By Simon Dang | The Playlist February 5, 2011 at 12:45AM
Man of the moment James Franco is reportedly in early talks to take the lead role in Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great and Powerful," a quasi-prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," after Robert Downey Jr. bailed on the role and Johnny Depp passed after early discussions.
It's yet another major project for the actor-writer-director who already has a handful of acting gigs on the horizon including Noah Baumbach's latest project "While We're Young" alongside Ben Stiller and possibly Cate Blanchett and mob killer pic "The Iceman" with Benicio Del Toro and BFF Michael Shannon, as well as his major adaptation of William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" which will see him behind the camera. It's noted that "no dealmaking has begun and many issues would need to be ironed out" before Franco could take the role, but the potential reunion with Raimi would certainly take the actor full circle and at the same time, signify his astronomic rise over the past few years since his first major role as Harry Osborn Jr. in the 'Spider-Man' films.
The story, of course, follows Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs (a.k.a. Oz), a showman and magician at a traveling circus who flees in a hot air balloon after being caught canoodling with a customer's wife only to be swept away in a terrible storm to wake up in the magical land of Oz, which is run by two magical wicked witches.
We weren't at all fans of an early 2010 draft for 'Oz' by Mitchell Kapner which we disappointingly felt had a "sense of returning to a familiar world, without really adding anything," suffered from the "Robin Hood" syndrome in that it "tells the least interesting part of a classic story" and didn't even have "a good sense of the character of Oz, who's also kind of annoying." The project, though, has since brought on Pulitzer prize-wining scribe David Lindsay-Abaire ("Rabbit Hole," Raimi's defunct fourth 'Spider-Man'), so hopefully he can iron it all out before things go in front of cameras.