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Huffington Post -- Joe Roth reflects on "Oz The Great and Powerful," looks forward to "Maleficent" in 2014

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Huffington Post -- Joe Roth reflects on "Oz The Great and Powerful," looks forward to "Maleficent" in 2014

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Huffington Post -- Joe Roth reflects on "Oz The Great and Powerful," looks forward to "Maleficent" in 2014

It's every screenwriter's nightmare. To be in the office of one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, pitching all of your script ideas. Only to then have that mover-and-shaker repeatedly say "Nope. Not interested."

But that's exactly what happened back in 2009 to poor Mitchell Kapner. The screenwriter of "The Whole Nine Yards" was in Joe Roth's office, pitching away. But the producer of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" just wasn't buying into any of the story ideas that Mitchell was putting out there.

Joe Roth and two of the three witches from "Oz The Greta and Powerful,"
Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams

"So I'm sitting in a room with a writer who now doesn't have all that much to say. And I feel sorry for the guy. So I ask Mitchell what he was reading," Joe recalled during a recent phone interview. "And he tells me that he's been reading the L. Frank Baum books to his kids. And I tell him -- I am somewhat embarrassed to admit -- that I had thought that 'The Wizard of Oz' was a singular book. But as it turns out, Baum actually wrote a series of 14 Oz books."

So Kapner starts to walk Joe through the storylines of the various Oz books. And when Mitchell gets to No. 6 in the series, 'The Emerald City of Oz' (which talks about who the Wizard is and how he actually got to Oz), Joe stopped the screenwriter.

"When Mitchell starts talking about that man behind the curtain and how he got there, this storyline immediately strikes me as a great idea for a movie for a couple of reasons. One was because I love 'The Wizard of Oz.' But this character is only in the last few minutes of that film and we have no idea who he is," Roth explained. "And the second reason was -- during the years that I spent running Walt Disney Studios -- I learned about how hard it was to find a fairy tale with a good strong male protagonist. You've got your Sleeping Beauties, your Cinderellas and your Alices. But a fairy tale with a male protagonist is very hard to come by. But with the origin story of the Wizard of Oz, here was a fairy tale story with a natural male protagonist. Which is why I knew that this was an idea for a movie that was genuinely worth pursuing."

So at Joe's insistence, Mitchell -- borrowing bits & pieces from the Baum books -- cobbled together an origin story for the Wizard . Which Roth liked so much that he immediately took this story treatment to Dick Cook, the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Studios. And Cook (who knew that the Mouse Factory had made two previous attempts at Oz pictures, the aborted 'Rainbow Road to Oz' project back in the 1950s and 1985's poorly received 'Return to Oz') immediately sparked to this idea. Insisting that Kapner turn his story treatment into a full-blown screenplay. More importantly, that Roth start looking for a director with visual effects experience who could possibly helm this sure-to-be big budget fantasy film for Disney.

Sam Raimi works with James Franco on the set of "Oz The Great and Powerful."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Now as it turns out, Sam Raimi is my next door neighbor. His office on the Sony lot is right across from mine. So I tell him what I'm working on and I asked him to read the script. And Sam says 'No,' " Joe continued.

So how did Roth eventually get Raimi to say "Yes" to directing "Oz The Great and Powerful" ? More to the point, what Disney's "Maleficent" (which will be released to theaters on July 2, 2014) have to do with this? To get the answer to these and other questions, you can either click on the headline above or follow this direct link to the full article on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-hill/joe-roth-reflects-on-oz-t_b_2806542.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment

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