Downey, Mendes May Team for ‘Oz The Great and Powerful’

The Wizard of Oz is one of those strange film phenomenons that could never be recreated. It was nominated for Best Picture in 1939, but it wasn’t a huge success, and it owes a lot to home video and being played on television every year which aided in it becoming a classic. It’s a gorgeous film, one of my favorite movies, and I’m always conflicted as to why Baum’s books haven’t been given their proper cinematic due since.

While you think of insults for me dismissing Return to Oz, wrap your mind around the possibility of Sam Mendes directing a project called Oz The Great and Powerful that may see Robert Downey Jr in the lead role. According to First Showing (who rounded up news from Production Weekly and Pajiba), this may be an honest shot at telling the origin story of the Wizard and how he got to Oz.

You read that correctly. Downey Jr might be playing a character named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs.

Awesome names aside, this project sounds brilliant. I say that not only because I’m a huge fan of the novels, but because if this pairing holds, it would be a strong vision. Mendes is undoubtedly one of the best working directors today, and Downey Jr can apparently do no wrong as an actor. I have no idea what angle they’ll take on the story, but The Wizard of Oz and the original novels both paint Oz as a sort of con man who works the circus circuit. After painting his initials on the side of his hot air balloon (OZPINHEAD) and shortening it to “OZ,” he takes off and somehow finds himself deposited in the Land of Oz where he is hailed as their new king.

I’m sure we can all relate. That happens to me almost every Tuesday.

The image used in the header, by the way, is from William Wallace Denslow’s original art for the character when he appeared first 110 years ago.

As great as this all sounds, keep in mind that this project is only on the horizon for Mendes because Bond 23 is delayed, and, apparently, because he won’t be doing Preacher anytime soon.

Casting and directing possibilities aside, I’m just happy to see the books come back into the fold as viable adaptable material. Think of what could happen if Mendes (or some other talent) planned a series of films ala Lord of the Rings and created an epic vision for Oz. It doesn’t seem likely, but damn it would be cool.

This is a great start.

What do you think?

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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