Oz The Great and Powerful -James Franco
Oz The Great and Powerful -Oscar Diggs (James Franco) ©2012 Disney Enterprises

After working together on the Spiderman trilogy, James Franco and Sam Raimi have reunited to bring to the screen Oz The Great and Powerful. The movie, which explores the origins of the wizard character from L Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, premieres on March 8th.

When a cyclone hits Kansas, Oscar Diggs (Franco), a small town carnival magician, is blown into the fantastical world of Oz, where he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who will forever change his life.

Can you talk about the character of Oscar Diggs?

Oz The Great and Powerful -James Franco and Mila Kunis
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) and Theodora (Mila Kunis) ©2012 Disney Enterprises

The character, I think, as written was very much Sam’s idea. When you deal with Oz as a subject, you have a fantastical land, but you don’t want the movie that’s just a journey though a fantastical world. You want the characters to have their own inner journeys.

Oscar starts off one place and then has room to grow once he gets to Oz.

The character was written in a certain way – part goofball, part con man, part seducer, part vaudeville guy, all of which appealed to me. In some ways he touches on many aspects of Americana, while being a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable.

A goofball and a dashing kind of guy, but a guy maybe not equipped in traditional ways to be a hero.

Were you worried about him being too unlikeable?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Zach Braff and James Franco
Finley (Voiced by Zach Braff) and Oscar Diggs (James Franco) ©2012 Disney Enterprises

As selfish as he is, as much of a cad as he is in the beginning, it would never go to the point where he’s unlikeable because all of his manipulations and conning of people are played for laughs.

And I can’t quite blame him for being the way he is because of his history. He grew up in circumstances where [he] just wanted to get out. He wanted something different, so he saw performing as a way out.

He’s gone a little too far in his ambitions and it’s blinded him to the love of the people around him.

I read that you had to learn magic for the movie. Can you talk about that, and have you used it in real life since?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Mila Kunis with James Franco
Theodora (Mila Kunis) with Oscar Diggs (James Franco) ©2012 Disney Enterprises

Yeah. I got to learn with Lance Burton, who is a great magician from Las Vegas. I got private lessons. It was pretty fun, and I could accomplish the tricks. There were even more tricks than made it into the movie.

I got to learn quite few pretty cool tricks that if I took them to parties, I probably would get a lot of attention, but I would need a lot of help from Lance to pull them off, and he doesn’t travel around with me.

It’s just one of the skills that I’ve learned along the way, like sword fighting or flying a plane, that I just don’t use very much after I’m done with the movie.

What was it like working with Sam Raimi again?

Oz The Great and Powerful - Joey King and James Franco
China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and Oscar Diggs (James Franco) ©2012 Disney Enterprises

I love Sam. I’ve known Sam for over ten years, because we did the Spiderman trilogy together. He is one of the most fun directors to work with and that is no small thing, as a director on a film really sets the tone.

So when you have someone like Sam, everybody is happy to be at work.

He’s a very collaborative director, not just with the actors, but with all departments. And it really makes people want to do their best because they all feel like they’re a big part of the movie, and they are.

At the press junket, Sam Raimi was asked if his work on Spiderman helped him deal with the legion of fans that are loyal to The Wizard of Oz? Click below to listen to his reply.

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Judy Sloane

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