LOS ANGELES — It’s been 70 years since the musical adventure “The Wizard of Oz” – based on L. Frank Baum’s popular books – enthralled audiences with its fantastical tale of friendship, love, and loss in the spectacular imaginary world of yellow brick roads, witches, and munchkins.
Director Sam Raimi is bringing the beloved characters back to the big screen in Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Zach Braff.
The 3D film is described as a cinematic prequel to Baum’s “The Wonder World of Oz,” and explores the backstory of the mysterious wizard. The movie, however, isn’t a musical, which might seem peculiar considering the 1939 flick is well known for tunes like “Over the Rainbow” and “If I Only Had a Brain!”
Raimi explains why that is to a room full of journalists at a press conference held for the movie at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.
“Early on I think the writers decided that we shouldn’t imitate that fantastic musical. There was no comparison to the great quality of music in the original, in fact. Ours was more based on the Baum works.”
No stranger to big blockbuster movies, Raimi helmed the “Spider-Man” franchise, which he admitted gave him insight on this film.
“‘Spider-man’ helped me because I learned that 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.”
“Oz the Great and Powerful” opens March 8.