Exclusive: Todd McFarlane Talks Oz

Spawn creator fills in the gaps

There were numerous reports last week, stemming from a story in The Express, that Warners' new "dark" take on The Wizard of Oz, based on the "Twisted" line of action figures by renaissance man Todd McFarlane, and produced by him and Basil Iwanyk, was nearing production in Britain, and would likely star Dakota Fanning as Dorothy. We were suspicious. So we rang McFarlane, who was more than happy to clarify the current state of play.

McFarlane on the start date being early next year: We're in Hollywood, so you have to predicate all statements of that sort with "our intent would be..." I'm sure the higher-ups at Warner Bros. would like to have it on their schedule, and they're probably moving in that direction. But we've seen in our lifetime thousands of cases where things don't go according to plan, right?

On the state of the script: They're on their second iteration right now, trying to get it into a zone that makes sense. Josh Olson wrote a draft that didn't quite strike Warners fancy. Everyone was a little lukewarm. They wanted it more sexy! So they were going to do a rewrite and get some fresh eyes on it.

On the story being based around Dorothy's granddaughter: The first draft had those elements. Will they remain? Can't be sure.

On filming in Britain: That's putting the cart before the horse. That depends on what kind of budget comes in, where the confidence level is for the studio execs, where they’ll have the most success stretching their dollars...

On Dakota Fanning as Dorothy: I haven't heard that. If we just do a sugary sweet Dorothy that everybody has seen over and over for 50 years, as far as I'm concerned, that's too obvious. I'm happy to go with whoever will get the most people in the seats, but sometimes that can change from month to month.

On going "dark": I think my "Twisted" version is a little scary for Warners to embrace. I essentially pitched Lord of the Rings. It was big, it was bold and it wasn't a very pretty place. It was badass! There’s no Baum in it at all. When they bought it from me, my thing was, turn off the MGM mindset. It's a public domain property, let's go invent some cool new ideas, which basically will surprise people. What's going to get a new generation to go look at Oz is if you reinvent it on some level. Not every single level, but some of them have to be new. Shut down your preconceived notions. For me, you should be looking at an isolated movie, that, oh, by the way, happens to be Oz. To get the new audience you're going to have to put some edges on this thing. My version would rock! But they're all like, "We're spending $100m here, we can't go totally nuts, Todd!" So I've told them that the movie I like is the one they're willing to make!