By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 17, 2011 at 11:08AM
James Franco Also Apparently Locked For The Film
Update: Variety confirms that Mila Kunis has closed the deal to star in "Oz The Great And Powerful." She will be taking the role of Theodora, a good witch whose advances are rebuffed by Franco's character. She subsequently decides to help her evil sister Evanora rule Oz. Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams, Kate Beckinsale, Keira Knightley and Rebecca Hall are among those being listed as contenders for the sister roles.
Which witch? This witch. After making her name on "That '70s Show" and starring in some fairly ignoble pictures along the way ("American Psycho 2," anyone?), Mila Kunis had a giant career boost in the last year, her excellent supporting performance in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" wiping away any memories of her terrible performance in "The Book of Eli" earlier in 2010. She'd already booked two big comedy roles, opposite Justin Timberlake in "Friends With Benefits" and as Mark Wahlberg's love interest in the imminently filming Seth MacFarlane comedy "Ted." But it emerged tonight that the young actress has had two major tentpoles of a more serious nature vying for her presence, and it looks as though the actress has made her decision.
According to Vulture, while the Hughes Brothers were keen to reunite with Kunis after "The Book of Eli" on their adaptation of the anime classic "Akira," which is currently gearing up at Warner Bros., the actress has turned down the project in favor of the role of Theodorah, the future Wicked Witch of the West in Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" over at Disney. They allege all kinds of behind-the-scenes shenanigans at work, but in essence: Albert Hughes, who's directing "Akira," has wanted to cast the best possible actors, but the studio, wary of the massive expense of the project, was insisting on at least one big name star and was allowing Kunis to be approached for the role of Kei, a young revolutionary, if the helmers would allow Brad Pitt to be offered the lead role of Kaneda -- a part which, it should be said, Pitt's a couple of decades too old for, really. The Hughes Brothers relented, but Pitt apparently turned the project down on Tuesday.
Not that it matters, as it turns out: Kunis also met with Raimi and his prospective star James Franco about 'Oz' (which itself has been something of a hot potato, with both Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp flirting with, then abandoning, the film), and all involved have decided that Kunis was the best choice for Theodorah, who starts as a love interest for Oz before darkening somewhat. And according to Vulture, the actress has committed to Raimi's film, which will go before cameras in July. Furthermore, the actress signing on has apparently convinced Franco, who wasn't 100% signed on -- and who she shared brief scenes with in last year's "Date Night" -- to confirm his involvement.
So, good news for Disney and "Oz: The Great and Powerful," bad for Warners and "Akira"; indeed, Pitt turning down the project may have thrown the futuristic epic into doubt, according to the site. Assuming everything here pans out -- this is still not 100% official -- we're hoping that the involvement of Franco and Kunis bodes better for 'Oz' than the original draft we read last summer, which was weak, to the say the least. But "Rabbit Hole" scribe David Lindsay-Abaire, who previously worked with Raimi on the aborted "Spider-Man 4," has been beavering away on a new version, so we're confident there's a massive improvement in the works. "Oz: The Great and Powerful" will hit theaters some time in 2013, most likely on the March date that saw Disney have a billion dollar success with "Alice in Wonderland" last year.