Zach Braff stars in this week's new release Oz the Great and Powerful, but don't expect to see too much of his likeness on the screen. After the short opening sequence in Kansas, Braff spends the rest of the film as an animated flying monkey named Finley. At the film's press day, I chatted with Braff about the "onesie" he had to wear for the blue-screen work, getting into character, and why he spent a lot of time on set in a "torture chamber."
Oz the Great and Powerful is out today in theaters, but the red-carpet (or should we say, yellow brick road) glamour leading up to the film's premiere actually started weeks ago. To promote the film, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz traveled around the world — Moscow, Tokyo, London, and Los Angeles, to be exact — bringing their individual brand of glamour to each city for the movie's debut. From understated Michael Kors and statement-making Lanvin to peacock-feathered Burberry and one sexy formfitting Atelier Versace number, these starlets certainly turned up the evening elegance tenfold for Oz. See every moment from the promo tour right here.
A yellow brick road stood in for the red carpet at the Oz the Great and Powerful premieres in LA and London, and Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz arrived looking like they'd stepped out of a fairy tale. In honor of the film's official release today, click through to see the top looks of the movie tour. Be sure to check out our gallery of the iconic beauty looks from the women of Oz too!
Director Sam Raimi takes us back to the land of Oz in this week's Oz the Great and Powerful, and making a prequel to the 1939 classic is no small feat. I recently sat down with Raimi at the press day for the film, where he sang the praises of his cast and explained why James Franco was the perfect choice to play the titular wizard.
Tomorrow, a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story, Oz the Great and Powerful, hits theaters, starring James Franco as the wizard. The Disney movie loosely references the film many of us are most familiar with, the 1939 adaptation The Wizard of Oz that stars Judy Garland as Dorothy. Another modern reinterpretation of the tale is the immensely popular Broadway musical Wicked, a prequel about Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (the Good Witch of the North). But the source material for all these dates back to 1900, when L. Frank Baum wrote the children's novel that introduced us to Dorothy and the rest of the yellow brick road gang: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I was surprised by some of the facts about this fantastical story and its history, so if you're intrigued about the book that began it all, check out these interesting tidbits below, and click through for a look back at the vintage book covers and illustrations.
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wears silver shoes instead of the iconic ruby slippers.
- Baum's first Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was turned into a burlesque-style Broadway musical in 1902 about Dorothy falling in love with a poet-prince. Instead of Toto the dog, there's a cow named Imogene, and the wizard is an Irish wisecracking comedian.
- Some scholars believe that the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (nicknamed "the White City") inspired the Emerald City. Others propose that since Baum often stayed at San Diego's Hotel Del Coronado and wrote some of his Oz books there, that could be another influence for the Emerald City.
- After Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he went on to write 13 more books in the Oz series. More than once he tried to end the Oz series, but since they were so popular, he continued writing them until he died in 1919. Other writers, including Ruth Plumly Thompson, continued the Oz series after his death.
- A majority of the heroes in Baum's Oz books were girls.
- Baum had a granddaughter named "Ozma," and his 11th Oz book, The Lost Princess of Oz (published 1917), was dedicated to her shortly after her birth. The story begins with the disappearance of Princess Ozma, the ruler of Oz.
- Until his death in 1943, John R. Neill illustrated all of the Oz books except the first one, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Rachel Weisz plays bad witch Evanora in Oz the Great and Powerful, and the actress had no qualms digging into her dark side to play the role. When I sat down with Weisz at the film's press day, she talked about how much she loved playing the bad girl and what it was like to be transported to Oz. Watch!
Oz the Great and Powerful opens in theaters this week, but I got to visit the film's set during production way back in 2011. Between takes on the set, we sat down with director Sam Raimi to discuss adapting author L. Frank Baum's work for the big screen, and setting the prequel apart from the original Wizard of Oz. Here's what Raimi had to say:
How do you stay true to L. Frank Baum's work but also give the film's story a modern feel?
Sam Raimi: First of all, I so loved the movie The Wizard of Oz that I was afraid to read versions of it that were not exactly what I loved so much about the movie. This is very strange; I didn’t want the book to mess up the movie for me. But then, after I read the screenplay, which I loved, I started to read the books and appreciate Baum's work. I was so surprised at how exactly [the movie] The Wizard of Oz was his first book. His work is fresh right now. It's brilliant and affecting and the characters don't need to be refreshed by anybody. However, the screenplay is based on a lot of elements of a lot of his books. In many of his books he would go back and talk about the wizard. There’s a little bit about the wizard in the first one, a little bit about the wizard in three and four. He went back and said, "Here’s how the wizard got here and this was his backstory." So what the writer, Mitchell Kapner, did was he took all those elements that were given to the audience in later books that he's put them back in chronological order of what happened to the wizard, how the wizard got there to the Land of Oz. . . . What might have the Wicked Witch or these other characters have been doing during this time? Sometimes it was written about, sometimes it wasn't. So, I think Mitchell Kapner could best speak about it, but he’s taken elements of the books and rearranged them in what could have happened. It’s a "what if" story.
How have your feelings about the original movie affected this project?
SR: Yeah, it's the movie that I love. That's what I fell in love with and what terrified me and exhilarated me. I didn't want to have anything to do with a screenplay having anything to do with that movie because I didn't want to mess with it or tread upon its fine nature or use it in any way. But I read the script and it was a love poem to that movie, or those books, that I didn't know at the time. I felt that it was someone who so admired the movie and they were trying to enhance it and, for me, it never took away. And, I also thought, nothing could ever take away from that movie. It's so brilliant and enduring. I wanted to honor the movie.
We don’t have many American fairy tales. So how do you keep a fairy tale distinctly American? What do you make it about to make it resonate with an American audience?
SR: I have read that people consider Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, his first book, America's first myth or America's first fairy tale. But I think it's uniquely American because there's a little bit of greed involved in it. It's also the story of an entrepreneur, a guy who, with his ingenuity and can-do attitude, drives off those wicked witches and saves the day. It's also the story of people rising up for freedom, and I think that’s an American story of the American Revolution. Farmers and, in this case, Quadlings and Munchkins and Tinkers, rising up to drive off the tyrants or the despots or whatever you want to call the Wicked Witches. So those elements are American, but I think it's not primarily American. I think it's universal, the story of all of us who are capable of doing good and the hero being made because he recognizes that ability within himself and he grows to do something greater than himself. He grows to take part in a cause that's more important than his selfishness or his greed. He learns the true value of the gifts that he’s been given as a magician. They can be used, not just to entertain others and for his own profit, but to uplift others, to set them free and to, in this case, drive off the most dreaded villains of all, the Wicked Witches. I think it’s a more universal type of story than just an American story.
In Oz the Great and Powerful, Mila Kunis plays Theodora, one of the three witches that Oz (James Franco) encounters on his trip to the Emerald City. When we recently sat down with Kunis at the film's press day, she talked about how much she loved skipping down the yellow brick road, and how she harnessed her inner witch. Check out the interview before the movie hits theaters on Friday.
We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! In celebration of the release of Oz the Great and Powerful on March 8, we've found the most Oz-inspiring toys for your tots. Whether they're eager to catch the flick on opening day or will have to wait and watch it on DVD in a few years (the movie is rated PG), here are seven ways to create some Emerald City fun in your own home!