In anticipation of the June 11 release of Oz the Great and Powerful on Blu-ray and DVD (you can order your copy by clicking right here), actors Mila Kunis and Zach Braff sat down for a Q&A during which they discussed their roles in the film, and their careers.
Q: How did you get involved with Oz The Great And Powerful?
Kunis: When I first met with [Oz The Great And Powerful director] Sam Raimi, we talked for four hours about the different characters – but from the very beginning, I gravitated toward Theodora. I had a great meeting, but I never thought for two seconds that I would appear in the movie. But then, a week later, Sam called and offered me the role. I was like, “What? Seriously?”
Q: What was it like to walk on to the set of Oz The Great And Powerful for the first time?
Kunis: [Production designer] Robert Stromberg did such a beautiful job designing the sets. When you walk on to the set, you see it and you feel it. You can stand in Glinda’s castle. You can stand in the Emerald City. You can stand in the cemetery or in the Whimsy Woods. Everything was tangible and real. It was amazing.
Q: How much did you enjoy working with Sam Raimi on the project?
Kunis: I love Sam. He’s great, he’s brilliant, he’s sweet, he’s kind, he’s generous, and he’s wonderful. He’s a great director.
Q: What did you learn from working with him?
Kunis: What did I learn? I learned a lot of things. I learned how to wear a corset and I learned how to fly. I learned a lot about patience, too. Sam is incredibly patient with his crew and his cast. He’s also incredibly trustworthy. Oh, and I learned that it gets very cold in Detroit [where the movie was shot] during wintertime and very hot during spring!
Q: What does the 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz and the books of Frank L. Baum mean to you?
Kunis: The first book that I ever read in English, past the alphabet books and the kid books, was Return To Oz. I came to America when I was seven and a half years old, but that was the first English book I read. Then, I was doing an interview two years ago – way before this movie was ever even in existence to me – and I was asked: “What movie do you remember seeing as a child that changed your life?” I said, “The Wizard Of Oz.” When you are nine years old and you see such a magical, beautiful movie with so many lights and colors, you really want to immerse yourself in it. It’s such a fantastical movie. I loved it.
Q: At the start of Oz The Great And Powerful, your character is a girl who desperately wants to believe in good. Are you similar in real life, too?
Kunis: Yes, I think so. I really do. I believe in good, and I don’t necessarily believe in the opposite – but I am not as naïve as my character. For example, I do believe that there are some people with a malicious intent, but I don’t think my character does in the beginning.
Q: What do you think of the costumes in Oz The Great And Powerful?
Kunis: The costumes in the movie are beautiful and incredibly ornate. Everything is handmade and hand-stitched, but there’s a corset underneath every single one of them, so they are incredibly uncomfortable to wear. That’s the truth. They look beautiful on a mannequin and they look beautiful in real life, but they aren’t comfortable when you’re hung up on wires 30 feet in the air for 17 hours. You have to put everything into consideration. Wearing the costume for two hours was not a problem. Wearing it for 17 hours… Ouch.
Q: How much do you enjoy fashion, Mila?
Kunis: I like fashion in spurts. I can appreciate fashion and I’ve learned to value it. I have also learned to admire it and I’ve learned to look at it and acknowledge it.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Kunis: My new favorite thing to do is to get out of Los Angeles. I like to go to the middle of nowhere; anywhere where there are no people.
Q: Do you seek a more quiet life away from the spotlight and hustle of Los Angeles?
Kunis: Yes. But to be clear, it’s not work that’s keeping me here in Los Angeles. It is one hundred percent my mom and my grandparents. My family is here and if I could move them, I would – I am very close to my family.
Q: What else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Kunis: I love reading the news. I like to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the world. I like to wake up in the morning and have my coffee while watching the news on television. And at night, I like to cap off the day with a different news channel. There are also a lot of different apps that circulate constant information throughout the day, which I’m hooked into.
Q: Are you into magic?
Kunis: I love magic shows. I love ‘slight of hand’ and things like that. I also love the movie, Hocus Pocus. That’s magical.
Q: What about palm readers and psychics?
Kunis: I see nothing wrong with psychics or palm readers, but I don’t seek them out. I think they are fun and fantastic, but I’ve never had any personal experiences with them.
Q: Have you ever wondered what a psychic might say about your future?
Kunis: Totally. I’m curious about things like that, but there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to know. I don’t want to walk in there and be told, “You’re going to mess up.” I’ll figure that out on my own.
Q: What magical power would you most like to possess?
Kunis: The ability to fly would be great, but it would also be nice to be invisible. I’d love to walk around and see what people are talking about. I would also love to wander around a park or travel somewhere incognito.
Q: What else would you get up to if you were invisible?
Kunis: I would love to go to the mall to look at things. I’d roam around for hours and not have anybody look back at me. And I would love to go to the supermarket, too. Are you kidding me? I’d have a blast.
Q: People blog and write about you all the time. Does the attention and criticism annoy you?
Kunis: I will give you the simplest answer: I don’t Google myself. I don’t know what people are saying – and frankly, I don’t care.
Q: Does this mean you avoid the Internet?
Kunis: Just because I don’t Google myself doesn’t mean I am not on the Internet. I don’t Facebook or Tweet, but there are other networking sites out there. There’s one called Pack, which is a private version of Facebook, and I think it’s great. I’m online all the time. Are you kidding me? That’s how I get my news, my information… It’s how I go shopping. I don’t need to Google myself, but I definitely go online.
Q: How difficult is it to avoid the many stories that are written about you in the press?
Kunis: I can avoid it. If you see a photo of yourself [online], you can just scroll right past it. If you’re at the grocery store and there’s a picture on the front of a magazine, you can just walk right past it. There are never good things written [in those magazines] because good things don’t sell, but I don’t need to feel bad about myself. And it’s also not real life. Just because one person says you are fat or ugly or tall or short doesn’t make it true. It’s one person who’s got nothing better to do. And it goes the same for the person who says you are beautiful or stunning or tall or skinny or whatever. With all the positives, you should accept the negatives because they go hand in hand. I would rather not accept anything.
Q: How did you become involved with Oz The Great And Powerful?
Braff: In the very beginning, [Oz The Great And Powerful director] Sam Raimi asked me to visit his office to discuss the project. We talked for a while and I guess I made him laugh, which helped. He showed me an animatic sequence where a couple of the movie’s characters run along a cliff. In the scene, they all jump off and Oscar screams: “What are you doing? Why are you jumping off the cliff?” At that stage, there was no line for the flying monkey, so I added a joke and Sam started dying with laughter. I thought to myself, ‘Great. I think I’ve got the part.’
Q: What does the Blu-ray release mean to you?
Braff: I think the Blu-ray release is perfect for a movie like this because there are so many extras. They had video crews on the set of the movie every other day recording material for the Blu-ray. Some movies don’t lend themselves to anything more interesting than a commentary track, but this is going to have so much more. Plus, there’s so much state-of-the-art technology in this movie that movie buffs and people that love the world of Oz will really enjoy seeing it in such high definition.
Q: Are you a fan of Blu-rays?
Braff: I love them, especially on extremely visual movies like this. You can really notice the difference with the quality when you play a Blu-ray on your television at home. Blu-rays are great.
Q: What can you tell us about the Blu-ray extras that you’re involved with?
Braff: There’s a Second Screen bonus extra named Zach Braff Puppet Theater where we show how we created the movie’s flying monkey, Finley. The video shows how we brought Finley to life and the different ways that we captured the monkey’s performance.
Q: Did you use motion capture technology for Finley?
Braff: We didn’t use motion capture because Sam Raimi wanted it to be more inspired by the way they used to do these things; with animators using real footage as opposed to interpreting what the dots of motion capture tell the computer. Most of the work involved me acting out the scenes in front of cameras. The animators animated everything using the video footage.
Q: Did you record the video footage on the movie set or in an empty room?
Braff: We recorded the footage in lots of different ways, but the greatest percentage involved me on the set. Sometimes I’d wear a blue screen suit, but I’d usually just act out the scenes with video cameras all around me. It was great because I was able to interact with the other actors on set.
Q: Were you always on set?
Braff: I spent some of the time in a video booth away from the set. When Finley isn’t stagnant in a scene, it’s hard for me to jump around, climb trees and fly like the character does. During those moments, I would go to a video booth but James Franco could see me because there’d be a small monitor – about the size of an iPad – on the end of a stick on set. James also had a tiny earpiece in his ear, so he was able to look at me, hear me and talk to me. That’s how we worked when Finley was flying around or when he climbs trees. And you’ll be able to see exactly how we did it on the Puppet Theater Blu-ray Second Screen extra.
Q: Did you always follow the script on the movie set?
Braff: Sam wanted us to improvise and riff. He wanted to see the relationship between Finley and Oscar develop, so he didn’t want us to stick to the script. I think that’s one of the reasons he hired me because he wanted someone that could pitch jokes and riff around.
Q: Can you give us any examples of improvisations that made it into the finished movie?
Braff: There are lots of improvised moments in the finished movie. One of them is the whole ‘sneezing the plan away’ line. And Finley’s mooing; that’s another. I thought it would be really funny if he mooed!
Q: What went through your mind when you saw a finished version of Finley for the first time?
Braff: I couldn’t believe it. I saw pieces of Finley in EDR (enhanced data rate) but it wasn’t until the premiere that I saw him fully realized in 3D. I was so excited. He’s so much cooler than I could have imagined.
Q: Can you see your facial expressions in Finley?
Braff: Some people say they can see my face in Finley’s, but I don’t really see it. If anything, I can see a little in his eyes – but that’s about it. I tried to do a lot with my eyes during the film shoot because I thought that would be the most human thing to come through a monkey’s face.
Q: What do you think of Finley’s outfit?
Braff: Everyone keeps asking me about Finley’s outfit. I love it. Why is he in a bellhop uniform? Well, there used to be a line in the movie that explained how he was a valet for a wealthy munchkin. The munchkin’s mansion got destroyed, so Finley had no one to serve and that’s how he ended up in the forest. It’s a little like Downton Abbey. He’s a Downton Abbey monkey!
Q: Where would you fly if you had wings like Finley?
Braff: I’d probably fly away to a tropical beach somewhere. Maybe Bora Bora? I keep seeing that on the cover of travel magazines and it looks beautiful. Why not?
Q: What are your early memories of the 1939 movie, The Wizard Of Oz?
Braff: The thing I remember the most about The Wizard Of Oz is the physical comedy. I was really taken with physical comedy as a kid and I remember being taken with the way the characters of The Wizard Of Oz moved around. You’ve got the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, and I loved their body movements and the way they danced. Even as a young kid, I remember thinking that it was so funny. To be honest, I think it’s one of the reasons why I got into physical comedy later in life. It was definitely an inspiration.
Q: Did you always want to be an actor?
Braff: Always. Ever since I was a little kid. I have always loved the theater and performing. It’s always been my dream to do this.
Q: What advice would you give to youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps and become an actor?
Braff: My advice is simple: do it! Do it in school. Do it at home. Or join a community theater. Get involved, but make sure you like it because it’s a challenging career path if you’re going to dedicate your life to it.
Q: Finley is a very loyal friend to Oz. Were you always a loyal friend as a child? And did you ever struggle to make friends?
Braff: I have always struggled to make friends. Believe it or not, I’m a very shy person – but I realized that when I made people laugh at school, they wanted to talk to me. I think that’s how I developed my sense of humor. I wasn’t into sports and stuff like that, so I started to become the class clown. I started to be goofy and then, all of a sudden, I made friends.
Q: What advice would you give to youngsters who are struggling to make friends at school?
Braff: Just be a good person and be honest. Be a good friend to other people and don’t try to change for anyone. Be yourself. It’s as simple as that.