According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robert Downey Jr. has let the upcoming Disney film Oz, the Great and Powerful. A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, the movie was set to be directed by Sam Raimi and tell the story of a young magician who is swept away in his hot air balloon to the land of Oz. Johnny Depp is currently in discussions with the studio to take over the role.
The film has a planned production start date in the second half of the year. Depp is currently scheduled to begin shooting Dark Shadows for director Tim Burton this spring. He is also linked to The Lone Ranger in the role of Tonto.
There is no reason given for why Downey Jr. may have left the project. This past November, the actor dropped out of Gravity, a science fiction film set to star Sandra Bullock.
While the idea of a Sam Raimi-directed Oz movie intrigues me, I’m not too keen on the idea of hiring Depp. While once I would defend the actor against those who might accuse him of playing the same role over and over again, Depp’s last few years worth of work have not helped me build my case. There doesn’t seems to be a high-concept fantasy film that Disney does not want Depp to star in. We’re dangerously close to overdosing on the actor’s charisma. Oz, the Great and Powerful seems like a role tailor made for the actor but I can’t shake the feeling that, in the end, it will just be one more similar role that gets lost in the wealth of the actor’s filmography.