Michelle Williams

By Tony Rizzo
HOLLYWOOD — Michelle Williams, just Oscar nominated for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn,” is taking on another huge female legend — Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Disney’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is a prequel to the 1939 Judy Garland classic, “The Wizard of Oz”; both are based on the 1900 L. Frank Baum novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Billie Burke, who created Glinda in the original film, was actually 54 years old when she played the beautiful good witch. It also stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs (who becomes the Wizard); “The Good Gardener” Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (recently wed to the current James Bond, Daniel Craig); Mila Kunis of “That ’70s Show” and “Friends With Benefits”; and “Scrubs” star Zach Graff.

The budget for the film is $200 million, a far cry from the $2.7 million it cost MGM to make the original. “The Wizard of Oz” was considered a flop in its initial release, taking in only $3 million at the box office. A re-release shortly after brought in $1.5 million, starting it on its “Yellow Brick Road” to profit. In 1956, CBS paid a whopping $225,000 for its first TV airing, watched by 44 million people. CBS showed it once a year for the next 20 years. In l983, a reissue of the film made $6 million at the box office, prompting MGM to demand $13 million from CBS to air it that year.

Not everything Oz is golden. The l985 sequel “Return to Oz,” based on two Baum books, “The Marvelous Land of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz,” had a budget of $25 million and only took in $11,137,801. The charming 14-year-old Fairuza Balk (later to star opposite Marlon Brando in the l996 film “The Island of Dr. Moreau”), was Dorothy. Piper Laurie, Oscar nominated for “The Hustler” (’61), “Carrie” (’76) and “Children of a Lesser God” (’86), was Auntie Em. Nicol Williamson of “Excalibur” (’81), “The Exorcist III” (’89) and “Spawn” (’97); and “Upstairs, Downstairs” star Jean Marsh rounded out the cast. Parents felt it was too dark and scary for tots and didn’t take their children to see it.

Maybe Disney will get it right THIS time. No one is left from the Disney of l985. We won’t know how it turns out until March 8, 2013. Michelle Williams has already filmed “Take This Waltz” with Seth Rogan and Sarah Silverman. It’s a bittersweet but heart-wrenching story about a woman struggling to choose between two different types of love. Maybe they could use the song “Torn Between Two Lovers” or the theme from “A Man and a Woman!

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© 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.