What makes the Wizard of Oz so great and powerful? Scott Davis reports from the Oz the Great and Powerful press conference, held in London last week….
Tomorrow across the UK sees the long-awaited released of Sam Raimi’s Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful. Last week saw the UK premiere of the film, with the entire cast in attendance, and on their promotional exerts, they took time to talk to the UK press last Friday.
A lot has been made of the “return of Oz”, and whether or not it was a risk for Raimi, and his cast, to be involved with going back and revisiting such an iconic film. “I was very frightened to approach the project because there is so much love for the original” said Raimi. “People don’t want their warm feelings for the film or childhood memories sullied” he continued, after admitting that he steered clear of the project at first, but then was drawn back in after falling in love with the script and story.
The cast too were all drawn to the story and characters, who are both great in their own right, but all have nice homage’s to the original. The biggest draw for all though was Raimi: “No-one handles these movies better” said Zach Braff, who co-stars as Findley the Monkey. “He can make a giant, beautiful effects movie that is grounded and has heart and has a foundation of really human characters”.
Michelle Williams too seconded the Raimi influence, as did Rachel Weisz, who “loved the character, and wanted to play someone wicked and evil. But Sam Raimi is the Wizard, the man behind the curtain who drew us all to the Emerald City.”
Having worked with Sam Raimi before, James Franco was particular upbeat about the project and working with Raimi for a 4th time, saying: “I jumped at the opportunity…I read all the Baum books when I was kid…and to step into the world I loved as a kid. When I read the script, I saw he had a smart way to do it, and they were going to be loyal and respectful to Oz – the yellow-brick road, witches, munchkins.”
After Franco’s long but in-depth answer, Mila Kunis simply said “I ditto everything!” Kunis, whose character Theodora goes through a huge character arc/change through the movie, said a lot of the effect was contact lenses: “We didn’t want to emulate of imitate, the gift was her back-story, humanising her with a simple story of a girl who gets her heartbroken and takes the easy way out. A woman scorned”
About the film, Raimi spoke about how much he had to cut out the film to keep it at a certain pace and time, which was mainly back-story elements to Weisz’s Evanora, Williams’ Glenda and her father the King, as well as a longer magic show that James Franco trained months for, but was unable to keep it in its entirety due to time.
In addition, there was a much longer magic show segment in Kansas, which had to be trimmed also, much to Franco’s disgust after his months of training: “I received lessons from Lance Burton, who normally performs for hundreds in Vegas….and he taught me many tricks and Sam assured me that all of them would make it into the movie! “
Raimi, who has directed mega-budget films previously with the original Spider-Man trilogy, was a 3D virgin before this. He spoke about his learning of 3D, for which he had to learn from scratch. While some films have tried very unsuccessfully with 3D in the wake of Avatar, Oz is perhaps the first film to really succeed in bringing 3D to the fore and presenting it in a way that is intrusive.
Raimi said “I had to go to school. We worked with many cinematographers and effects artists, as well as the convergences, and the effect on the eyes…. Baum’s work was as much about the land, a very important part and we wanted to describe it as richly as possible, and with that extra tool of the third dimension was a great tool to inviting the audience into that land.”
And an excellent job he does too.
Directed with aplomb, if not in classic Raimi style, Oz the Great and Powerful is a magic film full of colour, wonder and style, supported by some great turns from the cast and a wonderful score.
Oz the Great and Powerful opens Friday March 8th across the country. Read our review here.