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CinemaCon: James Franco, Mila Kunis talk 'Oz' [video]

April 25, 2012 | 12:20 pm

When word first emerged that Walt Disney Studios was planning a new spin on "The Wizard of Oz," generations of the original movie's fans were outraged.

James Franco, who stars as the Wizard in next year's Sam Raimi-directed "Oz: The Great and Powerful," says he understood the reaction over toying with such a classic film.

"I certainly had some of those fears myself before signing on," admitted Franco, who was in Las Vegas this week to help sell the film to theater owners at CinemaCon. "But I felt really good about it when I learned that it would have a mix. With a movie like this, you wanted to be both loyal to people's idea of Oz, but also give something fresh."

Indeed, the film doesn't tell the traditional tale of "Oz." Instead, it centers around the Wizard's path in the magical land, following him from a young age as he encounters various characters including a trio of witches played by Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis.

"He is a comedic character," Franco, 34, said of the Wizard. "There are a lot of sides to Oz, but one of the main aspects of Oz is his comedy and his sense of humor. I think that allows a movie to get away with a lot."

Kunis, who was also on hand at Caesar's Palace, acknowledged she was more nervous to partake in this movie than any that came before.

"You create a character from scratch, and it's your little being," she said. "But when there's an anticipation for what the character ultimately turns out to be, you don't want to mimic that or copy that, because you'll never be able to replicate it."

The film, due out next March, was produced by former Disney studio head Joe Roth. On stage in front of the exhibitors, Roth joked that he got involved with the project because he "wanted to make as many March billion dollar movies for Disney" as he could -- a reference to "Alice in Wonderland" and the upcoming "Maleficent."

"We built eight gigantic stages and had 2,000 special effects shots in 3-D," Roth said, describing the film's scope. "But this is more Disney than any movie I can ever remember."


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Michelle Williams: I'm reinventing my 'Wizard of Oz' character

--Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas


Photo: James Franco and Mila Kunis talk about "Oz: The Great and Powerful" at CinemaCon. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press