‘Oz’ actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the ‘timeless’ original

March 07, 2013 | 2:44 p.m.
oz premiere mila kunis 2 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Mila Kunis attends the world premiere of "Oz the Great and Powerful" in Hollywood on Feb. 13. (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

oz 8 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Mila Kunis and James Franco in a scene from "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

oz 1 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

In "Oz the Great and Powerful," James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, the would-be wizard, and Mila Kunis plays the witch Theodora. (Disney Enterprises)

oz 5 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

James Franco and Mila Kunis in a scene from "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

oz 4 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Mila Kunis and James Franco in a scene from "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Merie Weismiller Wallace / Disney Enterprises)

oz 3 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

James Franco and Mila Kunis on the set of "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Merie Weismiller Wallace / Disney Enterprises)

milakunis ozpremiere 1 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Mila Kunis arrives at the world premiere of "Oz the Great and Powerful" in Hollywood on Feb. 13. (John Shearer / Associated Press)

oz premiere cast Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz at the world premiere of "Oz the Great and Powerful" in Hollywood on Feb. 13. (John Shearer / Associated Press)

oz premiere mila kunis Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Mila Kunis poses on the Yellow Brick Road at the world premiere of "Oz the Great and Powerful" in Hollywood on Feb. 13. (Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)

oz premiere cast 2 Oz actress Mila Kunis on Raimi, CGI and the timeless original

Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams at the world premiere of "Oz the Great and Powerful" in Hollywood on Feb. 13, 2013. (John Shearer / Associated Press)

Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” gives each of the Ozian ladies her turn in the spotlight. Benevolent witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) floats in her bubble and rules over the Munchkins, Quadlings and Tinkers. Silver-tongued Evanora (Rachel Weisz) orchestrates the running of the Emerald City. And Theodora, portrayed by Mila Kunis, is a naive young woman who finds herself lovestruck by mysterious stranger Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco).

For Kunis, the role represented a chance to once again act with Franco, one of her “dearest, closest friends,” she said, and to work with Raimi — a director she has long admired.

“Sam is the most collaborative director I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “He wears a suit every day to work out of respect to the crew …. He is willing to hear other people’s opinions, and he doesn’t come in with an ego or self-righteousness.”

The visually opulent film was a massive production — a new experience for Kunis, who had “never done anything of this size or magnitude,” she said.

That’s not to say she’s inexperienced. The 29-year-old Ukraine-born actress has been acting since she was a child. Kunis made a name for herself playing shallow cheerleader Jackie Burkhart on “That ’70s Show” — a role she landed at age 14. Soon after she began voicing Meg Griffin on “Family Guy,” then she turned heads in 2008 when she played the love interest in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Kunis’ performance opposite Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 art-house hit “Black Swan” earned her supporting actress nominations for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.

Hero Complex caught up with Kunis for five questions about “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which opens in theaters this weekend.

Beware: Spoilers lie ahead.

HC: Theodora becomes such a larger-than-life character. Did you feel a lot of pressure?

MK: I didn’t necessarily feel pressure because it was a larger-than-life character. I felt pressure because the character’s end result is such an iconic image [as the Wicked Witch of the West]. I definitely would not have done the movie if it was a remake or an interpretation of the original, and it’s neither of those things. So you know, the character is given a story of turning the way that she turned. It’s the first chapter of what people come to know as “The Wizard of Oz,” so that gave me some security, knowing that it wasn’t the same character; it was the beginning of that character. So it kind of allowed me somewhere to go, knowing the end result.

Margaret Hamilton plays the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz." (Warner Bros.)

Margaret Hamilton plays the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” (Warner Bros.)

HC: What was it like playing both a good guy and a villain?

MK: I think that most characters, if they’re lucky, you get to play a character with an arc. And it just so happened that my character had an emotional and a physical transformation, which very rarely happens. There are many times where you have an emotional transformation with the character, whether it’s minimal or over the top. And in such a fantastical film, you end up having a physical that mirrors the emotional, which is just a plus because you get to play around more.

HC: Was acting through all that the green makeup a challenge?

MK: My green’s not CGI, my green is prosthetic …. It takes a couple of hours to put on, but actually it helps, not hinders. It lets your inhibitions go, and you don’t really concern yourself with what you look like. And you kind of have fun with this character. And I think some of these movies where makeup and hair and wardrobe actually plays such a large part in the way each character holds themselves .… I think it only helps performances, I don’t think it hindered them in this case.

HC: How much of your work was CGI versus sets? Did you actually get to walk down the Yellow Brick Road?

MK: They were all sets. It was great. We were very lucky. We had eight stages full of sets. We had Glinda’s Castle, we had Emerald City, we had Whimsy Woods, we had the cemetery, we had the waterfalls, we had the Yellow Brick Road. Everything that you saw that was green-screened was everything in the background. Everything in the foreground was all real.

HC: Why do you think “Oz” is such an enduring story?

MK: I think it’s just a timeless showcase of humans’ desire to want to better themselves. I think every character in all the books have faults that they try to work through and work on, and many times they want a magical fix for whatever fault or whatever insecurity each character possesses, and ultimately, there’s a life lesson of there’s no magic solution to these things. And set in such a beautiful, fantastical world, it becomes such a timeless image.

– Noelene Clark
Twitter.com/@NoeleneClark

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