We're off to see the wizard, before he's the wonderful wizard of Oz. This 3-D spectacular imagines the backstory of the beloved wizard character from L. Frank Baum's books. Oz begins in black-and-white Kansas (an homage to the 1939 film) and follows carnival magician and con man Oscar Diggs (James Franco) as he's swept away by a tornado and lands in Skittles-colored Oz. There, Oscar thinks he's found the easy street to fame and fortune. Instead, the Yellow Brick Road is fraught with danger and witches, so Oscar must prove himself a wiz of a wiz. To learn more about the man behind the curtain, click your heels three times and read our five factoids:
1. Casting an Oz-Some Actor: James Franco wasn't director Sam Raimi's first choice for roguish womanizer Oscar. Robert Downey Jr. was in talks to star, but dropped out, and Johnny Depp was busy with The Lone Ranger. When Franco expressed interest, Raimi decided the actor (who previously worked with him in the Spider-Man films) had the brain, heart and courage for the role. To master Oscar's sleight of hand, Franco trained with a Vegas magician for two weeks.
2. Which Witch Is Which: The merry old Land of Oz has three lovely young witches. Michelle Williams— who also appears as a Kansas farm girl in love with Oscar—portrays Glinda the Good Witch, the nemesis of sister witches Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis). We won't reveal which of these pretties turns wicked and green, but the actress in question worked with a vocal coach to perfect her evil cackle and performed all her own broom-flying stunts, a real high-wire act.
3. Road Trip With Friends: Don't expect to meet a scarecrow, tin man or lion along this Yellow Brick Road. Instead, Oscar befriends a winged monkey named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and an all-porcelain China Girl (voiced by Joey King), each with a human counterpart in early Kansas scenes. Both of these CGI characters are based on the actors' motion-capture performances, but an onset puppeteer also operated an intricate, 18-inch marionette to help create the little China Girl.
4. We're Not in Kansas Anymore: Production took place entirely at a soundstage facility in Pontiac, Mich., which once housed a General Motors truck-designing plant. Oz is the first project to shoot there, and filmmakers built 30 sets on seven stages, including a Kansas carnival, the Yellow Brick Road, the Dark Forest and Emerald City. The Detroit area also provided most of the actors—nearly three dozen—who play the Munchkins. Come out, come out!
5. Studios Are Wicked Litigious: L. Frank Baum's books may be in public domain, but the 1939 movie is owned by Warner Bros. To prevent copyright lawsuits (there's no place like court!), this Disney-produced prequel avoids emulating design elements from the film. The ruby slippers are nowhere in sight (they're silver in the books), the Emerald City's architecture isn't too similar, and the shade of green used for the Wicked Witch has been tweaked. Even a Munchkin hairstyle was nixed by Disney's legal team and changed in post-production. Lawyers and trademarks and rights—oh my!