From director Sam Raimi, Oz the Great and Powerful imagines the origins of the wizard that was first brought to life in author L. Frank Baum’s book The Wizard of Oz, in a fantastical adventure that utilizes 3D to enhance what is truly an awe-inspiring movie-going experience. When small-time circus magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is unexpectedly carried from Kansas to the vibrantly beautiful Land of Oz in a tornado, he soon meets three witches – Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) – who are unsure about whether he truly is the great wizard that they’ve been expecting. In one of the biggest tales of fake it ‘til you make it, Oscar must use his magical skill and a little ingenuity to help good triumph over evil.
At the film’s press day, co-stars Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz spoke at a press conference about working on such a big CG and effects film, the best part about playing a witch, doing all of the wire work for their big fight scene, making sure they had just the right outfit, how the costumes affected their performances, and their experiences with The Wizard of Oz. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS: I knew the moment that I met Sam that it wasn’t really going to be that different from other experiences that I’ve had. He is a consummate family man and he makes his sets like little homes. It feels very cozy and safe, and it feels like all of your ideas are welcome, even the bad ones. That’s the way I’ve grown accustomed to working, and that I like working. I had that with Sam. I think we all really had that with Sam. The thing that I’d never experienced before was a director with an unflagging sense of humor like Sam. He really taught me a lot about how to keep your chin up. When the day is long and things aren’t going quite as you had planned them out in your head, Sam is there with a smile, a hand and a joke. He really taught me a lot about keeping a good face and not getting down on yourself.
What was the best part about playing a witch?
RACHEL WEISZ: The flying. It’s really hard to beat flying, as a skill. So, flying was number one. Number two was the lightning bolts.
WILLIAMS: Making little girls smile when you walk by.
WEISZ: I didn’t have that problem, but my Winkie Guards were very fond of me. On the last day, I ran off and they had more shooting, and in unison they said, “Bye, Evanora!” By that point, I was their leader. They believed in me. I basically beat them all down, those Winkie Guards. They were my soldiers.
What was it like to do your big fight scene with all of the wire work?
WILLIAMS: I think we both really loved being on the wires.
WEISZ: It’s very fun! It was a little scary, the first day. We had a rehearsal period with these wonderful stunt coordinators who had worked extensively with Sam on the Spider-Man films, so they were all experts in making people fly.
WEISZ: I don’t know. You hear Sam say, “Action!,” and you just do it.
WILLIAMS: Everything else just drifts away. I feel like you’re always acting through something, whether it’s really hot or it’s really cold. There’s always something else that’s going on.
How did wearing these dresses affect your performances?
WEISZ: Sam is so up for exploration. He was making this really big-budget movie, and I can’t even imagine the level of pressure he was under, but he was just up for an exploration, all the time. There were these incredible drawings of our costumes that were done by Michael Kutsche. My character looks a bit like a bird of prey, and she’s slightly militaristic via Las Vegas. Because I was getting into character, Sam said to play around with Gary Jones, the costume designer. So, we spent a couple of weeks in a room and I cooked up this costume that I brought to the first screen test, where I looked a bit like the Duchess of Windsor. It was this little green dress and a little crown because there was a side of my character who just desperately wanted to be queen, and Sam looked at it and said, “It’s just not right. You need to go back to the original thing.” But, part of my process was me finding my desire to be queen. The dress turns from green to black, once I’m out to the audience as a bad girl.
WILLIAMS: I remember that it became very clear to me that Glinda needed to change her dress to go into battle, and that she needed something that she could move more freely in and that could look like armor, after we had already shot something of me in my other dress, doing something in battle. I went to Sam and said, “It’s really important to me. I know what it should look like. Is there any way, please?” And Sam is so accommodating that he said, “If it means that much to you, then it means that much to me,” and we got to reshoot that with the new dress.
WILLIAMS: I don’t remember the first time that I saw the movie, or anything like that, but I do remember the feeling I had when I first realized that the characters in her waking life were the same as the characters in her dream life, and that the woman on the bicycle was the wicked witch. And I remember being really affected once I discovered that because I felt like somebody had been tricking me or playing with me. Something was working on me, on a subconscious level, that I wasn’t aware of, and that freaked me out, as a kid. Other than that, it was just a great place to take inspiration from.
WEISZ: It was the first film I remember seeing, so it’s my earliest film memory. It has that kind of power. I remember my mom taking me to the cinema when I was about five, and I remember being really traumatized by the wicked witches. They were very, very scary. And I loved Judy Garland’s voice. I love how she sings. She gives me goosebumps. For me, it was about her singing and how it really made me feel good.
Oz the Great and Powerful opens in theaters on March 8th.