'Wizard of Oz' Prequel Begins Filming

| by Michael Allen

Walt Disney Studios announced that "Oz: The Great and Powerful," the star-studded prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," began filming in Michigan this week. James Franco stars as the young wizard, a magician who finds himself cast off into Oz, where meets three sister witches: Rachel Weisz as Evanora, Michelle Williams as Glinda and Mila Kunis as Theodora. The film is helmed by noted action director Sam Raimi.

The cast also includes Zach Braff (“Scrubs,” “Garden State”), who will play Franco’s circus assistant. Braff will also lend his vocal talents to Finley, a CGI created winged monkey who accompanies the magician on his journey to Oz. 12-year-old actress Joey King (“Ramona and Beezus”) will voice another CGI character in the story, China Girl, who also joins the future wizard on his excursion through Oz.

The tale begins when Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from his dusty Kansas home (Dorothy’s old stomping grounds) into the magical Land of Oz. He thinks he’s hit the jackpot until he meets three witches, who are not convinced he is the great wizard that everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late.

Putting his magical arts to use through illusion and ingenuity. Oscar transforms himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz and, along the way, into a better man as well.

Academy Award–winning special makeup artist Howard Berger (“The Chronicles of Narnia” series) will create the looks of several of the unique denizens of Oz, including creatures such as the Whimsies, the Tinkers and the Winkies, as well as the ghastly look of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The film will be produced by industry veteran Joe Roth, along with executive producers Grant Curtis (the “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Drag Me to Hell”), Philip Steuer (“The Chronicles of Narnia” series) and Palak Patel. The screenplay was written by Mitchell Kapner (“The Whole Nine Yards”) and David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole,” “Robots”).

Production on “Oz The Great and Powerful” takes place entirely on site at the new Raleigh Michigan Studios, a 200,000 square foot sound stage facility in Pontiac, Michigan, that was once the location of General Motors’ Centerpoint business campus and truck manufacturing plant.

The Broadway musical “Wicked,” a prequel to the famous Oz fable, has been rumored to be headed to the silver screen for several years. “Wicked” followed the lives of the wicked witch, Evanora, and the good witch, Glinda. The musical has played all over the world and is said to still be in development as a feature film.