By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 25, 2011 at 5:03AM
We'll say this: it's kind of amazing the amount of buzz James Franco -- aka The Franco -- has managed to create for himself. It's the kind of chatter and publicity most stars would love to have, but it's all the more remarkable considering that it's only after this weekend when he hosts the Oscars that James Franco will become something of a household name. Sure, he had a co-starring role in the "Spider-Man" films but other than that, he hasn't really toplined a major franchise. But that's all about to change. Later this year he will fight the "Rise of the Apes" and now Deadline reports that the ink is pretty much dry on earlier talks that will find the actor reteaming with Sam Raimi for "Oz: The Great and Powerful."
Taking over for Robert Downey Jr. who bailed on the project (Johnny Depp also passed), the prequel of sorts 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. An ambitious project to be sure, but one that is coming with a hefty price tag.
Apparently the budget on this thing is hovering around the $200 million mark -- to put that in perspective that's about the same cost for "Inception" which had a worldwide star in the lead role and roster of acclaimed supporting actors. We think it's a pretty big gamble to put on Franco, especially considering the jury is still out on whether or not Joe Sixpack auds will flock to see him. That said, if they get some solid supporting thesps the draw for the film should be fine and let's not forget it's spinning off one of the most beloved films of all time.
Production on the film is set to begin July. Before he gets to this one though, Franco will star in Noah Baumbach's upcoming relationship comedy "While We're Young" and once he's done with 'Oz' he'll hit the boards on Broadway opposite Nicole Kidman in "Sweet Bird of Youth." In between all this he'll probably write five terms papers, create his own energy drink, curate an exhibit at MoMA and enter a race around the world by canoe.
No word yet on a release date, but we're guessing it'll be a late 2012 release.