This weekend, Disney unveils the highly anticipated prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful. The film centers on Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a carnival magician who becomes the famous Wizard of Oz. Upon his arrival he meets three witches played by Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. ScreenCrave recently spoke to the trio at the film’s Los Angeles press day where they discussed the pains and pleasures of tackling a classic.
What’s the best part about playing a witch?
Mila Kunis: As far as playing a witch, um, yeah, I mean, it’s fun. It’s fun to play somebody that has no boundaries, that has no rules. There’s no book you can read on how to play a witch so you kind of just create your own version thereof. It’s great.
Michelle Williams: Flying.
Rachel Weisz: Flying! It’s really hard to beat flying as a skill. Yeah. I would say. Yeah, flying. Number one. Number two, lightning bolts for me.
Michelle Williams: Making little girls smile when you walk by.
Did your costumes change how you approached your characters? Did you get to keep any of them?
Rachel Weisz: I didn’t actually ask to keep [mine]. I don’t know where I would wear that dress. I don’t have the right life for that dress. I would like to have that life. But it doesn’t fit in… You know, my character looks a bit like a bird of prey and slightly militaristic via Las Vegas or however you want to see it. But because I was getting into my character, Sam was like, ‘Well, you know, play around.’ So Gary [the artist who sketched the costumes] and myself, the costume designer, spent a couple of weeks in a room. I cooked up this costume, which I brought to the first screen test, where basically I looked a little bit like the Duchess of Windsor. I should be so lucky. It’s this little green dress and a little crown and it was this height of my character who just desperately wanted to be queen. And Sam looked at it and just said, ‘It’s just uh, it’s just not right. You need to go back to the original thing.’ But he let me go. It was like part of my process, I think.
Mila, your character has an incredible arc. You kind of play her like a woman scorned.
Mila Kunis: I got very nervous about playing such an iconic character or at least playing a character that had such an iconic end result. I didn’t want to ruin it and 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 then it was just given to me, kind of like a gift. I mean, here’s a girl who’s incredibly naïve and very young and doesn’t believe she’s almost worthy of love, has never really truly experienced love. [She] meets James’s character, falls madly in love with him, very quickly, mind you, but nonetheless… I honestly viewed her as just a normal girl who gets her heart broken who just so happens to be a witch that can fly.
For Michelle and Rachel, we’d love to know about your big fight at the end. The wire work was amazing. Was it both painful and fun?
Michelle Williams: I think we both really loved being on the wires.
Rachel Weisz: Yeah, it was–it’s very fun. I mean, 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 these Spiderman films. So they were all experts in making people fly.
Mila are you a really physical person? You did a lot of your own stunts.
Mila Kunis: Yeah. I mean apparently I like it ‘cause I keep doing movies that requires wires so I guess I had a great time… It’s really not hard to be wired and to have somebody else be responsible for the wire work and your life. Your only responsibility is to sustain 17 hours on those wires. So I guess I do workout a little bit for that purpose. Like the movie that I’m doing that’s following up this one [The Wachowski's Jupiter Ascending], I think, requires a lot more wire training than this one did.
Michelle you’re known for your indie films and this is probably your first big blockbuster. How was that experience? Was there a huge difference?
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 first of all, a consummate family man and his sets feel like — he makes little homes. And it feels very cozy and it feels very safe and it feels like all of your ideas are welcome, even the bad ones. That’s the way that I’ve grown accustomed to working, and I like working, and I had that with Sam. I think we all really had that with Sam. And [about] what people have said before, and it’s entirely true, the thing that I’ve never experienced before is a director with an unflagging sense of humor like Sam. He really taught me a lot about how to keep your chin up, like when the day is long and things aren’t going quite as you had sort of planned them out in your head. Sam is there with a smile. Sam is there with a hand. Sam is there with a joke. He really taught me a lot about keeping a good face. And not getting down on yourself.
Mila, how fun was it to play such an over the top character?
Mila Kunis: Very rarely are you given the opportunity to have such a fantastical character. That’s the truth. And so, it’s really fun. I say this because I had incredible actors that I felt safe with and I had the most incredible safety net of Sam Raimi and Joe. Knowing that should I maybe not do the greatest of a take, I would be given another one, and another one. And so I was allowed to play around and kind of have that little tennis match back and forth. Well, if you take that away, it’s incredibly frightening because my character does have an end result that is so incredibly iconic that you just don’t want to mess it up. And you don’t want to play around with it too much ‘cause then it becomes something completely crazy and not believable. But oh God, it’s so fun to be a part of this world. So fun.
Oz: The Great and Powerful hits theaters March 8.