Mark S. King

Curses! Hollywood Meddles with the Magic of 'Oz'

Filed By Mark S. King | November 18, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Hollywood, Oz the Great and Powerful, Surrender Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

Quick: recast "The Wizard of Oz" in your head with contemporary stars. Okay, you better stop before you get nauseous. The exercise had my head spinning faster than a field of poisoned poppies.

Thumbnail image for WizardOfOz 1.jpgThank the good lord that Robert Zemeckis, the wizard behind Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and the tragically underrated Death Becomes Her, has opted out of directing a remake, say news reports. And without a director of his caliber, the studio is unlikely to proceed.

But we're not home free yet, my pretties. Two major "Oz" projects are still underway with major directors attached. If we're still discovering hidden gems in the original (like the one I'm about to reveal), who in their right mind would repave the yellow brick road?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Wizard Morgan.jpg

Sam Raimi, who famously created the gory Evil Dead horror films before directing Spiderman, is set to direct Oz, The Great and Powerful, the backstory of the wizard's life before floating into the emerald city. The only possible upside for what sounds like a terrible idea: Robert Downey Jr. is in negotiations to play the wizard.

What if I told you Drew Barrymore was playing Dorothy in an "Oz" flick? Would that be worse than Diana Ross in The Wiz? Couldn't possibly be. But the project now underway smells just as lame as Ms. Ross' cinematic misfire.

Barrymore is set to direct (and possibly star in) Surrender Dorothy, a modern-day tale about Dorothy's great-great-granddaughter, in which the young lass must use the power of the ruby slippers to battle the Witch of the West. Who, umm, got liquidated in the first film, as I recall. Gag me with a broomstick, people. I feel like I should take to the streets and start some sort of civil unrest before these projects get much further.

Thumbnail image for wizard forest.jpgThe 1939 The Wizard of Oz includes a scene in the haunted forest as Dorothy's friends set out to rescue her from the castle. They carry weapons, like a butterfly net and a can of insect repellent. What is the scarecrow carrying? You have one paragraph to answer.

The film has had longtime impact on the lives of queer people like me, who grow up trying to find community, friends, and a place to call home, while constantly steeling ourselves against malevolent forces out to do us harm. The classic has been studied and interpreted as much as any film ever made. Done thinking?

The scarecrow is carrying a gun. A pistol. I made this discovery at about four in the morning one night during college, while fried on psychedelic mushrooms with friends and watching television. "The scarecrow is packing!" I remember screaming, and trying, trying very hard to figure out if I was hallucinating or if, in fact, the scarecrow was armed like Magnum P.I. Thumbnail image for Wizard of Oz 3.jpgThroughout the early morning I made frantic phone calls to people who did not share my sense of alarm.

Today my highs are no longer chemically induced, but thrills beyond imagining are as close as my DVD collection. Give me Judy Garland, warm sepiatone, and a haunting ballad for the ages, and my heart and mind are way up high, beyond the rainbow.

Why, oh why can't they leave well enough alone?

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I am totally getting some mushrooms and watching the movie again, maybe even with Pink Floyd synced up. Maybe I'll see something in it that will heal me from a lifetime of bad Oz jokes when New Yorkers hear I'm from Kansas. And maybe I'll be able to forget I ever heard of a remake. The information is simply too horrible to stay in my head.

A remake of "The Wizard of Oz"? Unthinkable! Alright, Mr. Hollywood Producer man: I'd turn back if I were you!

But you know that Andrew Lloyd Webber is working on a Wizard of Oz musical, right? The idea is so heinous that maybe you just decided not to even mention it.

The Wizard of Oz is perfection now; it is not to be messed with. Look what happened with The Wiz. Mr King, I thought I was the only one who loved Death Becomes Her! It's such a perfectly hilarious black comedy. Streep, Hawn and Willis are sublime under Robert Zemeckis' brilliant direction.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | November 19, 2010 4:02 AM

I had the same reaction you did when I heard about this "remake," until a friend explained to me that it isn't really a remake. According to him, our beloved musical version was very loosely based on a book, so loosely that it barely resembles the book.

The new movie will closely follow that book. It will not be a musical and will have a whole different flavor to it. They don't mean to supplant the musical or compete with it, but to create a different kind of film altogether.


It's true though that the classic movie isn't even close to the book(s). There's a ton of Oz books that could be mined for movie magic.

And nothing can be as bad as the Wiz.

If the Scarecrow is, indeed, "packing", maybe the Lloyd Webber confection could be called GATS.

Raimi and Downey Jr.? Meh... Another boring moneymaker.

I dissent on Barrymore retelling a modern version. I loved "Whip It" (star and director) because of her sense of fun and wit. While the plot was usual, the attitude was great. I might just bestir to the megagoogelplex (or drive-in, more likely) to see what she does with a 'modern' version. A little wicked fun is always apropos.

"Death Becomes Her"? Oh, YES!


I want you all to realize that for so long they have made formulaic movies. Heck, I remember in Writer's Guild magazine they had programs where you put in the characters, location and plot idea and IT wrote the screenplay!!!
They can't think anymore in Hollywood. So, where to get an idea? Just remake a classic. Update it, put some or more action in it. Blow something up. Then the kids will come and see it.
I really do wish they would leave the classics alone. Remakes are like 007 movies, loosely inspired by the title of the book.
And I loved "Death Becomes Her"! We must have excellent taste in films! ;-)