Oz: The Great and Powerful is Sam Raimi‘s prequel to the 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum‘s classic book. It stars James Franco as the titular wizard, and Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams as the witches of Oz.
San Diego Comic-Con moderator Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist podcast) introduced director Sam Raimi with a montage of his past films, including Spider-Man, Drag Me To Hell, the Evil Dead series, and The Quick and the Dead, amongst others. Raimi described Comic-Con as “geek central,” and says he loves coming here. He said Oz is based on L. Frank Baum’s stories, but is really the story of the Wizard’s journey to Oz, and his relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch.
The story starts off in Kansas, and follows James Franco’s well-meaning, yet flawed magician with a traveling circus. He’s chased out of Kansas (apparently for committing adultery) and escapes in a balloon to Oz.
They played what Hardwick described as a “pants-crappingly good” exclusive clip showing Franco as a Magician with the Baum Brothers circus (shot in black and white, as in the beginning of The Wizard of Oz). A gust blows through the circus, which facilitates his balloon escape until he gets swept up by a tornado. He lands in Oz (which is shot in glorious saturated color, like the 1939 classic), and encounters the fantastical creatures and characters of Oz in a zippy montage.
Raimi then introduced Williams and Kunis to the stage. Michelle Williams plays Glinda, the embodiment of all that’s good and pure, but with a human touch. Mila Kunis plays Theodora, sister to Rachel Weisz’s Wicked Witch of the West, Evanora. She enjoyed working on the breathtakingly magical sets, which she says really brought the land of Oz to life for her.
In the question and answer session, Sam said that “The Classic,” a 1973 Delta ’88 Olds Classic (a personal trademark he’s included in all of his films) makes it into Oz, but in a slightly altered form.
Sam was asked if he was going to continue developing The Shadow, based on the vintage radio serial. He said he’s seen some good scripts, but he couldn’t get anything to really work well, so he’s stopped pursuing it.
A fan dressed as The Mad Hatter asked if the witch’s shoes are silver or red. Raimi mentioned that since they’re a trademark of the classic film (which they had no licensed connection with), they do not make an appearance in the film. As Raimi’s film is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion also do not make an appearance. He said that while the film tips its hat to The Wizard of Oz, it also creates its own original experience.
Sam praised production designer Robert Stromberg (who also worked on Avatar & Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) and producer Joe Roth.
Oz: The Great and Powerful is scheduled to be released in March 2013.