Michelle Williams Talks Creating Her Own Glinda, Working with Sam Raimi, and More on the Set of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

     January 31, 2013


While we’ve all seen the good witch Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, but on the set of Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful, Michelle Williams explained the major difference between her Glinda and the one from the 1939 film:

“When you meet Glinda in the original Wizard of Oz, she is omniscient, she has a kind of calm. But that’s  where she wound up and this is kind of more where she began.”

During a group interview Williams talked about acting in a fairytale, the costumes, working with Raimi, her reaction to walking on the yellow brick road for the first time, filming in 3D, what it’s been like working on such a large production, and so much 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 most of the audio of this interview click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-james-franco-michelle-williamsQuestion: I was watching you film on the steps with the kids. How great is it to step on set and literally be a fairytale figure for a bunch of kids?

Michelle Williams: It’s the best. There’s nothing better than making kids happy. Yeah. Seeing little girls’ faces light up just at the sight of me.

Are you gonna keep the tiara?

MW: Um, I think that tiara has a price tag that I couldn’t afford!

How much inspiration did you get from the original Glinda?

MW: Yeah, we talked about her a lot. But Sam wanted to shy away from anything that was too heavily…that referenced her too heavily. He wanted our very own Glinda. So there’s little nods in a few costumes and a couple of lines. But she’s really…she’s a starting off point. I just think of her as…where Glinda started. When you meet Glinda in the original Wizard of Oz, she is omniscient, she has a kind of calm. But that’s where…we like to think that that’s where she wound up and this is kind of more where she began.

Describe how she began then. How is Glinda in this film?

MW: How she began. Well…[to publicist] can we talk about the story?

Publicist: Yes. This is all embargoed.

We know that you’re set up. The Wicked Witch makes Oz believe that you’re the Wicked Witch. And you have to be…dealt with…

oz-great-powerful-michelle-williamsMW: And you know that my father…

No. [Laughter]

MW: Well, then I can’t answer your question, sorry.

Is there a sense of…when you think of Glinda in the other movie, she’s the most virtuous person in the world. Is that not established yet? Does she have faults?

MW: I think that her character is intact, but I think that she has…you know, I don’t think her goodness is ever in question. But I think that she has struggles.

Russell the prop master said you had some ideas about what the wand should look like. Is that right? Were there any other aspects to the costuming or the props that they asked for your input on and that they adjusted based on what you wanted?

MW: Yeah, I would say that the costumes were a big collaboration because it went…it had a lot to say about what I was thinking…how I wanted her to begin. And the kind of spirit that the young Glinda or something has. And the costumes are a big part of telling that story. I had a lot of ideas and it was fun to implement them. And have people who are willing to collaborate and have the time and the talent and the budget to do that.

He said you wanted to go for a more organic feel to her, like closer to nature. Is that accurate?

MW: Yes.

After Meek’s Cutoff and Take This Waltz, this is very…during Take This Waltz you weren’t like, ‘and there’s a blue-screen, and there’s 300 little people’…when you step onto this, is there that moment of dislocation, of what am I doing here? Or is it just, ‘I have a role, I have a part, I have lines, I have other actors to work with, that’s what I’m gonna stick to?’

MW: There have been a lot of first times for me on this movie.


MW: Um…the imaginary world. You know, you see a big blue screen, but of course you won’t see a big blue screen. You’re gonna see things flying, and you’re gonna see a sun setting, and you’re gonna see flowers turning…[makes a funny noise as she catches herself, laughter]…you’re gonna see things! Um…so turning on sort of that side of my brain…but often you’re not really able to have the real thing there when you do it. So that, and most of the movies that I make tend to be smaller, and sort of more intimate. It’s just a smaller crew. And I like things feeling like a family, so I’ve just tried to make this feel like a really big family. But it’s a happy one because Sam’s the dad, and it all comes down from there.

Was working with Mr. Raimi an imperative part of being involved in this kind of film? Like you wouldn’t do it for Michael Bay or anyone like that?

MW: It’s interesting that you call him Mr. Raimi. I think I call him Mr. Raimi. He deserves a ‘Mr.’

I call everyone ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ But Ms. Williams, was his being who he is a huge part of the decision to make the leap to this kind of film?

MW: Yes. Yeah.

What’s the chemistry like on set with you and James, and Mila, what’s the relationship like?

MW: The chemistry? The sexual chemistry? [Laughter] Let me tell you. What’s the chemistry like? It’s a ball.

Have you floated yet in a ball?

MW: I’ve done some floating, I’ve done some flying.

michelle-williams-imageDo you have a dual character? We know some of the people appear in the opening sequence, and then again in Oz?

Publicist: Yes. That’s fine. Everybody’s fine.

MW: Yes, yes I do.

You are Oz’s old childhood love who he regrets losing, and then you’re reflected in the fantasy world?

MW: Yes I am.

Could you talk about the first time you walked on the yellow brick road?

MW: Yeah, that was a momentous occasion, I have to say. I forget who…I grabbed somebody’s arm, and I said…’Wait a second, stop! We’re on the yellow brick road!’ How many people get a chance to say…I’ve been thinking about stealing…first of all, I have been thinking about stealing a little piece of the yellow brick road. But how many people get a chance to say that? It’s a part of cinema…I mean, it goes beyond cinema, it’s part of sort of cultural history, so.

What is your strongest memory as a film lover of the 1939 film?

MW: The munchkins. What do I remember the most? Well, I was in a school play, or a community theater play of ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and I played a lullaby league munchkin, so I’m really drawn to them.

You’re also filming this in 3D with the Red Epic cameras. Have you gone to the monitor to see the 3D playback? What are your thoughts on 3D?

MW: I haven’t really. I’m…I find it…it makes me self-conscious to watch myself. And so unless there’s something technical, because a lot of the movie is technical, unless there’s something really technical that I’m really not grasping, I tend to not watch because it doesn’t help my process. So I’ll be as excited as everybody else is when the movie comes out to watch it in 3D.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-james-franco-michelle-williamsWhen they were filming earlier, there was a moment when Mr. Franco was rallying the troops, and you wandered over to him, and you had this conversation, and you take off his hat and just place your hand on his jacket for a moment. How important is it for you to find those small moments in the tumult of such a big action and effects-packed movie?

MW: Well, Mr. Raimi…that was a moment that was improvised on the day. We knew that we needed something else to end the scene, and he gave us the time and the space to do it, because he thought that it was necessary. Because he really is…I mean maybe this is just the ploy that he, this is how he makes the actors feel, but it feels like he’s most interested in relationships. But you know, he probably makes Russell feel like he’s most interested in the props. And that’s one of Sam’s talents, is he makes everybody feel like their contributions carry such weight. So he made some time and space for us. And we you know, added these lines and made this moment. So amidst a lot of people and a lot of pressure…Sam is able to create a small, quiet, creative space too that makes room for things like that to grow, so…

It must make it nice to have these huge sets actually built. You have this whole world created, and your costumes and everything. How much of creating your character comes from the exterior environment as well, in helping to get you in that world?

MW: Once you’re there I think you can glean a lot of information from the sets. I wasn’t around when they were being built. I didn’t see any of it in process. So I didn’t know how we were gonna sort of match in all of the worlds. And I think there actually were some alterations…I think I showed up for a test in my dress, and I did not go with my castle, so we had to change some things to make them more cohesive. But yeah, spaces have…spaces dictate a lot of feeling. Like I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t love being in a boardroom under these lights. It makes you feel like ‘meh’…I don’t know. So when you’re walking down your castle steps in your courtyard, that gives you a whole ‘nother feeling.

Hypothetically speaking, have you been able to ‘borrow’ anything from set? Or are there plans to?

oz-great-powerful-michelle-williamsMW: ‘Borrow,’ you mean ‘pillage.’ [Laughs] Um, uh…I don’t think I’ve borrowed anything yet, except for…have I borrowed anything yet? [I need to] think about that. I put some cookies in my pocket. [Laughter] And I took them home to my family, I don’t know if that counts.

To a point you made earlier about the size of the…a lot of the films you’ve done before I’m guessing had much shorter shooting schedules. Is the sort of stretched-out pace of this, has that sort of altered anything for you?

MW: My life.

Yeah, does it feel like you’re walking in quicksand, or…

MW: Yeah, it’s just more of a like endurance test. You know, you’re training for…I don’t know, what are things that are longer than marathons?

Ultra-marathons. Iron Man. Triathalon.

MW: Yes, you’re training the ultra…yeah, you’re training for Iron Man or something. You just…I think it’s with anything, you know, when you have the goal in sight…it’s when something seems interminable that you’re…but you know, I know that there’s a…I actually don’t really want it to end, I’m actually having quite a nice time. It doesn’t really…no, it doesn’t really change anything. I guess you try and pace yourself a little differently.

On that note, are you excited about the possibility of sequels, and all that fun stuff?

MW: I’ve still got two more months! I mean, I don’t know!

oz-the-great-and-powerful-poster-rachel-weiszDoes it make you excited about the possibility of doing more big-budget films, or are you itching to go back to the smaller stuff?

MW: I don’t know, I mean I don’t really…I don’t know, I haven’t really thought of it as…I guess because of Sam, it doesn’t feel impersonal in any way. Which is always what my fear is of making bigger movies that you don’t get to know people and you…um, so…it doesn’t feel alienating in any way.

But we’ve seen all of these practical sets that are really incredible. Do you have a favorite so far?

MW: So far?

Or something coming up in the future?

MW: The graveyard was smelly. And…uh, where else have we been?

Publicist: For you, you’ve just been…

MW: In the throne room right?

Publicist: The throne room…yeah, you’ve done three sets so far, your character.

MW: Throne room, graveyard…

Publicist: And they’ve seen everything including the throne room, which strangely enough, if you go through all of the stages numerically, that’s the last place you wind up. Stage 7. And…everybody that’s walked into that space is just amazed by it.

Oh, the throne room? I wanna get married there. [Laughter] Kidding. Um, with modern film there’s this big distraction-industrial complex that springs up around it of the toys, the video games, the tie-in books, the tie-in snack…has any of that stuff come knocking yet? Have people been like, and here’s your action figure? Or is it still too far out to worry about what you look like four inches tall?

MW: [Laughs] Well, now I’ll begin. Now that you mention it. No, I haven’t heard…I don’t…I don’t know anything about that.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-posterAre you excited to turn into a Barbie doll or an action figure?

MW: Like I said, now I’m gonna start worrying about it. I haven’t really thought about that.

More importantly, are you excited at the prospect of being a strong character who’s integral to the plot and stands on her own ruby slippers, or rather sparkly silver slippers, and can be someone who young girls in the theater can look up to? Are you ready for a decade or so of Halloweens, of people dressed up like you?

MW: [Laughs] As the mother of an almost six year old daughter, I’d say absolutely.

What has her impression been of seeing this world?

MW: I’d have to let her tell you.

I’m curious if you’re prepared for the going to Disneyland in the future and having someone who looks just like you…

MW: Really?

I mean, you’re gonna obviously make these characters come to life in the parks.

MW: Really?

I’m pretty confident. [Laughter]

MW: I don’t know, they just get me here to act! They don’t tell me any of this doll, park, ride business!

Well, what was it like for you signing on for the first big Hollywood release, big Hollywood movie. I’m sure the contract is a hell of a lot different from movies you’ve signed on for in the past. Were you intimidated by that, and possibly signing on for sequels and everything that goes along with it?

MW: Um…uh…was I intimidated by signing what might seem like a long-term contract?

oz-the-great-and-powerful-posterWell, I’m sure the contract is thicker on a movie like this than on some of the previous films you’ve done. I’m just curious if you can talk about making that leap, once you’ve signed on that dotted line.

MW: Yeah, usually on my other jobs, we just spit on our palms and shake hands…[Laughter]

You and Kelly Reichardt just spit and shake and do each other’s hair?

MW: [Laughs] Pretty much.

One of the coolest things we saw is the marionette of the China Doll. Can you talk about interacting?

MW: Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she beautiful? Man.

How much does that help you as an actor to have that?

MW: To have…yeah, I mean, like I said, I sort of regretted when I said earlier on this movie that it’s a lot of acting to marks, because Sam – Mr. Raimi – has been…has really thought about that as much as he can, and wherever it allows there’s something real for us to react to. And so he’ll have the marionette in…even though that won’t be in the movie, but yet you use it as a sort of a template. You keep it going in your mind as a memory and then they’ll CG it in later. So he’s not…he doesn’t leave you hanging…he doesn’t leave you hanging in the breeze by yourself, basically. He really wants to fill up your imagination as much as he can, so he’s been very generous like that.

What has doing such a very large film taught you about the craft of acting that you didn’t expect it to?

Oz The Great and Powerful posterMW: Ooh, I like it. Um…well I would say, you know, I guess I didn’t realize it was this big! Um…it didn’t seem this big! I don’t mean to be naive or anything, but it just…um, you know, David Lindsay-Abaire polished up this script, and Sam can have the most in-depth conversation…he can situate himself inside of any character and have the most in-depth conversation from that character’s point of view about how they would behave in a scene. I would say, it’s up there with the most collaborative environments I’ve ever worked on. And I got to make ‘Blue Valentine,’ which was just two actors being allowed to do anything they wanted and follow any impulse at any time, no matter how ridiculous, insane, upsetting, whatever it was. And on Kelly’s films…this is right there, so…so I guess I didn’t think of it as being that big because I worked with Sam, talked to Sam, and I knew what I was getting in…you know, I knew that I was gonna be there with a director who would direct me, and that he wasn’t gonna be sort of…um, more attached to technical things than sort of personal things. But like I was saying before, I’ve had to flex my imagination I think in a way that it almost feels like a muscle that was sort of getting underdeveloped or something. And also some of the shots that we’ve done, we’ve done really long tracking shots that involve crowds and…you know, you land in your bubble, and you walk through a crowd, you’re greeting the crowd, you’re saying your lines to James, you’re walking up the stairs, you’re in a long dress, you can’t trip on your dress, you have to keep your wand in your left hand, you’re still talking to James and then you’re relating to people and then you’re coming up to the stairs and then you turn around…and it’s all in one shot, and it’s like a 3 1/2, 4 minute take, and it was so exhausting after that I was like, ‘Woo! I gotta get back in the theater!’ Like, the movies that I make they wouldn’t have the capability, the budget, you know, the crane, to make that kind of shot. So to…um, stamina, endurance, imagination, those things are coming into play. And it’s always nice to get better in areas that you’re a little weak, so I’m enjoying it, and I find it as challenging as any other movie that I’ve made, but…Mr. Raimi.

Oz the Great and Powerful opens on March 8th.  For more from my set visit:


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