Director Sam Raimi is in a really interesting place right now. Officially free of the heavy baggage of the “Spider-Man” franchise, following the implosion of the planned fourth entry, his name has been popping up quite a bit as of late in connection with costly fantasy-themed blockbuster projects.
Indeed, the former “Evil Dead” genius has shown a keen interest in engaging in the type of huge-scale world-building that Peter Jackson brought back into vogue nearly a decade ago. Allegedly, he fought tooth and nail for “The Hobbit” job – losing out to Guillermo del Toro, who recently abandoned the project – and has since been attached to helm a “World of Warcraft” feature since last July.
Now, according to New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, he’s at the top of Disney’s list to breathe new life into the musty lungs of the “Oz” franchise with their in-development prequel film, “Oz, the Great and Powerful.” Raimi is the latest top gun director to be offered the high-priority project, which was previously circled by Sam Mendes and “Hairspray” helmer Adam Shankman. Also of note: Robert Downey Jr. was recently flirting with the title role, although no documents have yet been signed.
Raimi probably won’t have a great deal of time to mull this offer over, as Disney is mighty desperate to roll cameras sometime this year in order to overtake the three other currently-in-development “Oz” pictures — two of which are at Warner Bros., with a third set up at New Line — nipping at its heels.
The script for the project was written by Mitchell Kapner, whose filmography includes the mildly pleasant “The Whole Nine Yards,” the mediocre “Romeo Must Die” and the dire “The Whole Ten Yards.” He also penned “Into the Blue 2: The Reef” which is kind of awesome; albeit in an ironic way.
Personally, I have my doubts that Raimi agrees to take up residence behind the curtain. He’s likely had his fill of studio interference by now — given his tumultuous relationship with Sony — and is no doubt smart enough to realize that overseeing a rushed endeavor under the Walt Disney Company banner will probably not afford him particularly wonderful working conditions. In a different situation, I think he’d be an inspired choice, but there’s no reason he should be picking up Adam Shankman’s cast-offs.
No, if he’s still fired up over creating expansive fantasy worlds populated by mythic archetypes and extraordinary sights and sounds, I’d rather he continue developing “World of Warcraft.” That project offers a far greater opportunity for creative freedom, which will in turn allow him to truly run crazy-wild with the possibilities. Because the last thing I want to see Raimi do is the expected.
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Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.