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James Franco Takes About Oz, How He Enjoys Life and Sam Raimi's Love

Oz_Wizard_DEBUTWe’ve seen James Franco as a high schooler in Freaks and Geeks, we’ve seen James Franco as a stoner in Pineapple Express, we’ve seen James Franco trapped under a rock for 127 Hours, but now we are meeting a brand new James Franco, the great, the powerful, the Oz version of James Franco.

James Franco – the star of Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful - sauntered into the meeting room at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, wearing jeans, a black leather motorcycle jacket and looking far more well rested than you would think for a man who is in the midst of promoting a blockbuster, teaching a class at UCLA, and who has nine film projects, yes nine, in various stages of production.

The busy actor seemed amused by a room full of “mom bloggers,” there to interview him. He jokingly quipped, “I wanna see pictures of everyone’s kids and get to know each other. We’ll get all the pictures and then we’ll be done.” But he didn’t get off that easy. We talked to Mr. Franco about his role as the great and powerful Oz, magic and being a doll.

Have you seen your Oz doll yet?
I have not seen it, no, no.  Very odd, huh?

Does that freak you out?
I’ve had dolls made before. I did the Spiderman films so it’s nothing new to me.

But you’ll have little girls playing with you, not little boys.
Oh right, exactly.  Well, sorry! Yeah, examine that doll.

What was your favorite part with the magic, and can you do it in real life now?
I can.  Well, I had to train.  I trained with a Vegas magician, Lance Burton, and he showed me a lot of the secret tricks and I got pretty good at it.  There’s a scene in the beginning of the film where we see Oz doing his act in the traveling circus and there were more tricks in the original act that I learned so I could make doves materialize out of nothing and pull rabbits out of hats.  But it didn’t make the cut.  But it was, it was fun to learn anyways.

31f_3_a_re.1649425_RWere you a fan of the Wizard of Oz growing up?
I was.  When I was a boy, that was the days before Harry Potter was around, and I read all of the L. Frank Baum Oz books on my own.  They were some of the first books I read for pleasure outside of school.  It was fourteen or fifteen that he wrote and I just sped through them.  I remember there was a local book store, called The Printer’s Ink in Palo Alto,  it’s gone now, unfortunately. It was an independent book store and they had all the Oz books there, and I remember just like getting excited seeing all of them and going through each one.  So that was my Harry Potter, I guess.

How was this role different for you compared to Spiderman?
So in the Spiderman films, I play Harry Osborne who is a supporting character.  And the thing I’ve learned about Sam Raimi is that he identifies with the characters in a lot of his films.  And so when we did the Spiderman films, he identified with Peter Parker.  And even though he and I got along very, very well, and became very good friends, I felt like I was not getting the full sunshine of his love because I was playing the character that was trying to kill his alter ego.

So now in this film, I’m the lead and again, I think Oz is a stand-in for certain sides of Sam, you know.  Sam has a nerdy side and a, and a childlike side, but he also can be a little bit of a trickster, I guess.  But in addition to that, Oz in an entertainer.  He creates illusions to entertain people, and that’s exactly what Sam does. And so I’m finally the character, playing the character that he identifies with, and so I get all of his, his love. So it’s great, yeah.

Who’s your favorite witch to work with?
That’s a, that’s a hard question.  You’re gonna get me in trouble, but they’re all the best, some of the best actresses alive.  We’re very fortunate to have all of them, and they’re all very different but the roles are very different.  So each one, you know, was enjoyable but a very different experience, and I was glad to have all of them.

Did Sam give you license to add personality yourself?
Sam is a very collaborative director.  Not only does he collaborate with the actors but with everybody.  And so everyone is welcome to bring things to the table.  And so with the character Oz not only did we rehearse in advance two weeks of the film, we rehearsed throughout the film.

So I actually didn’t ever have a lunch to myself.  I was spending all my lunches going over the script and the scene with Sam and the other actors, and through that process, I think the character of Oz changed quite a bit.  In fact you know, some of my students are here from my English class at UCLA (about three or four students were documenting his interviews) and we looked at an early draft of the script. But I was surprised at how different the early draft was to where we ended up and that’s just because of the way Sam works, and the way the project develops through the whole process.  I’m sure some of me made it into the character that wasn’t originally on the page.

How was it working with Finley and China Girl?
So Zach Braff plays the flying monkey Finley and Joey King plays the China Girl, the doll made out of porcelain.  And those were some of my favorite scenes.  I thought they were  just great characters and great oddball sidekicks to have in the land of Oz.  And then I loved Joey and Zach.  I would do anything with them.

They’re great collaborators.  But the actual process of interacting with CG characters is it’s own kind of thing, but filmmakers and actors are getting more and more used to it.  So it’s not as if I’m just acting to nothing the whole time.  There’s a process you go through and I think I got great training on a movie I did called Planet of the Apes where I got to work with Andy Serkis, who you know, played Gollum, and then played Caesar in my film, and he’s kind of the master of this performance capture kind of filmmaking.

And so you go through a series of different kinds of takes.  So in the early takes, Zach would be there with me so I could interact with him, and then for the China Girl, there was a great puppeteer who could bring this puppet to life and then I would hear Joey’s voice in my ear.  And he would, too, and he’d make the doll react to what she was saying.  I still get to hear their voices in my ear.  So it’s not like I’m making all of it up.  I still get most of what I get as a performer from interacting with another person.

Do you ever sleep.  How do you manage all that you do?
I do sleep, you know.  I do a lot of things but I’m in the fortunate position that my job is what I love and so I don’t need a relief from it like someone who doesn’t like their job does.  And so I just kind of move from project to project because it’s how I enjoy life, you know.

So it seems like I’m doing a lot of things but it’s really just because I all of my time with these things rather than half of my time, you know.  But I sleep about six hours a night.

Oz the Great and Powerful opens everywhere on March 8th.

Photo Source: Walt Disney

Read more from Sunny Chanel right here.

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