Comic Con 2012: Sam Raimi on Oz, the Great and Powerful

Sam Raimi promises Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell cameos, as well as 'a nice flying monkey' in his Wizard of Oz prequel.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


It’s nice to see Sam Raimi still treated like a rock star at Comic Con. After he appeared in a Hall H panel for Oz The Great and Powerful, Raimi gave a press conference with his leading ladies Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams. To the fans of movies and fantasy, the director of the Spider-Man and Evil Dead trilogies was still the man. And gracious as ever, Raimi stayed to sign every Evil Dead DVD for said fans too.

We were at the press conference reporting on the news that Raimi dropped about his latest major film. He claims Oz is a more subdued family film than we’re used to seeing from him, but knowing his modesty and just hearing him describe some of these shots, it still sounds aggressively awesome.


We ask the first question: In the Spider-Man movies we saw how you were able to inject the Raimi touches we love – whether it’s the camerawork or the sly sense of humor – while remaining faithful to the material. How are you able to incorporate those Raimi touches in Oz?

Sam Raimi: As opposed to the camera just doing a lot of gymnastics for thrill and chill sake, we’re really trying to describe the fantastic world of Oz. When the camera is moving, those more dramatic types of movements are to show the depth of a canyon or the height of a waterfall, how it feels to fly with Glinda. The camera’s movement is used to describe the beauty of Oz. Yes, there’s a sense of humor but I think it comes from the whimsical nature of Baum’s world, and the characters. James Franco’s character [Oz] is a little selfish as the story begins. As he runs up against those he admires, it’s primarily Glinda, his shortcomings are often the source of the humor.


Sam Raimi on the lessons he learned from making Drag Me to Hell, and the limited audience it had (despite being awesome).

I learned a lot from every movie that I make. I learn what not to do. I make 1000 mistakes. I’m painfully aware. It’s not like you have to recognize [that.] I’m always aware where I make wrong moves. I learn lessons and went forward with this picture with those 1000s of lessons from that picture. The type of comedy that film was, that dark comedy, is just a completely different thing from this film. This is a very straightforward family picture. I would say it’s a classically Disney movie. It’s about the characters, their interactions, the friendships they made. Some characters are sinners. They hurt others. It’s about how those sins can grow. It’s about finally recognizing the things you do in this world have consequences. How to be the best person you can be is really the story of this film.


Sam Raimi gets his mack on with Williams and Kunis.

[Growls flirtatiously at the question of working with them] It’s great. It’s great to work with them because they’re great actresses. As beautiful as they are, that would become meaningless if they weren’t brilliant actresses. They both have complex roles, complex interactions with other characters in the piece and they just do a beautiful job performing them. It’s very funny and realistic, and they’re fun to watch. And yes, not hard on the eyes.


Sam Raimi on the shadow of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz

We all love The Wizard Of Oz movie ourselves and we’re very careful not to tread on anywhere.  We’re careful to respect it. Really ours is a different story. It’s what led up to The Wizard of Oz. How the wizard became the wizard. It’s a story that answers that question if anyone had that question. It wasn’t remaking The Wizard of Oz. We nodded to it and went ahead telling our story. I wish we could’ve used the Emerald City form the original Wizard of Oz. We didn’t really have the right to do that, or the ruby red slippers, but that was okay in the end because we really were trying to tell our own story, nodding lovingly to The Wizard of Oz.


Yes! Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi are in Oz The Great and Powerful!

Yes, Ted plays a tiny part, otherwise my mother would have my head. Bruce Campbell is in the movie. He plays a bit part because he was busy working, I think he was shooting his TV show, so he took a day off and just did a tiny little few line role for us. It’s a tiny little cameo and really fun to watch. I can’t tell you what it is though.


Sam Raimi proves he understands 3D better than most 3D directors.

Well, this was the first picture that I ever had the opportunity to shoot in 3D so i had to learn about the process of 3D, how you light it, shoot it, what convergence is of the different lenses, what works and doesn’t. There’s a whole language of cutting that’s different in 3D. Your eye takes time to get used to a particular convergence and you can’t cut as quickly. Nor do you want to change the convergence too often. It takes a moment for the audience to pick up and feel where that convergence is. It changes the pacing of the cutting, how the shots are constructed, so I had to learn a lot technically bringing Oz to life.


How Sam Raimi got the confidence to make a family movie.

You’re right, it is absolutely different than anything I’ve ever done before. I’d never made a family picture. I guess you can call Spider-Man family pictures but basically they’re action love stories. This was a different otherworldly experience for me. I was so moved by the screenplay. I really enjoyed the goal of telling an uplifting story. What’s uplifting about it is a character learns to be a better person. Those things seemed right to me. I wanted to see the movie. More than anything I think that’s what gives you the strength to direct a movie. To understand the characters – I didn’t understand them all completely, it’s a learning process with the actors – but when you read them if you think you understand them, that’s what gives you strength and told me I think I know how to direct this picture.


James Franco was a little punk but now he’s cool (he says politely).

He’s a great collaborator like these two ladies are. For me, James was very much less collaborative when I first started working with him. He was a real serious actor. I think he still had his James Dean hat on and was doing it his way. I worked with him with some limitations because we didn’t communicate as deeply as on this picture. I don’t know if that’s because the director has a different relationship with their leading man than with the best friend character. Now that James is a filmmaker, I think he understands all the things that go into a shot and I think he understands that patience.


The flying monkeys you’ve seen, and the flying monkeys Sam Raimi is saving for later

In the teaser that they showed today, the Wicked Witch has an army of flying baboons. We saw a glimpse of them today. Our first animation was completed on them. We’re still developing them but the teaser demands that they be [shown]. We made them a little darker than we normally would. There is also a flying monkey in the story, a nice flying monkey so don’t worry.