By Gabe Toro | The Playlist January 20, 2011 at 3:30AM
Like baseball cards, these A-List actors are. Robert Downey Jr. is backing out of Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great And Powerful" but the production may have secured a killer replacement in Johnny Depp, currently in discussions to fill Tony Stark's shoes. Sets and effects are already being worked on, with a start date eyed for later this year, so the production is looking to hit the ground running, and it appears Downey just might be too busy to accommodate Disney's hustle.
The story, a prequel to the "Wizard of Oz" stories most are familiar with, follows a hotshot illusionist who accidentally navigates a hot air balloon to a magical land ruled by two wicked witches. Downey, who expects to start shooting "The Avengers" in the springtime, also bailed from another high profile project recently, Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity", but he has not yet planned his post-"Avengers" itinerary. He does have a number of projects that he's attached to in various stages of development including "Peabody And Sherman"; Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice," an untitled musical set at a summer camp he's shopping to studios; the long-gestating Steve McQueen thriller "Yucatan" compiled from copious McQueen notes and written by Anthony Peckham; the lightweight "How To Talk To Girls"; the survivalist tale "Emergency! and somewhere he'll need to pencil in " "Iron Man 3" -- so dude has many options.
Depp is slated to jump into Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" this spring, so a third quarter start for 'Oz' nestles quite easily into his schedule. From there, he could easily jump into the lead role for Kathryn Bigelow's "Triple Frontier", which he has previously been linked to and seems to be waiting for schedules to clear for its A-list talent before shooting (Bigelow will be shooting a low budget black ops thriller first). But where does this leave Disney's "The Lone Ranger"? Depp committed to that Gore Verbinski-directed project years ago, but apparently it's still in development and as far along as 'Oz.' Further complicating thing both projects are set up at Disney -- will he make enemies choosing one over the other? Will it affect his eventual participation in two more "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies? Is he ever planning on making a REAL movie anytime soon? More details to come in the days ahead, we're sure.