‘Oz the Great and Powerful’: Michelle Williams on Glinda inspiration

March 04, 2013 | 2:31 p.m.
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A scene from "Oz the Great and Powerful." The film follows a magician who accidentally lands in Oz and encounters all manner of creatures. (Disney Enterprises)

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China Girl, voiced by Joey King, and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Mila Kunis, left, and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Michelle Williams, center, in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Finley, voiced by Zach Braff, in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Michelle Williams plays Glinda in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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

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Finley, voiced by Zach Braff, and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Finley (voiced by Zach Braff), left, China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Rachel Weisz, left, and Mila Kunis in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Rachel Weisz and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Michelle Williams in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Merie Weismiller Wallace / Disney Enterprises)

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James Franco and Rachel Weisz in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Finley, voiced by Zach Braff, and James Franco in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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China Girl (voiced by Joey King), left, and Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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Quadlings and Munchkins in "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

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

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

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James Franco, left, and director Sam Raimi on the set of "Oz the Great and Powerful." (Merie Weismiller Wallace / Disney Enterprises)

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Composer Danny Elfman says the score for "Oz" came upon him "lightning fast." (Patrick Wymore / Disney Enterprises)

In both L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” novels and Victor Fleming’s 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz,” Glinda the Good Witch is all-knowing, aware of everything that happens in Oz and, for the most part, what needs to be done about it.

But there’s a different Glinda in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” the Sam Raimi-directed film that opens to high fan anticipation this Friday. As played by Michelle Williams, the wand-waving beacon of goodness can sometimes be just as helpless and in-the-dark as the people she’s there to lead.

That was a conscious choice made by Raimi, and one that he and Williams discussed often on set, the actress told Hero Complex.

“Glinda can’t be omniscient because then she has no struggle,” Williams said. “If she already knows everything about the situation, there’s nothing for her to discover.”

Designed as a not-quite-prequel to the Oscar-winning musical, “Oz the Great and Powerful” stars James Franco as a magician con man who finds himself accidentally whisked away to the land that exists beyond the rainbow, where he encounters not only Williams’ Glinda but also a pair of witch sisters, Mila Kunis’ Theodora and Rachel Weisz’s Evanora.

To prepare for the role in the film, the actress read both a biography of Baum and nearly all of the author’s 14 “Oz” books, even keeping a “Glinda notebook.”

Among the cues she took from the novels, she said, were Glinda’s upright posture and precise way of holding her wand. (Fans of the books will know that there are some key differences between the Glinda of the novels and the character Billie Burke played in the 1939 film: Baum’s Glinda is restrained while Burke’s is bubbly;  Glinda hails from the South in the novels but the North in the movie.)

Williams said she was initially concerned that all the homework wouldn’t pay dividends.

“You don’t know if you’re going to find anything when you do all that geeky research,” she said, offering a small laugh.

But in learning of Baum’s interest in the suffragette movement as well as in Native American rights, she ultimately found herself opening a window onto characters she might otherwise have found unrelatable.

“Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins didn’t mean much to me; it wasn’t my language,” Williams said of the groups of misfits her character benevolently rules over. “But when I thought of them as Native Americans trying to inhabit their land or about women getting the right to vote, it made a lot more sense.”

The actress even ad-libbed a Che Guevara line, the one about oppressors being able to kill only a man and not a movement.

Said Williams: “Even if it’s not always overt, if you’re looking for [politics] in the movie, it will feel very topical.”

– Steven Zeitchik

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


2 Responses to ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’: Michelle Williams on Glinda inspiration

  1. Laurel Leigh says:

    Michelle Williams is an amazing actress and one of the main reasons I want to see this movie.

  2. Tara Bratton says:

    that's interesting. Baum actually advocated for the extermination of the natives.

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