Sam Raimi and James Franco talk about Oz

James Barquin/Columnist

With yet another Oz themed film, everyone is wondering what exactly makes this one different. Sam Raimi, director of films like the genius “Evil Dead” series, “Drag Me to Hell” and the “Spider-Man” trilogy, is a man who rarely disappoints. We can only imagine what he’ll bring to the table with “Oz the Great and Powerful,” especially with actor James Franco at the lead.

FIU Student Media was lucky enough to get a chance to participate in conference calls with both Raimi and Franco. Questions were thrown at each of them and the responses were honest and enlightening. When questioned about what inspired his version of Oz, Raimi responded by saying, “Well I drew it all from the great author L. Frank Baum, his vision of Oz, that he had written about in 14 some books. And then, I was also inspired by the illustrator, [W. W.] Denslow, he was the original, the original illustrator of the L. Frank Baum books.”

He also added that one of the greatest sources of inspiration was from “The Wizard of Oz,” specifically “the character’s sense of love that they have for each other. How friends come together and that very soulful sweet message that comes at the end of the picture when we learn from the Wizard that all of us are complete, all of us broken, lonely individuals are [complete], we have within us the thing to make us complete if we only recognize it.”

During the casting process, Raimi claims he “was looking for that actor or actress that had the qualities of the character they’re going to portray.” In scoping out an actress for Theodora, two films sealed the deal for Mila Kunis: Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Black Swan. When it came to Michelle Williams, he joked that he “needed an actress with a good soul” and “that ruled [out] about 90 percent of the actresses in Hollywood.”

James Franco, who saw the role as something he “could have a lot of fun with and be fairly creative with,” has always been a big fan of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. His initial hesitations went out the window after understanding what would distinguish this version of Oz from other versions, notably the fact that “they weren’t just gonna redo it.” He liked that his character was “a con man that was stumbling through Oz, pretending to be something he’s not. He gets into a lot of awkward situations that could be played for comedy and I thought that comedic edge would help distinguish this version of Oz from others.”

Franco not only addressed his role as Oz, but also touched upon his diverse acting and directorial career. When asked about how he balances his work in Oz with something like Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” he replied by saying, “They’re made on very different scales and they have very different subject matters, but there are essential things about making movies that are in place in both films.”

Franco added that he goes into different projects by “trying to figure out what the tone of the film is, what [his] place in the film is, and how [he] can best fit into that world.” With Oz he plays a magician and con man and with “Spring Breakers” he plays a gangster, mystic rapper, and he “had to figure out how to play each of those roles as realistically as possible.”

If these interviews are anything to go by, we can expect a fun film out of “Oz the Great and Powerful.” At the very least we can keep our hopes up, as even James Franco praises Sam Raimi as one of the best directors around.

Juan Barquin is a junior FIU English major. For the past year and a half, he has written more than 80 movie reviews for YAM-Magazine and is pursuing a certificate in Film Studies at the University.