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An audience with the great and powerful cast of Oz... • Page 1 of 2
london premiere
At the UK premiere: Raimi, Kunis, Williams, Franco, Weisz and Braff.
kunis, franco, williams and weisz
Braff's flying monkey

19.Apr.78 • Palo Alto, California
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B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Oz the Great and Powerful Lined up to talk to the London press, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff and Sam Raimi were on the stump for Oz the Great and Powerful. And they looked a bit subdued, all of them dressed in black. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that the film's UK premiere had taken place the night before. And a few of them were sharing a cold. Even so, there were glimpses of mischief in the way they glanced and whispered to each other, and in some of their cheeky answers along the way...

Was it daunting to tackle such a venerable franchise?
Sam Raimi:
Yes I was intimidated. In fact I was very frightened to approach this project because there's so much love for the original Wizard of Oz picture obviously. And people don't want their warm feelings toward this great classic sullied. They don't want someone stepping on the fondest memories of their childhood. That's why I stayed away from the script at first, and later I thought, "Well I'll read it just because I'm looking for a good writer." and I fell in love with the story about a selfish man who deep within has his heart buried and he doesn't appreciate the friendship of his friend or the love of his wife. And he gets transported to the magical land of Oz and there, through the land of second chances and the love of the same friend now reincarnated as a monkey and through the love of a good woman, his good heart emerges. And he becomes a little more selfless. And I thought, "All will be forgiven if I can bring this feeling to the fans of the Oz books or the movie." Only a wicked old witch wouldn't want that picture to be made.

I was excited to
step into that world
of my childhood imagination.

What brought you on board as actors?
Zach Braff:
Well, first and foremost: Sam Raimi. I think I speak for everybody when I say that no-one handles these movies better. It's a giant effects movie that's grounded and has heart.

Rachel Weisz: I loved the character. I wanted to play somebody wicked and evil! And Sam Raimi is the wizard - he is the man behind the curtain - the wizard that drew us all to Emerald City.

James Franco: First of all I heard Sam was doing this movie. I did the three Spider-man films with him, he's one of my favourite directors to work with, and I'm a fan of his films. I've also been a fan of the world of Oz since I was a boy. I read all the L Frank Baum books when I was a kid, so I was excited because I'd be able to step into that world of my childhood imagination. So when I read the script, I saw that they were going to be loyal and respectful of everything we lovers of Oz expect, and that there would be familiar things that you need for it to be the land of Oz. You need the yellow brick road and the Emerald City, witches, flying monkeys and Munchkins. But now it's 70-plus years later and they'd be able to capture this world in a much more spectacular and seamless way. But even more than that, I thought the approach back to the land of Oz was just perfect. They weren't going to just slavishly try and recreate a new version of Dorothy, but the lead character was anything but an innocent young girl. He was not innocent: he's a conman. So the way the audience would be brought into the familiar world of Oz would be completely new. And so I thought they had both: they were respectful of what they should respect and they were innovative where they should be innovative.

Mila Kunis: How do I follow that one? I would just ditto everything James said! In all honesty it truly is just what he said. I stand by that. And just to be able to work with Sam was a huge honour. And the ladies are the most amazing costars that anybody could ask for.

I wanted to bring out Glinda’s more hidden qualities.

Weisz: Oh, hush now!

Kunis: Oh go on! No, no, truly they are. Rachel and Michelle are a gift. And working with James has always been fun for me. So it was a no-brainer. Oh and Zach! I can't leave Zach out. Zach Braff is awesome!

Braff: Thank you - did you guys get that on tape?

Did the original 1939 film or the books influence your characters?
Well I never read the books, and I'm creating this new character. If anything I saw the monkey as being the comic relief in the way that the Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man were - the comedy of it all.

Michelle Williams: In rehearsals, I wanted to know how I was going to talk, what kind of voice I should have, and would I wear a big pink dress? And Sam reminded me that Glinda in the original movie never goes on the yellow brick road because she doesn't need anything. And that was a little bit one-dimensional, and I wanted to bring out her more hidden qualities. So the original film was an inspiration - it has always been an inspiration - but it was also a jumping off point. The books were very helpful.

Weisz: My character Evanora isn't in the books, right? So I couldn't draw inspiration from the books. She's a made up character by the screenplay writers. Although I guess in the 1939 film her feel are sticking out from under the house!

Braff: Did you take inspiration from the feet?

Weisz: I did! Although I took the ruby slippers and changed them into black leather lace-up boots, which are more Evanora's speed.

She’s a woman scorned who just so happens to know how to fly.

Kunis: The truth is that no, I didn't want to emulate or imitate or do anything that would take away from the iconic character that was created so wonderfully and beautifully and will remain so iconic. What I was given was the gift of a back-story, the origin of the character, and humanising her in a way. I mean it's very simple: it's just a girl who gets her heart broken, who doesn't know how to deal with pain, takes the easy way out, numbs the pain and has an emotional transformation that just so happens to be mirrored with a physical one. Everything else was kind of secondary. She's a woman scorned who just so happens to know how to fly. And that's the truth! I would never dare try to emulate something that's so beyond iconic.

Mila, how did it feel to be the ugly duckling for a change?
It was actually really great! It was incredibly freeing. And it was the first time in my life where putting on a costume really did change the way I played the character. So much of that had to do with the contact lenses. They were hand painted and the pupils didn't dilate, so my vision was very narrow. "I can't see you and you can't see me, so I can do whatever I want!" And so it kind of allowed me to explore and have fun without worrying what people thought. It was great.

How does this darker character compare to possibly starring in 50 Shades of Grey?
This 50 Shades of Grey thing is not going to leave is it? No, you will not see me in 50 Shades of Grey. I'm so sorry.

Braff: That means I could audition?

Kunis: It's all yours, Zach. You'd be fantastic in it!


© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall