While Sam Raimi and Disney are walking together down the yellow brick road to “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” it looks like the director and studio may start picking up those bricks and throwing them at each other.
Vulture reports that the two sides are at loggerheads over the casting of the role of the elder witch in the film. In one corner, we have Raimi who wants Hilary Swank for the part, while in the other, we have Disney who wants an offer to go out to Michelle Williams. While both are tremendously respected, neither actress is a proven box office draw nor all that experienced in the tentpole world (the closest Swank has come is maybe “The Core“), and both are on different trajectories. Swank has been on a bad streak lately with underperforming clunkers in “Amelia” and “Conviction,” while her latest flick “The Resident” pretty much went straight to DVD (it had a cursory, very limited and probably contractual theatrical release). Meanwhile, Williams is coming off “Shutter Island” and “Blue Valentine” (and yes, impressing the few people that seek out “Meek’s Cutoff“) and is clearly the latest darling among film circles. It’s pretty easy to see why, from a studio perspective, they would want to go with her.
But this isn’t the first bit of casting trouble Raimi has had. As Vulture suggested earlier, John C. Reilly was in talks for ‘Oz’ but now looks like he’s getting locked up to join “Hunger Games” instead. It remains to be seen just how vigilant and attached Raimi is for Swank in the role, but it’s not the first time he’s battled a studio over a movie and he’s adept at getting his way; he personally championed Tobey Maguire over the studio choice of Wes Bentley back in the day for “Spider-Man.”
At any rate, James Franco and Mila Kunis are still on board, and with a July start date looming, casting will likely start getting firmed up in the weeks to come.