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The director's new 3-D film, due in March, stars James Franco as a Kansas huckster mistaken for a wizard.

By Andrea Mandell, USA Today

The wizard wasn't always so wonderful.

In director Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful (out March 8), a 3-D retelling of the L. Frank Baum story, fans fly back in time and begin a prequel of Dorothy's journey down the yellow brick road with Kansas huckster Oscar Diggs (James Franco).

As a struggling magician working in Kansas, "I start off as kind of a good showman," says Franco, "but I am bound by the natural laws of this world. I don't have fantastical powers."

Fast-forward to a hot-air-balloon-fueled ride to Oz and an eventual battle to seize the land from evil, with witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) along for the ride.

In Oz, Diggs is "mistaken for Oz the Great and Powerful, destined to be the next king of Emerald City," says Raimi (Spider-Man trilogy). "But he's only to receive that title if he can defeat the Wicked Witch."

With a history of being a trickster and charlatan, Diggs accepts the challenge, partially because "everyone thinks he's the wizard; he has to maintain this fa├žade of being a fantastical wizard to save his hide," says Franco. Heading for the Dark Forest to kill the Wicked Witch, Diggs stumbles upon a ravaged teacup-size land called Chinatown.

"Everything in the land, the houses and people made of china, have been broken by the Wicked Witch and her army," says Raimi. "Oscar find the pieces of this china doll and puts them together, and hence the China Girl (voiced by Joey King) is saved."

Thus, she is determined to join Oz on his journey. In this exclusive photo, "he's telling her she has to go back to the Emerald City, where she'll be well taken care of," says Raimi. "But she won't have any of it. He's going to learn by the end of this scene that he's not the only huckster in the bunch."

The massive production is nearing the finish line, thanks to "no less than 700 artists working on Oz" currently, says the director. "It really is a tremendous effort of coordination."

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