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Robert Downey Jr. has fallen out of Oz, the Great and Powerful, Disney’s prequel-ish take on The Wizard of Oz tale, and the studio is in discussions with Johnny Depp to step into the great wizard’s robe.
Sam Raimi is due to direct the tale of Oz as 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.
While it 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.
Disney is hoping not to miss a beat with Oz. It has hired a unit production manager and begun the task of creating the world of Oz.
The question with Depp, who has a close relationship with the studio after starring in its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and last year’s Alice in Wonderland, will be whether the timing works out.
Depp is scheduled to begin shooting Dark Shadows, Tim Burton’s adaptation of the 1960s gothic soap opera, for Warner Bros. this spring. Depp is also attached to star as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, another Disney project, this one being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Ranger is further back in the development process than Oz, although it has a director, Gore Verbinski.
Disney clearly would love for Depp to do both, but if he commits to Oz, that pushes Ranger back. Can the other talent involved in Ranger wait that long?
Downey, meanwhile, seems to freeing up his dance card for 2011, with Oz the second project he is backing away from. The actor was to star in Gravity opposite Sandra Bullock but dropped out in November.
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