Have I been living in Kansas or something? This is the first I’ve heard of a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz, which remains one of my top 10 movies of all times. The almighty, ever-captivating James Franco stars as the Wizard in Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, which hits theaters March 8, 2013.
Franco plays a circus magician named Oscar Diggs, who is transported by way of a twister (in black & white) to the merry old land of Oz (in color). The flick is directed by A-lister Sam Raimi (the Spiderman trilogy), with co-stars Mila Kunis as Theodora the Wicked Witch of the West, Rachel Weisz as Evanora the Wicked Witch of the East, and Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch.
Synopsis: Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its homeys, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil and put his own magical talents to the test to transform himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, but a better man as well.
James Franco sure scrubs up nice & handsome for his ongoing Gucci Made to Measure ad campaign, which launched last fall. The 33-year-old actor posed for French photographer Nathaniel Goldberg in Rome for the shoot, which features James in a film studio donning classic elegance. Indeed. *
James Franco’s Sal, the biopic that he conceived and directed in 2011, apparently came and went without so much as a whisper of publicity. Last fall, the movie was shown at the Venice Film Festival (with Franco in attendance) and then the Austin Film Festival and then… nothing.
We first wrote about it last July, with great anticipation for Val Lauren’s starring role, with a then-targeted street date of 2013. I have no idea if there are intentions for wide release at this point.
Loosely based on Michael Gregg Michaud’s biography, the story surrounds the final day of one-time teen idol Sal Mineo’s life at the age of 37, on February 12, 1976. “He eagerly plans his future, which includes an upcoming play he rehearses for and promotes. There’s a glimpse at his relationship with his lover Courtney, and his friends. His financial struggles, his addictions and his active lifestyle. All leading up to his unfortunate, seemingly random murder and the culprit’s arrest,” reports website Movie Pool.
Its review from Austin calls Sal a “slow-paced, indie piece that requires a certain artistic mindset to appreciate. While lead actor Val Lauren shines brightly in what is often a very quiet role, Franco’s directing style takes some getting used to.”
The flick was shot in nine days on a shoe-string budget, but one would have hoped that Franco’s personal fortune would have provided funding for the film to hit HBO or the like. So little information is available on Sal that it’s eerily like the Oscar-nominated actor’s own demise: simply tragic. *
In 2010, we had a packed roster of nominees for The Smoking Nun’s Sexiest Man Alive, including James Franco, Thomas Jane, Chris Evans, Cristiani Rinaldo, Rodiney Santiago, Channing Tatum, retro entry Maxwell Caulfield, Isaaiah Mustafa, Kellan Lutz, Eddie Cibrian and Willam Levy. The victor was sweet Mr. Santiago, with Levy the runner up by a hair. Stand by for the sexy slate of 2011 contenders!
Damn, here we are in August and I’ve yet to see but one summer flick at the cinema: Thor, with delish Chris Hemsdale. My list is growing: never made it Bridesmaids; gotta gotta see Chris Evans in Captain America; Crazy, Stupid, Love sounds fantastic with Ryan Gosling (despite weary one-trick pony Steve Carrell)…
But more than any of those, what seems to be the dark horse must-see is Devil’s Double, with a breakout performance from Brit actor Dominic Cooper, whom we first discovered as the adorable shirtless boyfriend of Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia! and then in a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated An Education.
In Double, Cooper takes a wild ride playing double characters. As Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia, he becomes a de facto member of “the royal family” of Saddam Hussein in 19897 Baghdad, when he’s ordered to become the body double of Saddam’s son, the “Black Prince” Uday Hussein, “a reckless, sadistic party-boy with a rabid hunger for sex and brutality.” Obviously, madness ensues. Already, there’s Oscar buzz for Cooper’s performance(s). We’ll see how the movie fares at the box office after this weekend’s opening.
Above: New York magazine’s Aug. 1, 2011 profile, in Mamma Mia! and An Education with Peter Sarsgaard.
Also launching this weekend, which looks potentially entertaining… Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco and John Lithgow, said to be neither a sequel nor a prequel. Of course, nobody will ever trump Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, but Franco brings intelligence and light to every role he plays… It’s certainly a better bet than far-fetched The Change Up, in which Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds reverse bodies and lives. Freaky Friday yet again?
James Franco first made a name for himself in Hollywood in the 2001 biopic James Dean, for which he won a Golden Globe. So how fitting that the fine actor is now directing the film Sal, about the life and career of another idol of The Smoking Nun, Sal Mineo.
Dean and Mineo, of course, starred with Natalie Wood in 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause, for which Mineo was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as quietly gay character Plato.
He next appeared in Exodus, scoring another Oscar nod and winning a Golden Globe award. Mineo also had a small but meaningful role in Dean’s third and final flick Giant; and a roaring good time in the title role of The Gene Krupa Story in 1959, for which he learned to play a mad set of drums. Bizarrely, he also played Milo in Escape From the Planet of the Apes in 1971.
Sadly, Mineo—one of the first openly gay actors—was murdered at the age of 37 in 1976.
Sal is based on a new biography of Mineo by Michael Gregg Michaud, and stars relative unknown Val Lauren in the title role. Filming wrapped at the end of June, with a release in 2013. The first stills from Sal have just been released, below the Mineo collage.
Cover boy James Franco, looking handsome, as always, on the cover of Korea’s July 2011 GQ. And below, darling Anne Hathaway is ravishing in the August 2011 Harper’s Bazaar.