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We're off to see the 3D wizard!
10:00am Friday 15th March 2013 in Celebrity Interview
Director Sam Raimi has reinvented the land of Oz we know and love for his origins tale, Oz The Great And Powerful. Shereen Low meets the new power players.
By Shereen Low
It's hard to believe it's been more than 70 years since the release of Victor Fleming's The Wizard Of Oz.
Decades on, the 1939 film remains one of the most successful Hollywood hits, and those iconic scenes of a young Judy Garland gazing skyward in her blue gingham dress, singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, still appear on TV every year.
Inspired by the stories of L Frank Baum, The Wizard Of Oz is the stuff of so many childhoods and, aside from the opening of the musical Wicked on Broadway and in the West End, has remained untouched until now.
Spider-Man director Sam Raimi has reinvented the magical land in full 3D glory for his prequel film, Oz The Great And Powerful, starring James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis. But don't worry - the famous yellow brick road and the stunning Emerald City haven't undergone spectacular changes.
"The 1939 film is beloved by many people, myself included. One of the things I knew that they'd be able to improve on with this film was the rendering of Oz and create a spectacular world that is fully engaging and seamless," says Franco, who plays the wizard himself.
Unlike the previous film, this re-imagining follows Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with questionable ethics as he is transported away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz.
When he encounters three witches - Theodora (Kunis), Evanora (Weisz) and Glinda (Williams) - he has to try to save his new home and its inhabitants before evil takes over.
"This film explains how all the characters became who they are and explains their origins so you understand them a little more. It brings a little more sincerity and truth to all the characters. And while being funny and endearing, it very much stays true to the original concepts that L Frank Baum created," explains Kunis.
Braff adds: "We're not trying to remake that treasured classic. Everyone loves the world of Oz, but with the cool technology of 2013."
Here's a look at the main characters, and why walking the yellow brick road appealed to the stars...
James Franco Who: Oscar Diggs aka Wizard of Oz Personality: "He's part goofball, part conman, part seducer, part vaudeville guy, all of which appealed to me. In some ways, he touches on many aspects of Americana, while being a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable," says Franco.
Powers: Performing magic tricks and illusions. "I came out two weeks early to work with the great Las Vegas magician Lance Burton. I learned dove tricks and fire tricks as well as pulling things out of hats and making things levitate," the actor adds.
Oz appeal: "I just always wanted to walk down the yellow brick road and this was my chance," says Franco. "I loved the book as a child - it was one of the first books I read for pleasure - so it felt like I was acting in a world that had been part of my childhood."
Michelle Williams Who: Glinda, the Good Witch Personality: "She's the younger version of Glinda that we all know from the books. I think of my Glinda as a witch at the beginning of developing those powers," says Williams.
Raimi adds: "It's in Glinda that Oz is finally able to consummate the love story that his limited character couldn't back in Kansas. In Oz, he grows into a greater man, a man who values others as much as himself and only then does he become worthy of Glinda's love."
Powers: The ability to manipulate water, thanks to a magic wand, and being able to travel around in a bubble.
Appeal: "I wanted to make a movie that my daughter could see, and I was really excited to be part of something that had an overall good message, one that wasn't tainted with sarcasm," says Williams.
Rachel Weisz Who: Evanora, the Evil Witch Personality: "I think she can be vulnerable as most bullies are. She's a narcissist so she only cares about herself. So she's vulnerable when she thinks she might not get what she wants but I don't think she cares about anybody else," says Weisz.
Raimi adds: "She is the advisor to the king and a good person, somebody who's just looking out for the welfare of the Emerald City and its inhabitants. Later, we realise she's wicked - as wicked as they come."
Powers: The ability to create lightning from her fingertips.
Appeal: "What really appealed to me about playing Evanora was that I got to be a bad girl," says Weisz. "Bad girls definitely have more fun, I think!"
Mila Kunis Who: Theodora, Evanora's younger sister, who is also smitten by Oz Personality: "Theodora is a really sweet, naive witch who truly wants to bring peace to the land. She is a girl who desperately wants to believe in good and believe in the betterment of society, the betterment of the people and betterment of the world. She is also in so much denial of the bad that she doesn't even think it exists," explains Kunis.
Raimi says: "Theodora is a good witch when we first meet her. She loves her older sister and is also fond of goodness, which Glinda represents. She is very innocent and protected in a lot of ways."
Powers: The ability to create fire from a magic ring.
Appeal: "What I think intrigued me was the unknown," says Kunis. "I've never done anything remotely close to this."
Zach Braff Who: Finley, the winged monkey Personality: "Through the course of the film, Oz and Finley go on this journey together and become buddies with each other," says Braff.
Raimi adds: "Finley is the Wizard's conscience. When he gets to Oz, Finley reminds the Wizard in so many different ways about right and wrong. At first, Oz doesn't listen but eventually begins to respect the monkey, and the goodness of his wisdom gets through."
Powers: Comedic timing and wisdom.
Appeal: "It was a no-brainer. I was excited," says Braff. "To play an animated guy interacting with live-action characters, I thought that was a cool challenge."
Extra time - Oz facts :: The yellow brick road, Emerald City, the witch's Throne Room, the Whimsie Woods, the Dark Forest and China Town were all built sets.
:: Each of the trees in the Whimsie Woods was inspired by Disney's Snow White, and was hand-carved out of foam and layers of plaster.
:: Zach Braff wore a blue onesie for his motion capture role as Finley.
:: Five thousand gold coins were made for the film: the yellow brick road was shown on one side, with an image of author L Frank Baum on the other.
:: Mila Kunis did her own stunts on the broomstick: "What you see in the movie, I did all of it. It was pretty insane. But I did it all myself."
:: Oz The Great And Powerful opens in cinemas on Friday, March 8