Thump, thump, thump….
Yup, that’s my heart beating just a little faster than normal. Yours would too if you spent a couple of days only inches from James Franco. First sighting (after the red carpet) was as Valerie Gray poked me to say “turn around,” only to see Mr. Franco in the buffet line at Lure directly behind me. That little wink he gave when he caught me staring made me gasp, at least for a second.
We had 10 minutes with him. 10 WHOLE minutes. So, here goes…
Q : What was your most memorable moment in filming the movie
JAMES : It was all pretty enjoyable. It was a very long shoot. It was six months but, you know, I was working with my old friend, , Sam Raimi and all the other actors and actress were great to work with, so it was mainly just long, but it was enjoyable all the way through..
Q : You opened by doing magic tricks, can you REALLY do them?
JAMES : I can. I trained with Vegas magician, Lance Burton and he showed me a lot of the secret tricks and I got pretty good at it. There’s a scene in the beginning of the film where we see Oz doing his act in the traveling circus. There were more tricks in the original act that I learned so I could make doves materialize out of nothing and pull rabbits out of hats. But, it didn’t make the cut. It was fun to learn anyways.
Q : Were you a fan of the Wizard of Oz growing up?
JAMES : I was. When I was a boy, that was the, the days before Harry Potter was around, I read all of the L. Frank Baum Oz books on my own. They were some of the first books I read for pleasure outside of school. I just sped through them. I remember there was a local book store called The Printer’s Ink in Paulo Alto. It’s gone now, unfortunately. It was an independent book store and they had all the Oz books there, and I remember getting excited seeing all of them and going through each one. So that was my Harry Potter, I guess.
Q : How was this role different for you compared to Spiderman?
JAMES : Well, in the Spiderman films, I play Harry Osborne who is a supporting character. The thing I’ve learned about Sam Raimi is that he identifies with the characters in a lot of his films, so when we did the Spiderman films, he identified with Peter Parker. Even though he and I got along very, very well, and became very good friends, I felt like I was not getting the full sunshine of his love because I was playing the character that was trying to kill his alter ego.
In this film, I’m the lead and I think Oz is a stand-in for certain sides of Sam. Sam has a little nerdy side, and a childlike side, but he can be a little bit of a trickster, I guess. But in addition to that, Oz in an entertainer. He creates illusions to entertain people, and that’s exactly what Sam does. So I’m finally the character, playing the character that he identifies with,and so I get all of his, his love, so it’s great.
Q : Who’s your favorite witch to work with?
JAMES : That’s a, that’s a hard question. You’re gonna get me in trouble, but, they’re some of the best actresses alive. We’re very fortunate to have all of them, and they’re all very different, but the roles are very different. So each one was enjoyable and a very different experience.
Q : Did Sam give you license to add personality yourself?
JAMES : Sam is a very collaborative director. He collaborates with everybody, and so everyone is welcome to bring things to the table. Not only did we rehearse in advance two weeks of the film, we rehearsed throughout the film. I actually didn’t ever have a lunch to myself. I was spending all my lunches going over the script and the scene with Sam and the other actors, and through that process, I think the character of Oz changed quite a bit.
Q : How was it working with Finley and China Girl?
JAMES : Zach Braff plays he flying monkey, Finley, and, Joey King plays the China Girl, the doll made out of porcelain. Those were some of my favorite scenes. I thought they were, just great characters and great kind of oddball sidekicks to have in the land of Oz. I loved Joey and, and Zack. I would do anything with them.
They’re great collaborators. But, the actual process of interacting with CG characters is it’s own kind of thing, but, filmmakers and, and actors are getting more and more use to it. So it’s not as if I’m just acting to nothing the whole time. There’s a process you go through, and I think I got great training on a movie I did called Planet of the Apes where I got to work with Andy Serkis, who , played Gollum, and then played Caesar in my film, and he’s kind of the master of this performance capture kind of filmmaking.
In the early takes, Zach would be there with me so I could interact with him, and then for the China Girl, there was a great puppeteer who could bring this puppet to life, and I would hear Joey’s voice in my ear. He’d make the doll react to what she was saying.
You do those in the early takes and if the computer animators want to, they can always use my side of those takes and then paint out Zach or paint out the puppet. But then, at the end of that series of takes, once the scene is sort of ingrained, or I know the flow of the interaction, they’ll always take them out. I will eventually have a take where I’m acting to nothing and if you were a guest that day and saw that, you’d think I’m an insane person or something.
Q : Do you ever sleep. How do you manage all that you do?
JAMES : I do sleep, you know. I do a lot of things but I’min the fortunate position that my job is what I love so I don’t need a relief from it. I just kind of move from project to project because it’s how I enjoy life, you know. So it seems like I’m doing a lot of things but, it’s really just because I fill my time with these things…
Oz The Great and Powerful opens on March 8, 2013.
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This post was facilitated as a result of a press junket. All opinions are strictly my own.