Sam Raimi‘s heading back to the big screen with Oz: The Great and Powerful. Thursday afternoon, the director participated in a press conference for The Wizard of Oz prequel and answered some burning questions. How does he feel about latching on to one of the greatest stories of all time? See what Raimi had to say below.
Do you feel any pressure for taking on the famous world of Oz?
Sam Raimi: We all love The Wizard of Oz movie ourselves. We were very careful not to tread on it. We were careful to respect it. Bur really, ours is a different story. It’s a story that leads up to The Wizard of Oz. It’s a story about a wizard that came from Kansas to the Land of Oz and how a slightly selfish man became a slightly more selfless man. And it’s a story of how he became the Wizard. It’s not really remaking The Wizard of Oz, so it wasn’t a problem that we had to deal with. We just nodded lovingly toward it and went ahead to telling our own story.
Why do you think so many prequels, sequels and remakes are being produced right now?
Sam Raimi: I only know what I read in the trade papers. But it’s because they’re less gambles than original work. The audience seems to enjoy watching them. When they like a character they want to return to it. So there’s a natural desire to see a character they like come back again and again in additional stories.
What technological challenges did you have to overcome making Oz?
Sam Raimi: This is the first picture that I’ve ever had to shoot in 3D. So I had to learn a lot about the process of 3D. How you light it and how you shoot it. What works and what doesn’t. What convergence is with the different lenses. I had to technologically learn quite a bit.
Oz: The Great and Powerful seems like quite a departure from your previous films. How was it making that transition?
Sam Raimi: You’re right. It’s absolutely different than anything that I’ve ever done before. I had never made a family picture. I guess you call the Spider-Mans family pictures, but basically those are action love stories. And this was just a completely different, otherworldly experience for me. I never tried it before and I didn’t know if I could do it. But I so loved the screenplay, I was so moved by so many different points. I really enjoyed the goal of telling an uplifting story. And what’s uplifting about it, is that the character learns to be a better person.
How much has James Franco changed as an actor since you first worked with him?
Sam Raimi: For me, James was much less collaborative when I first started working with him [on Spider-Man]. He was a real serious actor. I think he still had his James Dean hat on. He was doing it his way. So I worked with him with certain limitations because we couldn’t communicate as deeply as we eventually did on this picture. And I don’t know if that’s just a result of James’ growth as an individual or whether a director just has a much deeper relationship with their leading man or leading ladies than they do with the best friend character that he played. But now that James is a filmmaker, he understands all the things that go into a shot.
Will there be any flying monkeys in this movie? If so, will they get a backstory?
Sam Raimi: In the teaser they showed today, the Wicked Witch has an army of flying baboons. And we saw a glimpse of them today. It’s the first animation that’s completed on it. There’s also a flying monkey story, different than the baboons. A nice flying monke,y so don’t worry.
Who is Bruce Campbell playing in this movie? And will the great Ted Raimi be appearing as well?
Sam Raimi: Yes, my younger brother Ted plays a tiny part, otherwise my mother would have my head. And Bruce Campbell, unfortunately is in the movie. He plays a bit part, because he was busy working. I think he was shooting his TV show, so he took a day off and came down and just did a tiny little, few-line role for us. But it’s a tiny little cameo. It’s really funny to watch in the picture. He did a great job.
Oz: The Great and Powerful opens in theaters March 8.