Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful uncovers the origins of the beloved wizard character first brought to life in L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. As a cinematic prequel to the book, the eye-popping action follows the story of Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot – until he meets three witches, who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone is expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late.
Sam Raimi is the acclaimed director behind the action-packed spectacle, which boasts a stellar cast including James Franco as Oscar Diggs, the predestined wizard; Mila Kunis as the tormented young witch Theodora; Rachel Weisz as Theodora’s older sister, Evanora, the witch who rules over the Emerald City; and Michelle Williams as Glinda, the good witch.
With the Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD of Oz The Great And Powerful about to be released tomorrow, we sat down to chat with James Franco about the project…
Is it true that you trained with acclaimed Las Vegas magician Lance Burton in order to tackle the role of Oscar Diggs?
James Franco: That’s very true. We shot the movie in Detroit and they hired Lance Burton to come out and train me there. [Oz The Great And Powerful director] Sam Raimi was very insistent that I have two weeks of magic training, so I went to Detroit two weeks early in order to do that.
What magic tricks did you learn?
James Franco: Lance taught me a lot of tricks, so I got to the point where I could materialize doves out of nowhere. I start with a flame in my hand and then I turn it into a dove. Or I take off my gloves and I turn them into a dove. I also know a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ trick and other things like that. I did all that work and then the scenes that were going to feature the magic tricks turned out to be too long, so they were quickly cut from the finished movie. We never got to see them on the big screen.
Do you know enough tricks to entertain at a children’s birthday party?
James Franco: Sure, I could do that! A lot of the tricks involve intricate preparations, so I would need an assistant like Lance Burton to help me set them up – but I could pull it off. If you have any kids parties and you want to pay me a lot, I’ll definitely come and do it. [Laughs]
I heard you were a big fan of the fantasy genre growing up. Where did that all start?
James Franco: The first movie that I can remember seeing in theaters was Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. I guess I liked it so much that my parents kept taking us back to see it over and over again. I saw it many times in the theater, so that maybe started the ball rolling for me with fantasy. Soon after that, my father read The Hobbit to me, and that was one of the main books that started my love of reading. That’s what got me reading the Oz books of Frank L. Baum, on which this movie is based. If we are talking about fantasy books, those were the two things that really sparked my imagination: the Oz books and the Tolkien books. It all started from there.
You’re an actor, a producer, a writer, a director and a teacher… Is there anything left for you to conquer in the entertainment industry?
James Franco: There’s always more to learn. I guess it would be cool to write a play one day. I love the theater and I love going to plays, so that might be good for me. I’ve only acted in small theaters in Los Angeles, but I like acting on stage in front of live audiences, so that would also be great. Who knows what’s next? I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
Oz The Great And Powerful is available on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on June 11th!