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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Column: ‘Oz’ call

No big deal, but I was on a phone call this past weekend with James Franco and Sam Raimi. Sure, I was one of a dozen college reporters listening in on a conference call with two big names involved in the upcoming film Oz: The Great and Powerful. Sure, we were on mute as the moderator asked questions and we plebeians typed furiously onto our laptops. But I was on a freaking phone call with James Franco, y’all.

It all began when I received an email about a college conference call. I’ve done this before, when I had the chance to actually speak to the main comics of “Key & Peele,” a comedy show on Comedy Central. But this time, I was on a Disney conference call with a movie star and a famous director.

Oz: The Great and Powerful is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, the original MGM film with Judy Garland. Actors such as Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Zach Braff star in the film, along with Franco, who plays the main character.

Just in case you live under a rock or essentially don’t particularly care about Hollywood, James Franco is tied to the Spider-Man series, Pineapple Express, 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But what makes him interesting is that he’s an extreme academic on the side. A short list of his alma maters include UCLA for undergraduate studies, Columbia University’s MFA writing program, NYU for filmmaking and Brooklyn College for fiction writing.

Oh, and on top of that, he was a PhD student in English at Yale University. And if that wasn’t enough, he taught at USC and now teaches at UCLA. A question was asked about how he balances it all, and Franco gave an honest answer.

“I insist that I have a balance. It’s saved my life. I love the academic world. During the past seven years, I’ve gotten addicted to school. I love teaching and being able to focus on other people’s work,” Franco said.

There was also a question about how it was different working with Raimi this time around versus when they worked together on the Spider-Man movies. Again, Franco did not hold back.

“He’s one of my favorite directors to work with and watch. I had a supporting role in Spider-Man, and he usually identifies with the main character. He blames me for wanting to kill Peter Parker. I got a little less love, but now that I’m the protagonist in Oz, I feel more of Sam’s love.”

The other phone call I got to participate in that afternoon was with the director of Oz: The Great and Powerful. Sam Raimi is best known for his directing of the Evil Dead series and had a lot of great advice for college students interested in directing.

“Be directing now. Every day you should be writing a script or a scene. Every weekend you should be filming. Sunday, you should be editing. Monday, show it to a university audience. They won’t like your little film. Go back and fix it,” Raimi said. “You do all of this now and you’ll always be a director. Get to work, you lazy bums!”

This little pep talk can be applied to anyone in college with a dream of accomplishing something great, and it was that one response to a question about advice to aspiring directors that I identified with and believed in the most.

We’re all (hopefully) aiming to achieve more, help others and inspire with our work. It was a treat and the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to listen to two famous working professionals in Hollywood speak frankly about the business.

But I’m still angry I didn’t get to ask Raimi about his thoughts on the Spider-Man musical.

ELIZABETH ORPINA now aims to interview Beyonce. Send contact information to arts@theaggie.org.



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