The Witches of Oz sure sounds like a companion piece to The Witches of Eastwick. What it is is the collective that is Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz of Oz: The Great and Powerful. The trio of witchery sat down recently to discuss their Sam Raimi-directed, James Franco-starring prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Kunis for one found the challenge immense... but chose to ignore the fears. “You know, it was one of those things where I couldn’t be nervous about playing such an iconic character or at least playing a character that had such an iconic end result,” she said of a certain Oz witch. “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. And so in order for me to wrap my head around it, I had to make sense of her origin.”
That’s the key to the entire Raimi film, as teased in the Oz: The Great and Powerful trailer. This is the story of how Oz got to the community that bears his name.
A certain witch that Kunis plays (don't want to give too much away)... has a backstory as well. “This whole thing was just given to me, kind of like a gift. Here’s a girl who’s incredibly naïve and very young and doesn’t believe she’s almost worthy of love. She meets James’s character (James Franco is Oz) and falls madly in love with him. Then she gets her heart broken," Kunis said.
"She probably doesn’t have the emotional tools of dealing with heartache. She takes the easy way route, given by her sister (Weisz), and goes through an emotional transformation that’s mirrored by a physical one. 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.”
Once Williams accepted the part of Glinda, she didn’t allow the original classic to enter her head. “What I saw on the page was very different from the original film. I saw somebody who had the kind of spunk and vigor of a '30s, '40s screwball romantic comedy heroine," she recalled. But, she really wanted to capture that iconic voice. "I really wanted to speak in that high little lilting voice that she had."
Her director had some unique thoughts on Williams' characterization. "Sam and I spoke very early on about it and he said something very smart which is that there's a reason that Glinda doesn't go down the Yellow Brick Road in the original movie, and it's because she's fully formed. We wanted to make a Glinda that was a little bit more human.”
For one, Weisz found her witch unlike any character she’s ever played. “I've never done a film where my costume was as important as it was in this one. I feel like I've mainly been in jeans and T-shirts and a scrubbed face, so the costume was 99-percent of my character," Weisz said. "I feel like it was a cross between something very regal and glamorous, and also like a bird of prey and also something slightly militaristic with feather collar, feather headdress."
She also appreciated how her one costume could serve as an almost mood ring. “Basically, I have one dress which changes from emerald green to black when I show my true colors to the audience and they know that I'm really bad and not good," Weisz said. She saw herself as a warrior more than witch. "She is kind of like a military dictator in a way."
Playing up her evil was quite fun as well. "She's ruling the citizens of the Emerald City with a very cruel hand. She's a very mean, mean lady but she also really wants the throne," she added. "So I think it was a cross between a glamorous queen and a military bird of prey.”
Williams concurs with Weisz’s sentiment in terms of getting into the costume being everything. “I think the costumes were incredibly important and we spent a lot of time working on them, to the point where I think we even pushed shooting for a day because I was still trying to get comfortable in the costume," Williams revealed.
"I wanted it to feel very dainty and very delicate and then for her second costume, what she changes into battle, to be something that's more appropriate to run and walk in while still maintaining kind of feminine shape. I guess like a princess armor.”
Kunis, of the three, has quite an arc that plays out over the course of the film, teased in this Oz: The Great and Powerful clip. She was quite cautious as to not push it too far in either direction. "Very rarely are you given the opportunity to have such a fantastical character. 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," Kunis said.
Yet, she had to be aware of where the original character winds up in the 1939 film. "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."
When it comes to purists who feel that maybe we don't need to head down the yellow brick road again, Kunis feels it's a no-win situation and that everyone involved simply had to do the best they could. "It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I mean, I’d be lying if I told you that it wasn’t incredibly frightening," Kunis said.
"But we did not re-watch The Wizard of Oz. There was no way of ever doing it justice."