Robert Downey Jr. as the Wizard in an 'Oz' prequel?

robert-downey-jr-240.jpgImage Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIt could happen, according to the LA Times, which reported last night that Disney has put a Wizard of Oz prequel on “a fast track of sorts” with Robert Downey Jr. in talks to star as the wizard, and Sam Mendes (who just got his plate cleared now that Bond 23 is on hold indefinitely) and Adam Shankman (Hairspray) on the short list to direct. (Production Weekly also reported Mendes and Downey on its Twitter feed, and Perez Hilton reported on Friday that Downey and Johnny Depp are in the running for the starring role.) The project, scripted by Whole Nine Yards writer Mitchell Kapner based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, tells the pre-Emerald City story of the Great and Powerful Oz, back when he was a charlatan in Kansas working in a traveling circus. The Times describes the wizard as “a more dark and complex character in the Roth/Kapner version than the desperate and doddering wizard of the MGM musical (played by Frank Morgan) would suggest.”

Like the musical Wicked did for the Witch of the West, a movie prequel telling the Wizard’s backstory actually sounds pretty cool. How did a man from Kansas become a giant floating head in a back room of a magical city run by little people? He claimed to be a “a very good man…just a very bad wizard,” but from what we saw of him, we also know he was kind of a huckster, smoke and mirrors personified. So who is the man behind the man behind the curtain? The more I think of it, the more I want to see Downey fill in the many blanks surrounding this mysterious, iconic character (who, by the way, scared the hell out of me as a kid).

Who else thinks this could be good? And of the two directors reportedly in the running, which do you prefer: Mendes or Shankman?

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  • therealeverton

    Could be interesting, but you know this has Burton + Depp stamped all over it right?

    • c

      I immediately thought that, too. And then I thought Oh Please Tim Burton, make something original again. I’m not loving his dark takes on classic stories. I would love to see RDJ in this!

      • MackNZ

        I’m getting really sick of Tim Burton’s stuff and I hope he doesn’t get it. And I would much rather have RDJ as the wizard than Johnny Depp.

      • Bill Clinton

        Tim Burton is getting sick of you MackNZ!

      • Betty

        He is so cool doctorsfriends

    • Nathan

      After Alice in Wonderland, I think I’d rather see this given to someone else entirely, it was pretty disappointing.

      • DrChocolate

        Alice in Wonderland was atrocious but I would LOVE to see RDJ in a movie like this directed by Tim Burton. Tell me that those two wouldn’t be awesome together.

        Oh and keep Mendes away from this. He’s a hack. His sterile dramas are trite. He’s drama’s equivalent of Michael Bay.

  • rebecca

    I hope Robert Downey Jr gets the role. RDJ as the Wizard would = awesomeness!!!

  • nt

    after the boring oscar night, i dont want to see adam shankman touch anything i like, so im pro mendes. and although i love johnny depp and his weirdo roles, i want to see rdj as the wizard, sounds like something he could pull off better than anyone else.

  • Christopher Shay

    In the original text of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the Emerald City isn’t really emerald–it’s just green from the hipster shades that the Wizard makes everyone wear. Also, the preferred economy in Oz–at least in the first book–appears to be slavery…Interesting source material!

    • Suze

      Watching too much “The Wiz”? The Emerald City was green, but everyone had to wear green glasses to have everything else appear green, in the book that is. In “The Wiz” the people of the Emerald City had to change their colors with whatever was deemed “hip”.

  • Marianne

    It sounds interesting. I wonder if they would make it a musical as well…

  • kim in kentucky

    I could def see RDJ as the wizard!

  • Becky

    I like Downey, but I’ve been hoping for a Burton/Depp take on the stories of Oz too.

    • Michelle

      Enough with Burton and Depp…please

      • caitie harmful

        THANK YOU!!! Can we PLEASE have someone else do this instead of Tim “i’m going to make this as dark & kooky as possible” Burton? I’m getting tired of Tim Burton hacking up classics and remaking them in his “image”.

  • Chris

    Well this sounds pointless.

    At least Burton and Depp aren’t doing it. What a yawnfest that would be.

  • Sarah

    Yes, Robert Downey Jr., please. Johnny Depp shouldn’t have the monopoly on all of these types of roles. I’m actually starting to get tired of Depp…he should tackle a more “normal” role and lay off the “odd/eccentric” genre for a while. Just my opinion.

    • therealeverton

      Depp tends to mix up his roles very well, with things like finding Neverland and Public Enemies. It’s mostly the back to back filming of the POTC sequels that has kinda skewed his oddball – “norm” ratio. He’s always been an actor who mostly goes for roles that need a lot of thought and effort, and it isn’t his fault that he’s pretty much the go to guy for weird and one of the best screen actors around. Also his symbiosis with Burton is always likely to lead to him doing something very weird every other year or so.

      I think RDJ could do a great job on this, he’s another “can do anything” actor but seeing as he wants to do more Sherlock, (better script this time please, no Sherlock Dobby Doo), and is locked into (I believe) at Least one more Iron Man and at least 2 Avengers movies between now 2015 he just might not have the time to do it. That’s not counting possible cameos in of at least 4 other Marvel movies.

      A good script is the key here or even Downey Jnr or Depp won’t make it worthwhile.

      • Sarah

        Hey, don’t get me wrong, I think Depp is a great actor (and thanks for reminding me of Finding Neverland!). It just seems like he’s been typecasting himself lately, and I’m starting to lose interest. Would love to see him in another dramatic role (not something where he’s practically a cartoon and/or hardly recognizable).

    • laura

      But Depp is not only doing weirdo movies nowadays. You just have to wait until The Rum diary will be releasedt this year, this will be different to his stranger roles and he will definitely rock!!!!

  • Lizzy

    Mendes please.

    Not Burton – I don’t want another movie I feel like I need to take a hit before seeing.

    • therealeverton

      On the hate side of the huge “you either love Burton’s movie style or hate it” wall I take it?

      • C Men

        He needs to lose the style. He’s made plenty of movies that didn’t look like Alice and were great.

  • Oz

    Oh, the poor desicated, overly-milked cow that is Oz. “…more dark and complex”, didn’t see that coming. Has anyone bothered to read the half dozen books in the series that HAVEN”T been made into movies yet?

    • C Men

      I’m going to take a wild guess that the screenwriter(s) have.

  • therealeverton

    Well aren’t they making a film that hasn’t been made yet? It says it’s a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, or a Prequel to The Wonderful Wixard of Oz if you prefer.

  • Jim

    “How did a man from Kansas become a giant floating head in a back room of a magical city run by little people? ” The Emerald City was not run by the Munchkins. I believe the people in the city were of normal size!

    • Charles

      I can’t stand anymore of this dark children story crap! First Alice now this!? The wizard is a humble man who got carried away with an ego, not a dark complex person! I say this is going to be AWFUL.

  • Burgess

    Why don’t they just (finally!) make Wicked into a movie?

    • Caitlin

      They ARE making it into a movie.

      • Flyer

        Really? Can you please give more details, Caitlin? I’d love to see a “Wicked” movie, but I hadn’t heard of anything actually happening on it so far.

      • TR

        Back in 2008 their were claims a Wicked movie would be out in 2010. Haven’t heard anything about it coming out this year so I’m going to guess it’s dead again

    • Johnification

      I agree. If they want a dark and more complex take on the Wizard, then by all means PLEASE just adapt Greg Maguire’s book, hand it over to Terry Gilliam and call it a day. In that scenario I’d much rather see RDJ playing Elphaba’s father.

      • Candice

        Agreed! I’m dying to see Wicked on the big screen. The play & book were incredible. Loved the twist on the Witch. “Wicked” and “Son of a Witch” talk about two great ideas right there for a brillant screen play.

        LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! RDJ & I think he would do a much better job then Depp. Not that I don’t love Depp too. I’m just kinda burned out on him right now.

        Burton is a hit or miss for me. I’m not a fan, but I don’t hate all his movies.

      • Renee

        No, because as much as I love the musical Wicked (which I do), I hated the book. Make the musical into a movie, but leave the book out of it.

  • KS Girl

    Maybe it’s just me, but is it bothering anyone else that everyone keeps saying the Wizard is from Kansas? He’s from Nebraska, by the books. That’s Hollywood for ya, though, right?

    • Sean MacNair

      KS Girl, it’s just you. Who really gives a sh*t?

      • KS Girl

        Thank Goodness! Crazy purists! ;)

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