With Disney’s Alice in Wonderland becoming only the sixth film in history to make $1 billion at the box office, it’s no surprise that Disney is looking at revamping more classic properties for a 21st century movie going audience. The latest is a prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, entitled The Great and Powerful Oz.

When word first appeared about the project, it reportedly had Robert Downey Jr. circling to star, and as far as we know, that still appears to be the case. As far as directors go, there’s a shortlist already drawn up with names like Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and Adam Shankman (Hairspray) on it.

However, a new director has been added to The Great and Powerful Oz shortlist: Timur Bekmambetov. He is best known for directing the James McAvoy/Angelina Jolie comic book movie Wanted but also helmed the dark yet entertaining Day Watch and Night Watch films.

It’s definitely feasible for Bekmambetov to direct the Oz prequel because he isn’t officially attached to direct anything now that Wanted 2 seems to be on hold. But that’s not to say he hasn’t got any projects in mind: Jungle Cruise (based on the Disney theme park ride), Red Asphalt, Moby Dick and The Witch Hunter are all potential candidates to be Bekmambetov’s next directorial effort.

Disney is reportedly looking to fast-track the Mitch Kapner-written Oz prequel for a (3D) shooting start as early as next Spring. But I’m sure right about now you’re wondering what exactly the film is about. Well, it’s a sort of origin story about the Wizard of Oz himself. Production Weekly (thanks to The Playlist) has a plot description if you want more details:

Based on one of the many Frank Baum books, and a prequel to the Wizard of Oz, but told from the wizard’s point of view when he first enters Oz, 50 years before Dorothy. The Wizard is a young womanizing con artist who arrives in the land of Oz accidentally, and is mistaken to be a Wizard, playing along hoping to reap the riches of Oz, only to be thrown into a civil war of a royal family of three young women who later become the witches – 2 evil and 1 good.

That sounds like a fantastic Oz story to explore on-screen, showing us the origins of the famous witches and of course the Wizard himself. I’m guessing Downey Jr. would play the Wizard (Downey’s rouge charm kind of makes that a no-brainer, right?) and if so, I’d be all for it. In fact, I don’t think there are many roles I wouldn’t want to see Downey Jr. take on.

Just to be clear, this Oz prequel has nothing to do with any of the other Oz projects we’ve been reporting on: Other takes on the classic story include a sequel that focuses on Dorothy’s granddaughter heading to Oz years after Dorothy, and one to be directed by Drew Barrymore, which follows the great, great granddaughter of Dorothy who uses the ruby slippers to stop the Wicked Witch of the West from taking over Oz and Earth (be careful not to confuse those two, folks).

Yet another case of different studios fighting to make their own version of the same story (other recent examples include The Three Musketeers and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

Would you like to see Timur Bekmambetov take on The Great and Powerful Oz as his next project? If not, who would you like to see direct instead: Sam Mendes, Adam Shankman or someone else entirely?

Source: The Playlist and Production Weekly