No Oz: The Great and Powerful for Johnny Depp; Perhaps James Franco?
Posted 02.07.11 by Ryan
Things were looking good for director Sam Raimi when he decided to commit to helming Disney's Oz: The Great and Powerful, a prequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz. Robert Downey Jr. was all but set to play the infamous man behind the curtain, until the actor dropped out, possibly to give himself his first break after working non-stop since 2008's Iron Man. Disney immediately turned to Johnny Depp and began discussions for the Pirates of the Caribbean actor to take over, though, as we reported, Depp has a rather busy year in front of him, with Dark Shadows starting in April, and possibly Disney's The Lone Ranger.
Now THR reports that Depp passed on the role, after meeting several times about the movie. Disney is now looking to actor and Oscars host James Franco as the next possible contender, which will follow OZ as a young illusionist whose hot-air balloon is swept up in a tornado and lands in munchkin-land, which is being run by two magical witches. Franco has yet to meet with Raimi and no deal has been ironed out yet.
Franco is yet another actor with a busy schedule, with several movies opening this year, he recently agreed to star in The Iceman, about convicted contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Franco is playing Kuklinski's mentor), and is looking to direct an adaptation of William Faulkner's 1930 novel As I Lay Dying this summer.
Disney has no production start date for Oz, but hopes to start shooting in the second half of the year, which explains their rush to fill the role, but not why they are asking actors who have already filled their schedules for 2011. Still, Franco has been unpredictable when picking roles of late, including stints on soap operas and appearing in a Planet of the Apes prequel, which could mean that Oz: The Great and Powerful is right up his alley.