Interview: James Franco
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James Franco has starred in films as diverse as Spiderman, Knocked Up, Milk and 127 Hours. He also plays a gangster in upcoming Spring Breakers and Playboy entrepreneur Hugh Hefner alongside Amanda Seyfried in Lovelace. From gay rights activist to mountaineer to soft-core porn king – Franco has a wide retinue, and it would be impossible to call him typecast. But until now, Spiderman aside, he has hardly been known for his family films. So, what attracted him to a Disney fantasy adventure? As seems to be a theme with stars of Oz the Great and Powerful, it appears that the chance to work (again) with Evil Dead and Spiderman director Sam Raimi was the deciding factor. Franco even goes as far as describing Raimi as “the great maestro.” “I think I speak for everyone when I say he just makes movies better,” he says. “He can make a big, special effects movie but they’re just grounded in his heart, and they have a foundation of really human characters. When I heard it was happening I just did everything I could to be involved.” In the film Franco plays Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, a travelling circus magician in dusty 1905 Kansas, whose audiences are less than enamoured with his dubious performances. In true Dorothy style, after a cyclone hits he finds himself landing in Oz, where he is immediately picked up by naive young witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who believes him to be ‘The Wizard’who can save the people of Oz from an all-powerful witch – due to the initials on his hot air balloon. “I thought the approach back to Oz was perfect,” Franco says, “in that they weren’t slavishly going to try and recreate a new version of Dorothy... the lead character would be completely different. He was anything but an innocent young girl, he was a conman, and so the way that the audience would be brought into the familiar world of Oz would be completely new, and the trip through Oz and the way that the character interacts with Oz would be completely fresh. “So I thought they had both – respectful about what they should respect and innovative where they should be innovative.” The pressure of playing The Wizard must have been huge – especially when the film had such a long history to live up to. How does an actor prepare for such an iconic role – surely adding a new and potentially risky dimension to a story that everyone knows so well is a dangerous game?
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