Oz The Great and Powerful - Poster: Mila Kunis, James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz
Theodora (Mila Kunis), Oscar Diggs (James Franco), Glinda (Michelle Williams) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz) © 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc

Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful, which opens on March 8th, is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, which explores the back story of the wizard, and how he arrived in the fantastical land.

James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a carnival magician who is whisked away to Oz when a cyclone hits Kansas. There he encounters three witches; Theodora (Mila Kunis), a tormented young witch, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s older sister who rules over the Emerald City and Glinda, the Good Witch (Michelle Williams).

Michelle, Rachel and Mila spoke about their new movie, and their first memories of The Wizard of Oz at the press day for the film.

Do any of you remember the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Rachel Weisz
Evanora (Rachel Weisz) © 2012 Disney Enterprises

Rachel: It’s my earliest film memory. I remember my mom taking me to the cinema. I remember being five. I remember being really traumatized by the wicked witches. They were very scary.

Michelle: I don’t remember the first time that I saw the movie, 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. That the woman on the bicycle was the wicked witch.

I remembered being really affected once I had discovered that, because I felt like somebody had been tricking me. It freaked me out as a kid.

What’s the most fun playing a witch?

Rachel: Flying. It’s really hard to best flying as a skill. Number two, for me, lightning bolts!

Michelle: Making little girls smile when you walk by.

I guess neither Rachel nor Mila will have that problem?

RachelNo, but my Winkie Guards were very fond of me.

Oz The Great and Powerful - Mila Kunis
Theodora (Mila Kunis) © 2012 Disney Enterprises

Mila: It’s fun to play someone that has no boundaries, that has no rules. There’s no book you can read on how to play a witch, so you just create your own version. It’s great.

Mila, what was it like taking on one of the most iconic witches of all time?

Mila: [Margaret Hamilton] was phenomenal and created such an iconic character for going on 80 years. I wasn’t going to touch it. I didn’t re-watch The Wizard of Oz, because there was no way of me ever doing it justice.

I got very nervous playing such an iconic character. I didn’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to re-create it and I didn’t want to re-interpret it. So in order for me to wrap my head around it I had to make sense of her origin, and that it was just given to me, like a gift.

Here’s a girl who’s incredibly naive and very young and doesn’t believe she’s worthy of love, has never experienced love. She meets Oscar, falls madly in love with him, gets her heart broken and doesn’t have the emotional tools to deal with it.

What was doing the wirework like?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Michelle Williams
Glinda (Michelle Williams) © 2012 Disney Enterprises

Michelle: I loved being on the wires.

Rachel: Yeah, it was fun. It was a little scary the first day. We had a rehearsal period when these wonderful stunt coordinators, who had worked extensively with Sam on the Spiderman films. So they were all expert in making people fly.

Mila: The truth is, it’s not hard to be wired and to have somebody else be responsible for the wirework and your life. I loved it. I did all of my own stunts as much as allotted.

What about acting while flying?

Rachel: You just hear Sam say, ‘Action,’ –

Michelle: – and everything drops away. You’re always acting through something, it’s really hot or it’s cold, or you’re hanging from the ceiling, there’s always something else that’s going on.

Any final thoughts on doing this movie?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis
Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis) © 2012 Disney Enterprises

Rachel: What really appealed to me about playing Evanora was that I got to be a bad girl. She has a lot of fun being bad. I loved the script. I thought it was a great imagining of the origin story of the wizard and the witches.

Mila: This film explains how all the characters became who they are and explains their origins so you understand them a little more. It brings a little more sincerity and truth to all the characters.

While being funny and endearing, it very much stays true to the original concepts that L Frank Baum created.

Michelle: The audience are transported to this magical journey into another realm where anything is possible, where the best is possible, and the best of human nature is really celebrated.

I wanted to make a movie that my daughter could see, and I was really excited to be part of something that had an overall good message, one that wasn’t tainted with sarcasm. It’s a movie that you can take your whole family to see.

Michelle was asked what she learned from working with Sam Raimi – click here for her thoughts

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.