Besides the Oscar-winning 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, there has been The Wiz – starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson –, the unofficial Disney sequel Return to Oz and even a Muppet version.
On stage, the tale has also undergone many incarnations, including the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber West End production and the Tony award-winning musical Wicked — told from the perspective of the witches —, which continues to be a hit both in London and on Broadway.
For his new take on the tale, director Sam Raimi's plan from the outset was to make a film that serves as a prequel to Baum's book.
His 3D version, Oz, The Great and Powerful, tells the untold story of how a charming man, Oscar Diggs, became the wizard of Oz.
The film stars James Franco as Diggs, who finds himself in Oz after being caught up in a tornado.
He then meets the witch sisters Theodora, Evanora and Glinda, played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams respectively, who show him the good and the bad in the mystical land. Academy Award-winner Weisz says the chance to play a “good old-fashioned villainess" drew her to the role of Evanora.
“I thought it would be really fun to play someone really bad and evil... the more evil they are, the more fun they have.", she says. The actress remembers going to see the 1939 MGM film as one of her first trips to the cinema.
“What makes that film very charming is the sweetness," she says. “You can see the make-up and the special effects are at the beginning of what special effects can do." The fact that now they can make me look like I'm flying, when I'm on wires, is impressive.
Reviews for the film in the US have been mixed. The Hollywood Reporter claims the “unimaginative" film is pitched at children under the age of six, but other reviewers praise the colourful “feast for the eyes" and immersive 3D experience.
Since the beginning, it was Sam Raimi’s plan to tell a story preceding the original tale by L. Frank Baum.