'Oz' Premiere: James Franco Rides in Hot Air Balloon, Michelle Williams Parties With Busy Phillips

James Franco, The Wizard
<p><strong>James Franco</strong>, the film&#39;s title character, signs autographs for fans during the premiere event held at El Capitan Theatre. Just before walking the carpet, Franco -- wearing a Gucci Made to Order deep burgundy checked notch lapel two-button Marseille suit -- was sent up in a hot air balloon over Hollywood Boulevard. &quot;I did take a couple pictures,&quot; he confessed to reporters.</p>   |   John Shearer/Invision/AP
Ashton Kutcher was on hand to support girlfriend Mila Kunis at the Wednesday event, where the cast and crew celebrated the debut of their new film.

It was tough to miss the giant hot air balloon on Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday, which remained in position outside Disney’s El Capitan theater from the early morning until 7:30 p.m. premiere of Oz: The Great and Powerful, at which point star James Franco was sent up into the air for a live shot.

“I did take a couple pictures,” the star confessed of his ride in the balloon, where he was visibly engaged in activity on his phone. Video from the event later surfaced on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where Franco was a guest on that evening’s program.

Co-stars Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff also hit the emerald green carpet -- complete with yellow brick road detailing -- ahead of the premiere, which imagines a world before the Wicked Witch of the West was evil, before the Great and Powerful Oz took his place behind the curtain and long before Dorothy and Toto ever stepped foot in the Emerald City.

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“It’s the origin story,” said Weisz. “There’s a whole mythology in the Emerald City, and they’re waiting. There’s a prophecy, which says that a wizard will come one day. And he does in the shape of James Franco.”

Franco was tasked with creating the man, Oscar, before he becomes the legend, Oz, and leaned on the support of director Sam Raimi and screenwriters Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire.

“A lot of [my performance] was shaped by the way the character is written, and I think that has a lot to do with Sam,” said Franco. “He wanted the character to have an arc that took him from being a flawed man to possibly a better man. And so he would go on this journey through a fantastical land, but he would also have kind of an inner journey.”

Williams, who plays the angelic Glinda the Good Witch, signed on for the project not only to work with Raimi but to share the experience of Oz with her young daughter. “I wanted to make a movie my daughter could be privy to,” Williams said, noting that she looks forward to watching her child’s face as she sees the movie for the first time. “I have very fond memories of [The Wizard of Oz] as a child, and I read the script and responded to it immediately.”

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And though Williams left daughter Matilda at home (as well as beau Jason Segel, who was nowhere to be seen at the afterparty), Franco kept his family close by. Little brother Dave Franco, currently co-starring in Warm Bodies, mixed and mingled at the event in a suit and bowtie, looking every bit as dapper as his elder sibling.  

Weisz stepped out solo for the event, telling reporters that husband Daniel Craig was “on the East Coast,” but chatted with several guests on the main party floor inside Lure Nightclub. Just feet away, in a roped-off section, Williams could be seen smiling and laughing with her (very pregnant) BFF Busy Philipps, while Kunis cozied up in beau Ashton Kutcher’s jacket. The Two and a Half Men star donned a baseball cap and white cardigan over a shirt and tie as eager guests lobbied to get a word in.

Elsewhere, attendees could nibble on mini-cupcakes dispensed from an oversized gumball machine, don wonky Oz-related hats in a greenscreen photo booth or even get a manicure with OPI’s newest nail polish, When Monkeys Fly.

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci