first I was intimidated by this project because there is so much love for the original Wizard Of Oz picture and people don’t want their fondest memories of this great childhood classic sullied. But our story is one of a selfish man who has his heart buried then gets transported to Oz and how, through the love of a good woman, his true heart emerges. I thought: if I could bring that feeling to the fans of the Oz books and the movie, only a wicked old witch wouldn’t want that picture to be made.
James Franco (Oz): I’ve been a fan of the world of Oz since I was a boy. I read the Baum books when I was a kid, so I was excited to be able to step into that world of my childhood imagination. But more importantly it was because the lead character was completely different to Dorothy. He was not innocent, he was a conman. And so the way the audience would be brought into the familiar world of Oz would be completely new and the way that the characters interact with Oz would be fresh.
Michelle Williams (Glinda): My inspiration came from the rehearsals. I wanted to know if I was going to put on a funny voice or wear a big pink dress. Sam made a really good point saying that Glinda, in the original movie, doesn’t go down the yellow brick road because she doesn’t need anything. So he wanted to bring out her more human qualities. The original film was an inspiration and has always been an inspiration but it wasn’t really my leaping off point.
Mila Kunis (Theodora): I didn’t want to emulate or imitate or do anything that would take away from the iconic character that Margaret Hamilton created in the 1939 film, which will always remain iconic. But I was given the gift of a back story, the origin of the character that humanises her in a way which was very simple. It’s just a girl who gets her heart broken and doesn’t know how to deal with the pain. She takes the easy way out, numbs the pain and has an emotional transformation that just so happens to also be a physical one. And the second she became human to me is when she went through that, everything else is secondary. She’s a woman scorned who just happens to know how to fly.
Rachel Weisz (Evanora): I really loved the script and loved the character and wanted to play somebody wicked, but my character would have been nothing without the sequins, the feathers, the lashes, the corsets, the boots and the nails. I only usually play characters in jeans, t-shirts with a bit of a scrubbed face but Evanora took a couple of hours to get into place. Her costume was hugely important, how the feathers make her look a bit like a bird of prey. And she is a ruler of her army of winged baboons.
Zach Braff (Finley): I never read the books so it was tricky for me because I was creating this new character, whereas with the witches there was something to look to. If anything I loved the idea of being the comic relief like the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man were and the physical comedy of it all. You can make a beautiful effects movie that is grounded, has a heart and has a foundation of really human characters. But when I heard that it was happening I just wanted to be involved because of the great maestro Sam Raimi.
Sam Raimi (Director): This movie is almost trying to be a love poem to the original Wizard Of Oz film. I think it affected all of us but for me it was the scariest picture ever made, the sweetest picture ever made and the greatest musical, and the looks of many things regarding the film were a big influence for us.
Oz The Great and Powerful is in cinemas from Friday 8th March.
Text: Daniel Goodwin