I recently had an opportunity to attend a press junket for Disney's Oz The Great and Powerful, where director Sam Raimi and the cast talked about certain aspects of the film. I wish I could have talked to these guys one on one, or at least been able to ask a question, unfortunately I wasn't able to. Most of the qustions asked by the press were very generic, but I picked out some of the more interesting quotes and topics from panels.
Everyone seemed really nice, and I got a chance to meet most of them. I do have to say that both Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams are more beautiful in person than they are in the movies. I got to talk to Sam Raimi the longest, and he's just the nicest guy! Very humble and so awesome! It was really great to get to meet him cause I'm such a huge fan. It was great to get to meet everyone.
Here's what they had to say about the film!
Mila Kunis on playing the iconic Wicked Witch of the West:
I got very nervous about playing such an iconic character or at least playing a character that had such an iconic end result. And I, and I didn’t want to ruin it and I didn’t want to re-create it and I didn’t want to re-interpret it. And so in order for me to wrap my head around it, I had to make sense of her origin. And, um, and-and then it was just given to me, kind of like a gift. I mean, here’s a girl who’s incredibly naïve and very young and doesn’t believe she’s almost worthy of love, has never really truly experienced love. Meets James’s character. Falls madly in love with him, very quickly, mind you, but nonetheless. And, um, and then gets her heart broken. And-and probably doesn’t have the emotional tools of-of dealing with heartache. Doesn’t want to deal with it. Takes the easy way route, uh, given by her sister. And goes through a-an emotional transformation that’s mirrored by a physical one and so happens to change color. But, um, I honestly viewed her as just a normal girl who gets her heart broken who just so happens to be, um, a witch that can fly.
Kunis on playing an over-the-top character:
Very rarely are you given the opportunity to have such a fantastical character. That’s the truth. And so it’s really fun. Now. I say this because I had incredible actors, that I felt safe with and I had the most incredible safety net of Sam Raimi and Joe. Knowing that should I maybe not do the greatest of a take, I would get, be allow, given another one, and another one. And so I was allowed to play around and-and kind of have that little tennis match back and forth. Well, if you take that away, it’s incredibly frightening because my character does have an end result that is so incredibly iconic that you just don’t want to mess it up. And you don’t want to play around with it too much ‘cause then it becomes something completely crazy and-and not believable. But, um, oh, God, it’s so fun to be a part of this world. So fun.
James Franco on learning magic for his role:
I got to learn with Lance Burton, who, um, is a great magician from Las Vegas. And I got private lessons. It was, uh, it was pretty fun. And, um, and I, and I could accomplish the tricks. There were even more tricks than, um, made it into the film. We just had to cut some of them for time but, um, I got to learn quite a few pretty cool tricks that if I took them to parties, I-I probably would get a lot of attention. But, I need a lot of help from Lance to pull them off and, he doesn’t travel around with me. So it’s just sort of one of the skills that I’ve learned like along the way, like sword-fighting or, you know, flying a plane that I, just don’t use very much after I’m done with the movie.
Franco on how the character came about:
The character, I think, as written, was very much, um, Sam’s idea. I think it’s one of his big contributions. Uh. We had, you know, when you deal with Oz, as a subject, you, of course has a, have a fantastical land. And-and, um, so I had faith that Joe and the-the designers and everyone would be able to create, uh, a spectacular world. But you don’t want just, um, the, a movie that’s a journey through a fantastical world. You want the characters to have their own inner journeys. And so Sam’s idea was, I think it was Sam’s idea or maybe a collaboration, that, with the writers that, um, the character would also have an inner journey. And he would start off, uh, one place and then, um, have room to grow, uh, once he got to Oz. And, I thought, as, you know, kind of selfish as he is, as-as much of a cad as he is in the beginning, it-it would never go to the point where he’s unlikeable because all of his, um, manipulations and, um, conning of people are sort of played for laughs. And, um, and you can’t, and-and I can’t quite blame him for being the way he is because of-of his history, you know? He-he grew up in circumstances where, you know, you just wanted to get out. He wanted something different. And-and, um, so performing was-was, he saw a way out. And so he’s gone a little too far in his ambitions and it’s blinded him to the love of the people around him. But, in another sense you can’t blame, you know, the initial reasons for, you know, wanting to, for being the way that he is.
Michelle Williams on working with Sam Raimi:
I knew the moment that I met Sam that it wasn’t really going to be that different from other experiences that I’ve had because he’s, I mean, he is first of all like a consummate family man and his sets feel like, he makes like little homes. And it feels very cozy and it feels very safe and it feels like all of your ideas are welcome, even the bad ones. And that’s the way that I’ve grown accustomed to working, and I like working, and-and I-and, um, and I had that with Sam. I think we all-we all really had that with Sam. And the-and-but-and what people have said before, and it’s entirely true, the thing that I’ve never experienced before is a director wit an unflagging sense of humor like Sam. He really taught me a lot about how to like keep your chin up, like when the day is long and things aren’t going quite as you had sort of planned them out in your head, Sam is there with a smile. Sam is there with a hand. Sam is there with a joke. And he really taught me a lot about keeping a good face. Yeah. And not getting-not getting, um, yeah, not getting down on yourself.
Sam Raimi on special effects and shooting in 3D:
Yes, there were a tremendous amount of new challenges for me. I had-didn’t know anything about 3-D so I had to go to school and learn about 3-D. I had to meet with technicians and study the camera systems and go to effects houses and hear what the different visual effects artists had to say about working with the systems and I had to basically shoot some test days and see what the effects of convergence was on the audience and why the audience gets a headache. I used to get headaches at 3-D movies and I didn’t want this movie to give people headaches so...
There’s about four reasons that I learned about. There may be more. I’m sure technical people at this point are going, Raimi, you’re getting it wrong! But I’ll tell you what I know, which is-you don’t want to dramatically change the convergence from shot to shot and have something in the-breaking the screen plane in the foreground and then quickly go to a shorter shot where there’s something in the deep background, and then again cut to a shot where you’re playing the convergence in the foreground. It has to be delicately handled. And you have to let the audience’s eyes adjust. Have longer shots, if you intend to make that dramatic adjustment. Or take them to a little stairway from convergence level to convergence level so that their brains can adjust and their eyes can adjust. Otherwise you’re making their heads work so hard, it’s a-forcing those eyes-the muscles and the brain muscle to work in a way it’s not used to working and it gives headaches. You do develop a muscle for it, though. Uh, a tolerance for it, if you could-could say. That I developed. So I couldn’t trust my own instincts after a time. I had to just go by the numbers. What is the convergence on this. How different is it, etcetera. In addition, I don’t want to turn this into a technical conversation but it’s about where images are on the screen. You don’t want to make the audience look both left and right dramatically from cut to cut and change convergence. It’s just too difficult for-too much of a strain. But it has to do with brightness, also. And it has to do with ghosting in the background and a minimization of that and a contrast ratio that’s much tighter than in a normal-normal picture. And there’s a lot of other technical ways to minimize stress on the audience. Anyways, I had to learn so much about 3-D. I had to learn about creating a whole world. I surrounded myself with the best artists. Not just actors but artists. Uh, storyboard artists, visual effects artists, concept artists, landscape artists, greenery-greenswomen and men and people that really knew how to create a world from the ground up because I had never created a world before. This is some-every single blade of grass and little blossom has been thought out by a individual artist. Every insect is not from a library, is not from nature photography. It’s created by artists. There’s little zebra bees. You can’t even see them. There’s little-strange little white-haired squirrels that are half-muskrat, half-squirrel, that inhabit this land and giant creatures that lope like dinosaurs, you see only in the background but everything had to be animated and designed so I’d never been part of anything so gigantic before. That was a new challenge.
Rami on the best part about witches:
I love making those horror movies but, I was really guided by Mila Kunis’s performance and what her instincts were in playing that character. And she decided that-and I’ve heard her say-that she was playing her like a woman scorned. So even though-even though-and she wasn’t really thinking about the fact that she was green, I think she’s told me she was playing it as an innocent who fell in love and her heart was broken and she suffered and she couldn’t take the suffering and wanted to end that suffering and her sister was all too willing to let that suffering end and it awakened something that was already there but just fueled the fire of-of, uh-I don’t know what you women call it, hatred, anger, mixed with love, jealousy, rage. Rage is a good word. That rage drove her. And I wasn’t tempted to-to make it more like a horror movie. I wanted her to guide us and I would follow her with the camera.
Raimi on how Spider-Man helped prepare him for Oz:
Spiderman helped me because I learned that I can’t-you can’t be loyal to every detail of the book. Every filmmaker knows when you make a book into a movie, the first thing you have to do is kill the book, unfortunately. You’ve got to re-create it. But I decided I could be truest to the fans of Baum’s great work if I recognized what was great and moving and touching and most effective about those books to me. Just to me. And put as much of that into this picture as I could. And that’s so I was not slave to the details. But I was a slave to the heart and the soul of the thing. In as many ways as I could express it, I put it into this movie.
Raimi on Walt Disney wanting to make the movie back in the day:
Well, I had learned that Walt Disney wanted to make an Oz picture only recently, after the, after we were done shooting, when the movie was almost finished. And the guys in the marketing department said, “Take a look at this reel we’re putting on the DVD” and it showed how Walt was trying to get the rights to the Oz books and how he was gonna get his army of Mouseketeers together to each play a part. That part I didn’t think was gonna work very well, actually. That’s weird. For his show. But anyways, it was a dream-a passion and dream of his, and I thought that was very touching because I have-all I wanted to do was making the ultimate Walt Disney picture. I thought this movie always could be. It could be for families. It could be uplifting. And it makes sense in retrospect that it was Walt’s dream to make an Oz picture. And I hope that Walt would have appreciated, I hope he would have liked the movie. There’s no violence in the picture so I think he would a like that. He’s got, uh, some classic Disney princesses and witches in the picture. I think he would like that. And he’s got those Disney, um-you know, little bluebirds and, uh, cuddly creatures like the blue monkeys. So I think he might have liked it. Unless he hated it. But it’s hard to say. Hard to say what he would have liked. But I was honored to make it and surprised to find out that he had intended to make an Oz picture.