Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams: The Witchy Sisters of Oz
By: Lynn Barker
Award-winning actresses, Rachel Weisz (The Mummy films, The Bourne Legacy) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island) are kindred spirits. Rachel is married to James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Michelle is raising the young daughter she had with late actor Heath Ledger.
Both actresses have performed in indie films and big epics but they are opposites in the new fantasy film “Oz: The Great and Powerful”. The ladies play sister witches; one light (Michelle is Glinda) and one deceptively dark (Rachel is Evanora). They are at each other’s throats in the movie but today, in real life, the duo is chummy, funny, talking about their characters and giving us details on their experiences on set. Check it out.
Kidzworld: Do either of you have memories of seeing The Wizard of Oz and were you worried about comparisons?
- Michelle: I don’t remember the first time that I saw the movie but I do remember the feeling I had when I first realized that the characters in Dorothy’s waking life were the same as the characters in her dream of Oz; that the woman on the bicycle was the Wicked Witch and I remember being really effected once I discovered that because I felt like someone had been tricking me or playing with me; something was working on me on a subconscious level and that kind of freaked me out as a kid. I think (that film) was just a great place to take inspiration from.
- Rachel: It was the first film I remember seeing so it was my earliest film memory. It had that kind of power and I remember my mom taking us to the cinema when I was about five and I remember being really traumatized by the Wicked Witch; very, very scary. I loved Judy Garland’s voice. I love how she sings. She gives me goosebumps. For me it was about her singing. It makes me feel good.
Kidzworld: Michelle, Glinda the good witch is in the original “Oz” movie. How much did you turn to the original movie if at all?
- Michelle: Well, what I saw on the page was very different from the original film. I saw somebody who had the kind of spunk and vigor of a 1930s, '40s screwball romantic comedy heroine. I really wanted to speak in that high little lilting voice that she had. Sam (Raimi the director) said something very smart which is that there's a reason that Glinda doesn't go down the Yellow Brick Road in the original movie, and it's because she's fully formed. She doesn't have anything that she's looking for and thus, she isn't as relatable. We wanted to make a Glinda that was a little bit more human.
Kidzworld: How did you like your amazing costumes and did you ask to keep any of them?
- Rachel: I didn’t actually ask to keep my costume. I don’t know where I’d wear that dress. I don’t have the right life for that dress. I’d like to have that life. Sam was up for exploration of our characters at all times so these incredible drawings of our costumes that were done by Michael Kutsche made Evanora look like a bird of prey and slightly militaristic via Las Vegas (if you can picture that).
- I was getting into my character so (costume designer) Gary Jones and myself spent a couple of weeks in a room and I cooked up this costume which I brought to the first screen test where I looked a little bit like the Duchess of Windsor, I should be so lucky; this green dress and a little crown because Evanora desperately wanted to be queen. Sam looked at it and said, “Uh, it’s just not right. You need to go back to the original sketch”. But it was part of my process finding my desire to be queen. Once I’m outed as a bad girl, the costume went from green to black. My true colors.
- Michelle: I remembered that it became very clear to me that Glinda needed to change her frilly dress to go into magical battle and she needed something that looked like armor, after we had already shot something of me in my other dress doing battle. I came to Sam and said, “It’s really important to me. I know what it should look like and is there any way, please?” And Sam was accommodating enough to say “If it means that much to you then it means that much to me” and we were able to reshoot something once I had the new dress.
Kidzworld: What other input did you have into Glinda’s “look” in the film?
- Michelle: I think the costumes were incredibly important and we spent a lot of time working on them, to the point where I think we even pushed shooting for a day because I was still trying to get comfortable in the costume. I would spend a lot of time in the wardrobe department talking about the feel and the flow. I wanted her first dress to feel kind of like water. I wanted it to feel very dainty and very delicate and then for her second costume, what she changes into battle, to be something that's more appropriate to run and walk in while still maintaining kind of feminine shape. I guess like a princess armor. That one was my favorite.
Kidzworld: Rachel, what about Evanora’s outfits went along with your interpretation of the character?
- Rachel: I've never done a film where my costume was as important as it was in this one. I feel like I've mainly been in jeans and T-shirts and a scrubbed face, so the costume was 99% of my character. I feel like it was a cross between something very regal and glamorous with a feather collar and feather headdress. I kept adjusting my feather collar depending on my hairdos.
- Basically, I have one dress, one shape dress which changes from emerald green to black when I show my true colors to the audience. She is then like a military dictator in a way, ruling the citizens of the Emerald City with a very cruel hand. She’s very mean, mean lady and wants the throne.
Kidzworld: How was flying around on wires up above the stage for your fight scene?
- Michelle: I think we both really loved being on the wires.
- Rachel: Yeah, it’s very fun. It was a little scary the first day. We had a rehearsal period with these wonderful stunt coordinators who had worked extensively with Sam on the Spider-Man films. They were all experts at making people fly, right?
- Sam joins in: They were experts but the ladies are being very good sports. I think it’s fun for the first like 20 minutes on the wires but around hour four hanging up there.. (Michelle starts laughing) those wires, the straps cut into your legs and arms and you’ve got to exert a great deal of muscle control to look like you’re floating on your own power. I think it gets very exhausting and leaves its marks.
Kidzworld: Is it hard to act while hanging up there probably in some pain?
- Rachel: I don’t know. He says action and you just…
- Michelle: Everything else just kinds of drifts away. I think you’re always acting through something; it’s really hot or cold. There’s always something else going on.
Kidzworld: What then was the most fun thing about playing a witch?
- Both: Flying!
- Rachel: It’s really hard to beat flying as a skill. Number 2 is shooting lightning bolts for me.
- Michelle: Making little girls smile when you walk by.
Kidzworld: Awwww. I guess you didn’t get that reaction, Rachel?
- Rachel: (laughs) I guess not but my Winkie guards were very fond of me. I remember on the last day when I ran off and they were all in unison “Bye, Evanora!” I was their leader and they believed in me. I’d basically beaten them down those Winkie guards. They were my soldiers. (She looks at Michelle), You have smiling children. I have Winkie guards.
Kidzworld: How different is playing an old school witch versus a modern day witch like in “Harry Potter” or “Beautiful Creatures”?
- Rachel: Oh, I see. Old school witches... Michelle just mentioned 1930s references; screwball comedy and I feel like Evanora has really screwball moments, very subtle but really clever and very funny. (When I was small), my mom used to love black and white movies and we used to watch tons of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck movies. I sort of grew up with this in my imagination of female villains. They were just great female villains. I think it's gone a little bit out of fashion recently to be like a bad dame, but I had lots of them in my memory. In the black and white days they were all over the place. It's only recently since I think the '80s, that women have to be so terribly likeable. It's exhausting. Speaking personally. In film I mean. Evanora was fun.
Kidzworld: Can you contrast working with Sam as opposed to other directors you’ve worked with?
- Michelle: He’s first of all the consummate family man and he makes his sets feel like little homes, very cozy and very safe and it feels like all of your ideas are welcomed, even the bad ones. That’s the way I’ve grown accustomed to working and the way I like working. The thing that I’ve never experienced before was a director with an unflagging sense of humor like Sam. He really taught me a lot about how to keep your chin up when the day is long and things aren’t going as you’d planned them out in your head, Sam is there with a smile, a hand and a joke. He taught me a lot about keeping a good face and not getting down on yourself.
Kidzworld: Which character in the “Oz” movies and books do you feel really reflects who you are?:
- Rachel: Glinda, the good witch.
- Michelle: I have a real affinity for The Cowardly Lion.