‘Oz the Great and Powerful’: Sam Raimi on 3-D fantasy, James Franco

March 06, 2013 | 5:10 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)

With three “Spider-Man” films on his resume, Sam Raimi has overseen some pretty large projects. But the director said that none of them quite prepared him for “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

“Spider-Man lives in a world that already exists, and we were just creating the CG to put into it,” Raimi told Hero Complex in a recent interview. “With ‘Oz’ we had to create a world from scratch. No blade of grass or flower existed before. It was all generated by artists and props people and botanists.”

Opening Friday, “Oz the Great and Powerful” represents the first directorial effort from Raimi since his 2009 horror movie “Drag Me to Hell,” and stands as his grandest filmmaking challenge to date, simply from a technical standpoint if no other.

In fashioning his take on the world conjured by L. Frank Baum, Raimi wanted audiences to see  “a Land of Oz that seems like it’s going on forever.” But the depth-of-field required for a 3-D movie normally only extends about 30 or 40 feet.

To supplement that, Raimi built sets the size of football fields in his home state of Michigan and bathed them in overwhelming amounts of light, even securing a special ordinance from the power company that serves the greater Detroit area.

“There were a lot of people on the crew saying ‘Sam, I can’t make it all in focus,’” Raimi said, laughing.

From a narrative standpoint, the director faced a similar challenge ensuring that James Franco’s charming charlatan Oscar Diggs had a credible arc on his reluctant hero’s journey.

“I wanted the audience to see the wizard struggling with doing the right thing,” Raimi said. “But we also need to see his heart so that when the transformation happens in the third act it’s not out of left field.”

The director acknowledges that some filmgoers might be innately resistant to a movie that returns iconic characters — such as the witches Glinda and Theodora, from both Baum’s novels and Victor Fleming’s 1939 musical “The Wizard of Oz” — to the screen. But in exploring new facets of the classic tales, Raimi hopes to allay some of those fears.

“Baum wrote that the wizard broke Theodora’s heart but we never knew how,” he said. “Now we know something about a classic we didn’t know before.”

Besides, Raimi said, he’s always believed that no matter how his effort turned out, these characters are strong enough to weather new interpretations.

“No little picture would ever stop the [1939 movie’s] longevity or damage our memory of it,” he said.

– Steven Zeitchik

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


One Response to ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’: Sam Raimi on 3-D fantasy, James Franco

  1. thearchivest says:

    “Oz the Great and Powerful” is all smoke and no mirrors, no fantasy, just effects without affect. To be honest, more like Oz the Amiable and Un-threatening. The best, funniest Oz thing I've read lately is DA YELLER BRICK ROAD, a revisionist telling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Uncle Remus. The conceit is it was originally by Remus (who didn't exist) and then "borrowed and cleaned-up" by Baum. Hilarious and charming. All that "Oz the Great and Powerful" is not.

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