Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Jay's thoughts on Nicole Kassell's Wonderful Wizard of Oz

 So, as Sam posted about yesterday, it's been announced that New Line Cinema has signed director Nicole Kassell to a new film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

While I don't want to be a downer, first things first: we've heard of many, many Oz movies in the works over the years and only a very few have actually come out. So my anticipation is tempered.

I'm actually very glad to hear that a female director has been assigned to Oz given that with Dorothy's lead role and the strong influence of other female characters from Aunt Em to the Good Witch of the North to the Wicked Witches and Glinda, a female perspective would be refreshing.

It's also nice to hear that this is from New Line Cinema rather than Warner Brothers proper. New Line is a division of Warner Brothers, and they were the studio who funded and released The Lord of the Rings trilogy and later The Hobbit. And they also handled Shazam, one of the best DC Comics movies. (Come at me.) They have less of a reputation for interfering with a director's vision.

According to the articles released, this is going to be primarily an adaptation of the book rather than a direct remake of the MGM film. However, as New Line is part of the WarnerMedia family, which also includes Turner Entertainment—owners of the MGM movie—they will be able to borrow from it if they wish. I would hope that they can try to avoid copying the classic film as a new movie based on Oz is almost already at a disadvantage as that movie is so beloved, and I'd prefer to see what can be done differently. You already have the same basic story and many of the same characters, so further tying yourself to that version can make audiences think of that movie instead of just enjoying yours.

I'm sure even if they want to go closely for the book, we'll still be seeing a streamlined version of the story that may eliminate or combine some events from the book. And don't expect the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman or the Winged Monkeys to tell their backstories at great length. Unless they go the recent Warner trend of doing an HBO Max series set in Oz telling more tales of that world to tie in with the film. (Okay, Jay, back to what we KNOW is coming rather than getting excited over a hypothetical. They've announced similar series to tie in with the new The Batman and The Suicide Squad films.) What they do with the story is the main reason why I'll be excited to see the film.

I do have some fancasting ideas, though I doubt many of them would come to pass.

Dorothy should be cast younger than Judy Garland's version, rather more like Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz. I'd almost suggest Abby Ryder Fortson, who very capably played Cassie Lang in the first two Ant-Man movies, as she was able to turn in a really good performance. However, she's already aged since Ant-Man and the Wasp, and will be older before they'd begin shooting. But still, a capable child actress in that vein with a good director should be able to handle the role well.

I don't have many direct fancasts for Dorothy's friends, but a big suggestion I have is to cast them as young adults rather than Hollywood heavies or long-established talent as has been done often in the past. Dorothy's friends are seeking their way in the world, trying to figure out how they fit, which young adults can easily relate to.

That said, I have fancied the idea of John Barrowman as the Wizard. He has a lot of range and has recently been rocking his naturally white hair, and if they should ever follow up with the character's return in a potential sequel, he should still be quite ready for it.

I've also thought of Felicia Day for Glinda mainly because she's a lovely actress with red hair, but again, this isn't my movie, so if my particular picks aren't done (which is likely), it's fine, just means I'm seeing someone else's vision that didn't quite line up with mine. I hope I'll be able to appreciate it for what it is.

I will add that I hope they get a diverse cast for Oz. The story and subsequent series might have been created by a white, straight and cisgender male, and the original illustrators were quite the same, but that doesn't mean that the entire Land of Oz has to be white. Oz the Great and Powerful, for its flaws, embraced this, albeit that the principals were white. The Wiz is basically proof in action that you can retell the story with people of color.

So, as Hollywood continues down yet another yellow brick road, let's wish them good luck!

The Oz BOOK Movie???

A few hours ago it was announced that New Line Cinema was to have Nicole Kassell direct a new adaptation of L Frank Baum's book "the Wonderful Wizard of Oz", with this article spreading across the Oz groups on Facebook


Now, yes, it is still VERY EARLY days, so you will not much or any details of what the final film could be, how faithful it is, how long it may be, the production time or how different it will be to each of us and how we imagine it ... but for those of us who are book devotees, this has been long overdue.

Yes there have been other, more faithful adaptations of the book besides 1939, but those have been either foriegn productions or animated series mixed with elements from later books.  When you consider that other fantasy stories like "Alice('s Adventures) in Wonderland", "Peter Pan" and "Chronicles of Narnia" have been given big (blockbuster) movie treatments that are faithful to the original text (or even in Netflix series such as "Lemony Snickett", it really does seem unfair that Oz hasn't been properly given the book-series-to-life treatment ... and that is something that's missing.

It is good and, needless to say, Wonderful to be hearing news that sounds like it is going to be more book orientated and not giving the impression that it will be focusiong on something else like "Game of Thrones" of "wicked" or making it something that it isn't.

Speaking for myself, this is something I have dreamed about doing myself for the last 20 years ... and while I have started film-making and scriptwriting and am aware of the difference between page and screen (as well as stage), I am happy that a studio besides Disney or WB is considering giving The Book a feature length film treatment, how much that resembles "the Lord of the Rings" remains to be seen.

While I do not have any control or input in this matter, there are some things I would like to suggest that are absolutely vital:

* Silver Shoes and a YOUNG DOROTHY not a teenager or adolescent.  Youngest should be 6, or even 8-10, 12 at oldest.  But whether this becomes a series or not and remains a stand-alone, she is supposed to be and IS a little young girl.

It has also been said that Silver is a pure substance, used in mirrors, which would better demonstrate the innocence of Dorothy and her story.

* Casting the WIZARD Character: some excellent choices to consider could be Rowan Atkinson (my definitive choice), or Steve Carell or Patrick Stewart.

* GLINDA's HAIR must be RED, not Blonde or golden, RICH RED hair in ringlets - that is certainly something that is easy to do but always disregarded.

She could be played by Clair Danes, or Famke Jansen - as long as her long hair is rightfully red (to go nicely with her blue eyes and white gown and red palace).

* Not everything has to be CGI; James Ortiz proved that there is plenty puppetry could accomplish, so perhaps NLC could look at "Walking with Dinosaurs" and use puppetry for the Kalidahs and the Giant Spider ... we could even have an Animatronic Tin Woodman instead of a man in a (green/blue motion-capture / tin) suit.

* If you've read books of L Frank Baum, you'd see that the White City of 1893 was cited as the inspiration for the Emerald City ... and if you saw the reference photos, using that as a model for reference would definitely make the city look otherworldly, ethereal, beautifully detailed and timeless and free from somewhat-dated Retro style of the 30s.

* Of course the Good Witches wear white as Baum describes it being a witch colour, but if somehow they can have the Wicked Witches wear white and make it work for them, that would be really impressive!

* the WWW is supposed to be afraid of water, she avoids it, therefore she would be Dried Up (even her blood has done so) and would have to look old - funny enough, Baum never says she's an old lady until the end of the chapter after Dorothy has cleaned away her mess - she cannot and must not have green skin or be flying on a broomstick (cackling isn't necessary), because her fear of water makes constantly holding an umbrella valid ... I repeat, Wicked Witch of the West must be non-green, Old and Dried up (wrinkled in both senses).

* for whatever reason, past adaptations neglect to give the four corners of Oz their colours - Blue East, Yellow West, Purple North and Red South - it's not a difficult thing to do, rather it would add to the splendour and diversity of Oz as well as make the Emerald City center of Oz more prominent with the colour theme.

I'm hoping that we get more good news of this announcement soon, confirming the details of the source material and that, IF it is indeed going to be more focused on the book and historically accurate to the time it was originally written and set in, that it is successful enough to allow for the next and following Oz books to be given similar treatments as well.

While I am interested in seeing how this latest Oz film goes - and if it continues to be developed and hopefully released - I am most interested to see how the Kansas scene opens the film, as that first sequence has the least material described in the book, but should hopefully have plenty of American Farming history to be used as research.

I'm also hoping, I especially WISHING, that Angela Lansbury can play the Good Witch of the North!