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Interview: Rachel Weisz

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Oscar winner Rachel Weisz has played many roles in her career, starring in films as varied as The Mummy, About a Boy and The Constant Gardener, the latter of which won her a 2005 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. In 2011, she married Daniel Craig in what was possibly the most unexpected celebrity wedding of the year. But we aren’t here to talk to her about James Bond.

In Oz the Great and Powerful, the Sam Raimi directed Disney film that we have assembled in a London hotel to discuss, Weisz takes on the role of Evanora – more commonly recognised as the witch crushed by Dorothy’s falling house in the 1939 film, known best for her ruby slippers.

So, what was the one thing that attracted her to the film – other than the fact that it was a “Sam Raimi love-in”?

“I really love the script, I love the character,” she says. “The chance to play someone evil and wicked.”

The bad girl role, she adds, is something that seems to have fallen off the Hollywood radar in recent years, which was part of why she jumped at the chance to take up playing Evanora, the bad witch with the flying baboon army.

Evanora isn’t in the original film, so Weisz didn’t have much to go off in terms of character – although she did try to snatch some inspiration where she could: “I guess in the 1939 film her feet are sticking out from underneath the house,” she laughs. “The ruby slippers. I internalised the slippers and changed them to black leather lace-up boots, because that’s more Evanora’s speed.”

Oz the Great and Powerful is a film that is driven almost entirely by its characters – twisted Evanora and her naive younger sister Theodora (Mila Kunis) pitted against philandering future Wizard Oscar Diggs (James Franco) and Glinda, the Good Witch (Michelle Williams).

It is also visually spectacular – in no small part down to the intricate costumes worn by the lead actors.

 “My character would have been nothing without the sequins, the feathers, the lashes, the corset, the boots, the nails,” says Weisz. “I’ve only ever really played characters who wear jeans and t-shirts and have a bit of a scrubbed face, but Evanora took a couple of hours to get in place – her costume was hugely important, and I think told a big story about her character, the feathers that slightly made her look like a bird of prey and militaristic, because she really wants to be a military ruler - of her army of winged baboons.

“The costume was like 99% of my character.”

Sam Raimi describes the character transformation in detail: “Rachel presents herself in the film at first as the interim leader after the king has been poisoned; she rules the city waiting for the wizard. She’s in a kind of regal green; it’s green for the Emerald City, it’s got some authority to it. It also looks like she is a bit of the nobility.

“But then when her character changes and it’s revealed that she is evil, her costume changes and her true colours are revealed and she goes black at that moment, and from then her costume is black – that’s who she really is, like if you see a black bird of prey, like a vulture, a terrible thing.”  

Oz the Great and Powerful is certainly a departure for Weisz, who isn’t exactly a regular on the Disney fantasy scene. Her inclusion in this film, it seems, was largely down to the chance to work with Sam Raimi, the director of Evil Dead.

“Sam Raimi,” she says. “He is the wizard. He’s the man behind the curtain. He’s the wizard that drew us all towards the Emerald City.”

Read our review of Oz the Great and Powerful here

 

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