Like many characters in Oz the Great and Powerful, Zach Braff plays two roles: a magician's assistant named Frank and — once we get to Oz — an animated flying monkey named Finley. When I visited the set of the film last year, Braff talked about what it was like playing a different kind of flying monkey than what we're used to seeing and why spending time on the gorgeous set was a dream come true for him as a filmmaker.
Can you clue us in a little just to the personality of your two characters? Are you the doormat character?
Zach Braff: "Doormat" is a good way to put it. As Frank, he [Oz] is the magician and I'm his magician’s assistant, and I want acceptance by him, because I look up to him and he is very dismissive and condescending to me and makes it clear he has no interest in being my friend; he just wants a helper. Then we are forced to go on this journey together, and Finley is assigned to sort of look out over Oz by Rachel Weisz's character, so begrudgingly we go on this quest together, and little by little he [Oz] can't help but be charmed by this little flying monkey.
And as the monkey, you speak?
ZB: Yes, but not right away. . . . For a fair part of it he thinks I'm mute, and when push comes to shove, I have to speak and we become friends. . . . We have a story arc where he is actually able to learn from me and trust me and, in the end, be my friend and give me something that I really wanted in a human incarnation, which was friendship and his acceptance. So it's done really, really well, and it's really cool.
Can you talk about your first scenes in the movie that take place in Kansas?
ZB: It was a really, really fun way to start the movie. I was a human being, which was fun. I had period clothes like James, and I had like period sideburns and my hair is sort of slicked over and we are doing the beginning of a tornado, so they have these giant wind machines going and hundreds of extras running around in mayhem. It's hackneyed to keep saying the word "surreal," but it's just so bizarre. There you are, and there's a wind storm and there are people in turn-of-the-century circus costumes running by you, and those tumbleweeds flying, and Sam yelling on a megaphone, and eventually James's character gets into this hot air balloon and they have the basket flying across the stage, and it was a really, really fun thing to be a part of.
To see what Braff had to say about signing on and being a film geek, just read more