Sam Raimi, director if the “Spiderman” trilogy, has a diverse resume. His latest work, “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” adds the family fantasy genre to his list of skills. Raimi talked with CU Independent’s Avalon Jacka and other college news outlets about his inspiration for the movie, his favorite character and composer Danny Elfman’s contribution to the story.
What was it about these actors, who between them have a very diverse acting background, that makes them so prefect for their respective roles?
It all comes down to the casting process. I wasn’t looking for necessarily the very best actor or actress in the
(Josh Shettler/CU Independent Graphic Illustration)
world. I was looking for that actor or actress that had the qualities of the character they’re going to portray. When the camera gets in close, really close to the face of the actor or actress, the audience knows whether they’re true or not. They can judge it from a critical point of view; you can feel it.
What inspired your version of the World of Oz?
I drew it all from the great author L. Frank Baum, his vision of Oz, that he had written about in 14-some books. I was also inspired by the illustrator, [W. W.] Denslow, he was the original illustrator of the L. Frank Baum books. I was also inspired by the great classic movie, “Wizard of Oz,” of course, who would not be inspired by that? What inspired me about the “Wizard of Oz” movie was the character’s sense of love that they have for each other, that very soulful sweet message that comes at the end of the picture when we learn from the Wizard that all of us are complete, all of us broken, lonely individuals, we have within us the thing to make us complete if we only recognize it. That gave me a great source of inspiration. It reminds me of the enduring power of love after death, how things go on.
What was the most challenging part of making the film?
The most challenging, I think was probably not dissimilar from other filmmakers and their ensemble movies, where there are many characters, many back stories and many interconnected relationship tales, and juggling what part of their back story should I include? What part should I cut out? What part should I give the audience? What part would be most effective if I let the audience use their own imagination to fill in the blanks? That’s really the secret I think – letting the audience participate.
What is your favorite creature in the Land of Oz?
My favorite creature in the Land of Oz? I think that would be the China Girl. L. Frank Baum wrote about this porcelain village called China Town and the inhabitants were all made of porcelain. I feel bad for her because her family and her village were destroyed by the evil witch’s winged baboons. She’s a broken character, literally, until the Wizard glues her together. Despite her tragedy she’s got a lot of spunk, which I admire, she’s got a lot of courage. She doesn’t mope about her place in the universe.
What was the best part of working on the film?
The best part of the picture for me, as a director, was once I had worked on the thing for two years and eight months, was to hear Danny Elfman, our composer, create such a fantastic score. He took the emotions that were in the movie and he elevated them. He took the drama and he deepened it. He basically made everything better. He was the secret sauce that brings it to the next level.
What you do think Elfman’s music brings to the atmosphere of the film?
He made the love story much deeper. The Wizard in Kansas, he has a love story with a girl named Annie, played by Michelle Williams, and this is a love that’s right before the Wizard, if only he would recognize it. It’s only once he gets to Oz that he starts to realize that true love is the most valuable thing that one can strive for. Danny Elfman creates a love theme that he’s decided to play with Annie and the Wizard, and it’s an incomplete fragile broken thing. Later when the Wizard meets Glinda and their love story blossoms, you’ll hear that theme in all of its orchestrated fullness. It helps you feel that a mistake that he made in the past could be corrected, the same love can be reborn. He also added great mood when those winged baboons are around, and the drums and the horns come on. They’re very primal and they get your heart beating. He’s the emotion of the picture.
What are you most excited about for audiences to take away from seeing the film?
Ideally, I’d like them to feel uplifted. The best thing that stories could do for us is reverberate with truth and show us the way in a way that is not pushy or preachy. If you could see there is a way to be happy without material goods, without the pride, without sense of self-being, there’s a simple beauty in loving another person and friends coming together, in being selfless. That’s what this movie’s message is.
What advice would you give to aspiring directors looking to forward their careers after college?
Be directing now, not after college. Every day you should be writing a script or a scene, every weekend. Every Saturday, you should be shooting a scene from the script you’ve been writing. Around Sunday you should be cutting the thing, and on Monday you should be showing it to a university audience. They won’t like your damn little picture. You’re going to have to take it back and recut it and make it better, and rewrite it on Friday, reshoot it on Saturday, recut it on Sunday, put some music on it, and show it to them again on Monday. They might like it a little bit better. That’s what you’ve got to do and you got to keep doing it. If you wait for some after-school thing, or sometime in the future to start your career, that waiting will expand. Just do it now, and you will always be a director.
Contact CU Independent News Budget Editor Avalon Jacka at Avalon.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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