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Oz The Great And Powerful - James Franco and Zach Braff interview

Oz: The Great & Powerful

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAMES Franco and Zach Braff talk about what attracted them to Oz The Great & Powerful and what it was like to work with Sam Raimi.

James also reflects on learning magic from a Las Vegas master. They were speaking at a UK press conference.

Q. Was there one thing in particular that made you want to sign up when you read the script?
Zach Braff: Well, first and foremost Sam Raimi. I think I speak for everyone when I say that nobody handles these movies better. He can make a giant, beautiful effects movie that is grounded and has heart and a foundation with really human characters. When I heard it was happening, I just did everything I could to be involved because of the great maestro, Mr Sam Raimi.

And James? You’ve worked with Sam a lot now…
James Franco: Yeah, talk about reasons for not wanting to do it [laughs]! No, I had three reasons I wanted to do it. First of all, I heard Sam was doing this movie and that was probably the No.1 reason. I did the three Spider-Man films with him and I’ve known him over 10 years and not only is he one of my favourite directors to work with but I’m a fan of his films. So, I jumped at the opportunity to do this. I’ve also been a fan of the world of Oz since I was a boy. I read all the L Frank Baum books when I was a kid. So, I was excited to be able to step into that world of my childhood imagination.

And then I just wanted to be sure that Sam had a sound approach to the movie, so after reading script I saw that, of course, he had a very smart way to do it. I saw they were going to be loyal and respectful of everything we lovers of Oz expect, and that there would be familiar things in the land of Oz that you need for it to be the land of Oz – the yellow brick road, the Emerald City, witches, flying monkeys, and Munchkins. But now it’s 70 plus years later and they would be able to capture this world in a much more spectacular and seamless way than relying on theatrical conventions like men in lion pyjamas with the faces cut out. They could create these magical creatures in ways that are believable to the eye.

But even more than that, I thought the approach back to the land of Oz was just perfect… that they weren’t just going to slavishly try and recreate a new version of Dorothy, so you’d have like a little boy version of something like that.. The lead character here was completely different. He was anything but an innocent young girl – he was not innocent but rather a conman, so the way the audience would be brought into the familiar world of Oz would be completely new and the trip through Oz and the way that the character interacts with Oz would be completely fresh. So, I thought they had both – they were respectful of what they should respect and they were innovative when they should be innovative.

Q. Did you draw on Frank L Baum’s books or the original 1939 film when shaping your performance?
Zach Braff: Well, I had never read the books, so I don’t know. It’s tricky for me to answer because I’m creating this new character whereas I think maybe the witches could answer because they had more to look to. I guess if anything I saw the monkey as being the comic relief in the way that the animals – the lion, the scarecrow and the tin-man were… the physical comedy of it all. I think there were a couple of subtle places where Sam and I found to put in some fun physical comedy that was an homage to those three characters.

Q. James, did you actually train with any magicians?
James Franco: Yes I did. I was fortunate enough to receive lessons from Lance Burton, one of the great magicians from Las Vegas. He normally performs for hundreds or maybe thousands of people and I got to have him as my own private teacher, which was great. It was a big treat. And he taught me many tricks and Sam assured me that they would all go into the movie and the work would pay off. It didn’t [laughs]. Actually, the character puts on a show in Kansas at the beginning of the film, and there are some of the tricks that stayed in there. But more than that, when I look at myself on stage there are certain flourishes and the way that I carry myself that come from Lance, who is just a great guy and a great teacher.

Q. Do you continue to practise?
James Franco: No. Lance not only is a great magician but he’s a great magician’s assistant and a lot of the tricks were very elaborate and require special doves and props and that kind of thing.

Q. Did the costumes help you get into the role?
Zach Braff: I wore a sexy blue onesy! I don’t have a picture of it. But you think that maybe if you’re making a movie for six months, when you walk on-set your cast members would eventually stop laughing! But they didn’t. I really am not qualified to answer that.

Read our review of Oz The Great & Powerful

Read our interview with Sam Raimi