James Franco plays Oscar (aka the Wizard) in Oz The Great and Powerful! I was super excited to interview him during the Red Carpet Event in LA just a few weeks ago. I learned a little bit about him during the interview. He is just as gorgeous in real life as he is on film. I was surprised that his intelligence shined through his vocabulary, speech, and demeanor. Not that I didn’t think he was smart, but I didn’t realize he was also a professor at UCLA! Sign me up for that class please!
When walking into the room he came with entourage of students and people I didn’t know. He looked good and all of us mommy bloggers had to applaud as he entered. I am not sure if this happens in other interviews, but we were delighted to see him enter the room!
While playing the role of Oscar, he learns how to grow up and be less selfish. He also practiced his Wizardy with Lance Burton. He also has an admiration for this film calling all the Oz books his “Harry Potter” when growing up!
Read the Amazing Interview Below!
James Franco : 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.
Q : There were tons of dolls. Have you seen them?
James Franco : I have not seen that, no, no. Very odd, huh?
Q : Does that freak you out?
James Franco : Uh, I’ve had dolls made before. I, I did the Spiderman films and, you know, so it’s nothing new to me.
Q : [OVERLAPPING] not little boys.
James Franco : Oh right, exactly. Well, sorry. [LAUGHS]. Yeah, examine that doll. I don’t know.
Q : What was your most memorable moment in filming the movie?
James Franco : It, I mean, frankly, it wasn’t hard. I can’t look back on any…It was all pretty enjoyable. It was a very long shoot. It was six months but I was working with my old friend, Sam Raimi. All the other actors and actress were great to work with, so it was mainly just long but it was enjoyable all the way through, so I don’t know. There’s nothing I can think back and be like, oh, that was, that was so hard to do.
Q : What was your favorite part with the magic, and can you do it in real life now?
James Franco : I can. Well, I had to train. I trained with a Vegas magician, Lance Burton. 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. 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. It was fun to learn anyways.
Q : Were you a fan of the Wizard of Oz growing up?
James Franco : I was. When I was a boy, that was 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 Paulo Alto. 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, you know, going through each one. So that was my Harry Potter.
Q : How was this role different for you compared to Spiderman?
James Franco : In the Spiderman films, I play Harry Osborne who is a supporting character. And, um, 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 it 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 little- he has a nerdy side and a childlike side, but he also, he can be a little bit of a, a trickster, I guess. In addition to that, Oz in an entertainer. He deals in- he creates illusions to entertain people, and that’s exactly what Sam does.
So I’m finally the character, playing the character that he identifies with, so I get all of his love. So it’s great, yeah.
Q : Who’s your favorite witch to work with?
James Franco : That’s a hard question. You’re gonna get me in trouble, but, they are 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 was enjoyable, a very different experience, and I was glad to have all of them.
Q : Did Sam give you license to add personality yourself?
James Franco : Sam is a very collaborative director. He collaborates 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…some of my students are here from my English class at UCLA, and we looked at an early draft of the script.
Disney doesn’t haven’t have to worry. I had everything numbered and got all the scripts back. I was surprised at how different that early draft was to where we ended up and that’s just because of the way Sam works.
Q : How was it working with Finley and China Girl?
James Franco : Right. So, um, Zach Braff plays the, 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 kind of oddball sidekicks to have in the land of Oz. And then I loved Joey and and Zack. I would do anything with them.
They’re great collaborators. Um, but the actual process of interacting with CG characters is it’s own kind of thing. Filmmakers and actors are getting more and more use 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.
So you go through a series of different kinds of takes. They’re so in the early takes, Zach would be there with me so I could interact with him. 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 her to what she was saying.
So you do those in the early takes and if the animators, or the, the computer animators want to, they can always use my side of those takes and then paint out Zack or paint out the puppet. But then at the end of that, that series of takes, once the, the scene is sort of ingrained in me…I know the flow of the interaction…they’ll always take them out. So I will eventually have a take where I’m acting to nothing and if you, [LAUGHS], were a guest that day and saw that, you’d think I’m an insane person or something…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.
Q : Do you ever sleep. How do you manage all that you do?
James Franco : 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 I don’t need a relief from it like who doesn’t like their job does. So I just kind of move from project to project because it’s how I enjoy life.
So it seems like I’m doing a lot of things but it’s really just because I fill all of my time these things rather than half of my time…But I sleep about six hours a night.
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Oz The Great and Powerful lands in theaters March 8th!
Disclosure: This trip had all business expenses paid by Disney. All opinions are my own.