By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 17, 2011 at 10:32AM
Well, while we might roll our eyes slightly when it comes to the idea of "Oz The Great & Powerful," a prequel to classic "The Wizard of Oz," it's hard to deny that director Sam Raimi has landed a mightily impressive cast. The "Spider-Man" helmer might have lost Robert Downey Jr., who was originally intended for the lead role of Oscar Diggs (aka Oz), a conman who ends up being transported to the magical land seen in the 1939 Judy Garland musical, and becomes embroiled in a conflict between three witches, but he managed to replace him with newly anointed Oscar-nominee James Franco.
Not only that, but as the witches, Raimi's managed to land three heavyweight actresses. Mila Kunis, who showed a whole new side to herself in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," was the first on board, as Theodora, a good witch who, when spurned by Franco's character, turns to the dark side. Rachel Weisz was next, signing to play Theodora's older, more evil sister. And now, according to Variety, two-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is locked in for the role of Glinda, the good witch.
It was reported a month ago that Williams was Disney's choice for a key role in the film, while Sam Raimi wanted Hilary Swank for the same part -- when Weisz's casting was announced, we'd assumed that she was something of a compromise choice. But it appears that was for a different role, and that the studio has won out, as Williams is now signed, sealed and delivered for a part that Blake Lively was previously mentioned for.
It's worth noting that Williams chooses her projects very carefully: "Shutter Island" is the closest thing she's come to a mainstream film since leaving "Dawson's Creek," and even that wasn't exactly "Confessions of a Shopaholic," now, was it? Another acclaimed actor, John C. Reilly was said at one point to have been in talks to play Franco's sidekick, but there's been no further news on that front. So we hope that it means that the script, by "Rabbit Hole" writer David Lindsay-Abaire, is a cut above the usual tentpole fare, rather than meaning that Disney have thrown a ton of money at its starry cast. Filming starts in July in Michigan and, while the idea of a summer 2012 release seems to have slipped, it's hoped that the film will bow in the fall of the same year.