I’ve done a lot of interviews while working for Collider and most of them take place in a hotel room. However, the group interview I participated in with James Franco on the set of Oz The Great and Powerful might be the coolest location I’ve ever had: the yellow brick road in Oz!
During a break in filming, Franco came over to where we were standing (which was the yellow brick road) for a short interview. We talked about how he got cast, his reaction to walking on the road for the first time, the key to playing a convincing conman, his character’s motivations, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
Before getting to the interview, if you haven’t seen the latest trailer I’d watch that first:
If you’d like to listen to the audio of this interview click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
Question: At one point between takes, Zach Braff gives Michelle Williams’s hand a courtly kiss. How could you not; she’s dressed up like freaking Glenda? What’s the key to playing a convincing conman?
James Franco: I mean I’m sort of a conman, but the character starts off as a magician in a traveling circus, so it’s not like he’s out robbing banks or scamming people like dirty rotten scoundrels or something. So we had Lance Burton here, from Vegas, he’s you know one of the big magicians from there. He showed me a lot of tricks and magic, and its kind of just about — in that world its about — creating a convincing allusion, it’s kind of a showmanship.
Talk a little bit about getting involved in this project. There was obviously from what I recall rumors of Downey Jr.
Franco: He was signed on I think. Sam said he gave him a plant at the first meeting, and when he went for the second meeting, he saw that the plant had been put aside and it was dead already and that was a bad omen.
Did you get tested with a plant yourself?
Franco: No, Sam didn’t give me any plants or anything. I guess he already knew me so…
Could you talk about your initial meetings with Sam, and obviously getting approached with the material, was it an immediate yes?
Franco: Yeah, it was a pretty easy decision. Downey Jr. had fallen out — I’m not sure why — and then they were talking to Johnny Depp and he didn’t end up doing it. So then I had a meeting with Sam, and I read the script and briefly talked about it. I don’t know, it was just kind of an understanding that we both liked the approach that there was one aspect of it that would pay tribute to the collective sense of Oz but there would be a fresh take. Mainly, I think maybe through the portrayal of Oz, because Oz as — we all know — in the ’39 movie is an older gentleman, now you get the young Oz. So you get a different kind of spirit into maybe a familiar fantastical world.
I love the shabby-chic of the clothing when you see it up close, because we’ve been watching from afar, you look very put together and perfect. Here its all lose threads and slightly visible insides, one of your fly buttons is undone. I mean is that kind of shabby-grunge what you’re shooting for?
Franco: You could’ve said it a little more discrete.
I really thought you were doing that deliberately.
Franco: No. Yeah well Oz is — in the beginning — he’s not the most successful magician. So these are the clothes from Kansas, and it’s a way to set up his attraction to wealth, but really kind of a drive to pull himself out of the poverty of his early life. I guess the story is he grew up on a farm too, and his father struggled to make ends meet. So Oz’s life is — at least in the beginning — motivated by a need to better his economic standpoint.
Franco: I guess in a sense that we play with the idea of Oz being a magician in a traveling show, so he’s not what we would call a real wizard, who can make lightning shoot out of his fingers. But then he comes to a land, where people are actually performing magic, so there is this constant tension between real wizards and false wizards.
Can you describe your reaction, when you first walked on the yellow brick road, just being in a ‘Wizard of Oz’ movie? Can you sort of talk what that means to you, and what it was like?
Franco: Yeah, the yellow brick road is so iconic and it was just a fun place to be able to do scenes on the yellow brick road. And I actually was a fairly big reader when I was younger, and I think the first books I read on my own were The Baum Oz books, the fourteen or fifteen that he wrote. So like a lot of movies that I’ve done, it’s really satisfying to step into this world, because its material that I was fascinated by when I was younger. In a similar way with Ginsberg, when I was a little older I read him, and then got to play Ginsberg. This is kind of a similar experience. It’s also great because Oz is such an established place in the collective imagination. Yes, there’s a danger of like ruining people’s expectations or their idea of Oz, but I think that the spirit here is right, and the intentions are right. So I think they are going to capture what people kind of think of Oz, while still adding this great spirit. But it also gives us this freedom to make a movie that otherwise might be slightly childish, but because the original ‘Oz’ is now considered a classic, we can kind of play with — in this childish fantastical world and it doesn’t have to feel like a children’s movie. So it’s really nice.
Thank you for your time and your courtesy.
Franco: Have a good day.
Oz the Great and Powerful opens on March 8th. For more from my set visit:
- 30 Things to Know About Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful From Our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap
- Sam Raimi Talks Pulling Material from Baum’s Books, Crafting the Look of Oz, Not Tarnishing the Original, & More on the Set of Oz The Great and Powerful
- Michelle Williams Talks Creating Her Own Glinda, Working with Sam Raimi, and More on the Set of Oz The Great and Powerful
- Zach Braff Talks Doing Voice Recordings on Set, Working on a Large-Scale Epic, 3D Technology, and More on the Set of Oz The Great and Powerful
- Joey King Talks Playing Two Characters, Making Adults Put Money in a Swear Jar, and More on the Set of Oz The Great and Powerful