INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL WEISZ FOR OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful uncovers the origins of the beloved wizard character first brought to life in L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. As a cinematic prequel to the book, the eye-popping action follows the story of Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot – until he meets three witches, who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone is expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late.
Sam Raimi is the acclaimed director behind the action-packed spectacle, which boasts a stellar cast including James Franco as Oscar Diggs, the predestined wizard; Mila Kunis as the tormented young witch Theodora; Rachel Weisz as Theodora’s older sister, Evanora, the witch who rules over the Emerald City; and Michelle Williams as Glinda, the good witch.
With the Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD of Oz The Great and Powerful about to be released, we chat to Rachel Weisz to discover more about the project…
What attracted you to the role of Evanora in Oz The Great And Powerful?
When I first read the script, I immediately thought that the character was incredibly fun. She has no conscience and she has a lot of fun being bad. I thought that was a delicious idea. I really loved the way she was an old-fashioned bad girl.
What else attracted you to the role?
I’m also a big Sam Raimi fan. I think he’s got a really lovely imagination and his movies have great warmth. Plus, I wanted to do something different. I’ve done a lot of intense, very realistic and grounded projects – but this was something new.
Did you purposely want to move away from other genres?
To be honest, it wasn’t like I put a lot of analysis into it; I just read the script and I thought it looked fun. I met Sam and he was really delightful, so I thought I’d try it.
How would you describe Sam Raimi as a director?
Sam is very gentle. He’s very kind, very childlike and paternal. He’s got a really beautiful imagination and he’s also mischievous. He’s really delightful to work with, and I think everyone will say that. He’s a lovely man.
Sam has described you as a woman with the strength and power to run a country, which is one of the reasons why he cast you as Evanora in the movie. What do you think of his description?
Dream on, Mr. Raimi! I don’t know what to say to that. I’m an actor, so I’m just a daydreamer. I think I would do pretty poorly at running a country. I can just about run a household. That’s about it.
How much fun did you have playing the role of an evil witch?
It was really fun to play someone who loves being bad. She’s more than mean; she’s evil. She’s really, really, really nasty and Machiavellian. She’s an egomaniac, a narcissist – and a pathological liar. The meaner she is, the more pleasure she gets.
How evil are you in real life?
Me? I’m probably just as bad as the next person – but that’s the thing about real life; we have to control ourselves. All the fun of being an actor is that you get to be a kid again. You get to act out stuff that you’re not allowed to do in real life. It’s make believe. Internally, this is a fun family film, but I had a lot of delicious fun being bad.
What research did you undertake in order to tackle such an evil role?
I didn’t do any research at all for this film. Zilch, zero, none. I just tapped into my own bad girl.
Do you usually research your roles?
The only time I do research is on movies like The Bourne Legacy, where I played a scientist. I’m really bad at science, so I had to work really hard to understand what my character was saying. But in general my research just involves daydreaming.
How much green screen work did the movie involve? And how much of the set and props could you actually touch and feel?
There was a lot of green screen involved with this movie, but what could I touch? I could touch my throne, which is something I liked touching. I could also touch my crystal ball. What else did I have? To be honest, it was all about the throne for me.
Do you have to learn new skills as an actor to work on such a big-scale green screen project like this?
No, it’s just like being a child again. You just have to imagine that there’s a big pile of gold over there. It’s not that hard. That’s what my job is: to believe things. I believe I’m a witch. I believe I can see a big pile of gold. It’s all simply make believe.
What do you think of the costumes of the movie?
I love them. The costumes were a huge part of this movie and that was something completely new to me. I’m used to movies where I wear jeans and a T-shirt, but this had extravagant outfits with feathered collars where I end up looking like a shimmery bird of prey. It was amazing.
Is there a big fantasy aspect to walking a red carpet?
Totally. It’s totally like Oz and The Emerald City! There’s not the yellow brick road, but there’s a red carpet.
Do you enjoy walking the red carpet?
As long as you know that it’s not real life. It’s fairytale. It’s the stuff of dreams. It’s just hair, makeup and fashion. It’s dressing up.
When it comes to fashion, how do you choose an outfit for a movie premiere?
I have someone who helps me choose my outfits – but I always wear something I feel comfortable wearing because if you don’t feel good, you won’t look good. You have to feel like it’s you, or the make believe you.
If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
I think the ability to fly would be pretty cool. I would love to never have to go through airport security again. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Just to be able to fly wherever you want without security lines.
Was the 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz a significant part of your childhood?
Yes, it was. My mom took me to see the movie. In fact, I vividly remember going to the cinema to see it. It was very beautiful, but really frightening – especially the witches. I’ll never ever forget the first time I saw it. It was burned into my mind.
Why do you remember it so vividly?
I was probably 5 years old, but I only remembered the scary bits. The storm, when it’s in black and white, and then the witches. It’s one of the most seminal, terrifying film experiences I have ever had. I could never forget how scary those witches were.
Did you go to the movies often as a child?
I would say so. Yes.
Were there any restrictions about what you could see back then?
There were lots of restrictions, but that’s the weird thing about fairy tales; children read them and are shown them and they see them as movies, even though they’re incredibly scary. For some reason, parents don’t seem to mind fairy tales. Personally, I had a lot of restrictions when it came to movies when I was young. When I was 12 or 13, I wasn’t allowed to see Grease for some reason. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was too sexy?
In general, do you have a preference for working on independent dramas or big budget blockbusters?
My taste is more independent movies, but I couldn’t film two or three movies like The Deep Blue Sea back to back. Additionally doing a big movie helps you finance passion projects.
When you look back at your career, did you ever imagine you’d be here today with such a long list of acclaimed movies to your name?
When I first started acting, I really didn’t know what my path would be. When I shot The Mummy, I didn’t know that that was going to be the film I’d be most remembered for. You never know what anything is going to become or what anything will be until afterwards.
So how do you choose your movie projects?
You just try to make the right choices and you try to feel like you’re being sensible, but you only know what anything means in hindsight. Nothing means anything until afterwards. You just have to do what takes your fancy and what you fancy doing. It’s as simple as that.
- OZ The Great and Powerful Blu-Ray combo pack comes out June 11, 2013.