The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog brings us this interesting tidbit.

It appears that James Franco is reported to be in “early talks” to play the “great and powerful OZ” (well, actually OZ before he was great and powerful) in an as-yet untitled Disney produced prequel to The Wizard of OZ.

Not sure if it’s really fair to call it a prequel, but what it will be is more of an origin story of sorts.  This will be the story of how the Wizard got to OZ.  The illusionist who leaves a travelling circus who’s his hot-air balloon gets swept up by a tornado that transports him to the Land of OZ.

Sam Raimi is reportedly directing and if Franco takes the role, it will mark the second time that the actor has performed under the helm of Raimi as Harry Osborn/New Goblin in the Spider-man trilogy that spanned from  2002-2007.  Reports say that Robert Downey Jr. (I think he would have been great in the role) was originally up to play The Wizard.  Apparently Downey needed to free up his schedule for other projects and then the focus was on Johnny Depp for the role.

While I love Depp as an actor, I think Disney’s used him a bit too much already (Jack Sparrow, Mad Hatter, Lone Ranger) and it should be time for him to move on to other non-Disney projects after “Ranger”.  If he had committed to the OZ movie, that would have pushed The Lone Ranger back which may not have been an ideal decision to consider.

OZ doesn’t have an official title, nor does it have a start date for production or a release date but considering The Lone Ranger would have been pushed back for it, it does seem that this is becoming a pretty high-priority project for the Disney Studios.  Reports have it that Producer, Joe Roth would like to have production started by the second half of this year.

UPDATE

I had originally posted that the project didn’t have an official title or start date on production.  I found that the title is “Oz: The Great and Powerful” with a release date tentatively set for some time in 2013.