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Prequel stars James Franco as the wizard before ‘Oz’

'OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL'  Oz (James Franco) tells ChinGirl (voiced by Joey King) thshe has go back Emerald

"OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" Oz (James Franco) tells China Girl (voiced by Joey King) that she has to go back to the Emerald City.

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Updated: January 31, 2013 6:15AM

The wizard wasn’t always so wonderful.

In director Sam Raimi’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful” (out March 8), a 3-D retelling of the Frank L. Baum story, fans fly back in time and begin a prequel of Dorothy’s journey down the yellow brick road with Kansas huckster Oscar Diggs (James Franco).

As a struggling magician working Kansas City circuses, Franco’s character starts off “as kind of a good showman,” says Franco. “But I am bound by the natural laws of this world. I don’t have fantastical powers.”

Fast-forward to a hot-air-balloon-fueled ride to Oz and an eventual battle to seize the land from evil, with witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) along for the ride.

In Oz, Diggs is “mistaken for Oz the Great and Powerful, destined to be the next king of Emerald City,” says Raimi. “But he’s only to receive that title if he can defeat the Wicked Witch.”

With a history of being a trickster and charlatan, Diggs accepts the challenge, partially because “everyone thinks he’s the wizard; he has to maintain this façade of being a fantastical wizard to save his hide,” says Franco. Heading for the Dark Forest to kill the Wicked Witch, Diggs stumbles upon a ravaged teacup-size land called Chinatown.

“Everything in the land, the houses and people made of china, have been broken by the Wicked Witch and her army,” says Raimi. “Oscar finds the pieces of this china doll and puts them together.”

She is determined to join Oz. He tells her to go back to Emerald City, says Raimi, “but she won’t have any of it. He’s going to learn ... that he’s not the only huckster in the bunch.”

Gannett News Service

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