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James Franco in Early Talks for 'Oz' After Johnny Depp Passes (Exclusive)

James Franco at Sundance
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

The latest contender for the Oz throne? James Franco.

The Oscar-nominated host of the Academy Awards is in early talks to star in Oz, the Great and Powerful, Disney’s prequel-ish take on The Wizard of Oz tale being directed by Sam Raimi.

The Oz role has been a hot one since Robert Downey Jr. fell out two and a half weeks ago. Johnny Depp was then in discussions for the role but after several meetings ultimately passed last night. 

Franco may be, at first blush, an odd choice to topline the tale of a young illusionist with a grandiose attitude who is forced to flee a traveling circus. His hot air balloon is swept up by a tornado to the land of Oz, which is run by two magical wicked witches. 

But from acting pinned to a rock in 127 Hours to a cameo as a drug lord in Green Hornet to his stint on General Hospital, Franco is showing he is not following anyone’s playbook, but his own.

Sources caution that no dealmaking has begun and many issues would need to be ironed out, but if the stars align, Franco would be back working with Raimi for the first time since they collaborated on Sony’s Spider-Man movies. At this stage, Franco hasn't met with Raimi to discuss the project.

While Oz doesn’t have a start or release date, the Joe Roth production is a high priority for the studio, which hopes to start production in the second half of the year.

Franco is repped by CAA.