The last bit of news about Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz project, Oz the Great and Powerful, pegged the director as being at odds with Disney studio heads over the matter of whether Hilary Swank or Michelle Williams should play the sinister sorceress Evanora in his film. Now it appears that another beautiful and talented leading lady may end up actually landing the role.
Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz is reportedly very close to signing on for Raimi's project, which will also feature James Franco as the young "wizard" Oz and Mila Kunis as Evanora's (at first) good-hearted sibling.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel (of sorts) to the classic Wizard of Oz story; it revolves around a younger version of the titular character, a snake oil salesman whose philandering ways force him to flee the countryside in a hot air balloon. This inadvertently leads to his reaching that magical place "somewhere over the rainbow" and getting into more trouble when he crosses the paths of three actual witches.
As Heat Vision has pointed out, Oz would be a bit of a departure for Weisz; with the exception of the Mummy movies, she usually works on lower-budgeted or indie fare like The Constant Gardener, About A Boy, or The Brothers Bloom.
Weisz has (in my opinion) a very charming screen presence, and certainly fits the "incredibly attractive, seductive" description of Evanora in early plot details leaked from Raimi's Oz film - so she's definitely a great choice for what is (presumably) the younger version of the Wicked Witch of the West. One does wonder if she'll have green skin, though...
It seems all too clear that Franco's Oz character is being fashioned as a Jack Sparrow-type whose trouble-making ways constantly land him in hot water - with the ladies and local authorities alike. Heck, when Robert Downey Jr. backed out of playing the part in Raimi's movie, Disney wanted Johnny Depp to replace him! So although those early plot details for Oz the Great and Powerful may sound a bit risque for a Disney film, it seems they are quite accurate.
That does bring me to a potential issue facing Oz, the Great & Powerful: While neither Downey Jr. or Depp's silver-tongued scoundrel act is nearly as fresh today as it was pre-Iron Man and the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, respectively, Franco seems to more often play the dumb-but-charming types onscreen. Maybe it's just me, but I kind of suspect that Franco's Oz will come off as more goofy rather than clever and sneaky - albeit, unintentionally.
Oz the Great and Powerful is slated to begin shooting this summer; while I don't really feel a need to see the title character's origin story explored on the big screen, at least Disney has assembled a nice cast and a creative director to bring it to life. So maybe it'll turn out okay after all.
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