There may be more remakes and spin-offs of 1939 musical classic The Wizard of Oz than anyone but a trained scholar can trace, but there’s a refreshing hype about a new 2013 prequel. Set in the Oz universe some years before Judy Garland donned a white dress and sung to the hills, Oz The Great and Powerful comes from powerhouse Disney and is directed by Sam Raimi, who it’s hoped will perform the same kind of dark
reboot that he gave to the three Spider-Man movies he directed.
Drawn from the novels of original author L Frank Baum, the movie tells the familiar tale from the wizard’s point of view. James Franco takes the lead as Oscar Diggs, a circus magician who winds up in Oz with only a rather seductive trio of witches in his way: Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams – and Mila Kunis. We sat down with the 29-year-old Russian-American actress.
What intrigued you about this project?
First, it was Sam Raimi, and second, it was Oz The Great and Powerful. It wasn’t so much intriguing as it was frightening to me at first, and that’s the truth. When I read the script, my first thought was: I can’t do this. But I went to meet with Sam anyway. It was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting but ended up being four hours. We broke down the character and the script and Sam grounded everything in reality, which was incredibly comforting to me. I’ve never done anything remotely close to this.
Were you familiar with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book by L Frank Baum when you were a child in Russia?
My brother used to read the Russian version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and I always thought it was a Russian book until I came to America. I was like: wait a minute, this is American? The first real big book that I ever read in English was a book called Return to Oz, I think I was in third or fourth grade – that’s when I came to America. My parents were trying to get me to read in English to get better in the language because I barely spoke it. I loved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz story, so my parents figured I would like Return to Oz.
Did you identify with your character, Theodora?
Yes, and I think every girl is going to identify with Theodora. I think the beauty of this film is every character is grounded in reality. Yes, it’s a little crazy because it takes place in the land of Oz, but it’s about a girl who’s so sweet and so desperately wants to believe in good and believe in the betterment of society, the betterment of the people and betterment of the world that she only sees the good. She is in so much denial of the bad that she doesn’t even think it exists.
Tell us about James Franco and how it was working with the cast.
James and I have known each other for a while, so it’s like two kids running around. He’s one of my really good friends. I’ve done interviews before where I say it’s very rare when you leave a production with a friend. But I do believe it’s even less common to actually start a production with a friend. Michelle Williams as Glinda was just fantastic. You look at Michelle and she oozes politeness and sweetness and is just so demure. She embodies everything that Glinda is. Then you have Rachel Weisz, who plays my older sister. You can’t ask for anybody better than that. She’s so beautiful and striking and her character’s so strong and it’s exactly Rachel. It’s insane to walk on to set and see Rachel Weisz in this bedazzled, beautiful dress with the feathers and the hair and she’s torturing Glinda, the good witch. I was like: wait, how did I get here?
Oz The Great and Powerful is in UAE cinemas from March 7.