Sam Raimi talks Oz, Evil Dead, Spider-Man.
Sam Raimi muses about making a prequel to the Wizard of Oz and about getting over his phobia of watching another director’s Spider-Man.
To historic docu-soap Claridges for a chat with Sam Raimi about Disney’s smashing Oz The Great and Powerful. Full-length gabbing with Rachel Weisz and James Franco will appear in this place later in the week. Raimi was as delightful as ever. He seems to be exactly the same unpretentious enthusiast I met 10 years ago for Spider-Man. Indeed, by all accounts, he hasn’t changed much since he annoyed video-nasty hysterics with the mighty Evil Dead.
Oz occupies the same spot in the calendar — and shares misleadingly similar advertising material — with Disney bafflingly successful take on Alice in Wonderland. That film was a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s great book. OTGAP (cool acronym) is a prequel to L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Along the way, it makes copious, delicious tribute to the 1939 adaptation of the novel.
“Disney probably green-lit it because of the success of Alice, but it wasn’t written because of the success of Alice,” Raimi told me. “I was frightened. I was so frightened when they told me there was a screenplay to the Wizard of Oz I said: ‘I don’t even want to read it.’ I don’t want to touch that. It’s my favourite movie and I don’t want to have anything to do with marring people’s memory of that wonderful film. I don’t want to tread on its name. Later the screenplay again came across my desk as a writing sample. I read it and fell in love with the story.”
We will delay full comment until the picture opens on Friday. But suffice to say Oz works very well. Raimi has very nicely negotiated certain tricky legal restrictions. One is reminded of the tales Hammer Film veterans relate about their efforts to remake Frankenstein. They could, of course, use anything from Mary Shelley’s book. But much of the most famous imagery actually originated in Universal’s film. Sam had the same problem when paying tribute to the most famous version of Baum’s story.
“I was told we could use anything from the book,” he confirms. “But I couldn’t use anything from Victor Fleming’s film. They didn’t have the rights. I couldn’t use the ruby slippers. I would have to use silver slippers as they were in the book.”
On to other Raimi matters. In a few months time we get to see the remake of The Evil Dead. There have been too many re-inventions of classic horror films in recent years. But this sounds mildly promising. Sam is one of the producers and smart-ass Diablo Cody has a writing credit. How does he feel about it? The original is a holy relic for horror fans.
“It’s nice of you to say that,” he laughs. “I used to have that feeling too. But I am beginning to let go recently. It was also very hard for me to see the new Spider-Man movie. It was very hard for me to see Spider-Man with another director. It was like my love. And I didn’t want to walk in on my love with anybody else. Last week I said: get over yourself. I saw it and I loved it. I felt free. Why was I carrying on that baggage.”
“I am really glad somebody is remaking Evil Dead. You wrote a simple melody that you didn’t think would stay around that long. Now another artist wants to play a harmony with it. I am honoured that you would do that and that harmony makes it sound better than the original melody. It’s an honour to have it remade.”
A few hours before me met, news emerged that Sam was set to write a fourth part in the original Evil Dead series.
“They made me say that at this convention,” he laughs. “I have said this before and fans have said: ‘why don’t you just go and do it?’ Some fan asked if I was going to do it and I said I had no plans. They said ‘Do it. Do it’. So I said I could write it this summer with my brother. They forced me into it. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”