An Interview with Oz the Great and Powerful’s Zach Braff #DisneyOzEvent
In Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, Zach Braff plays two characters: Frank, Oscar’s assistant in Kansas, and the voice of Finley, the flying monkey Oscar encounters while traveling down the yellow brick road. For most of the time the film was in production, Zach spent his days in the a tiny booth. “I was like just scrunched down like in this blue screen onesie, which is really adorable, and for six months no matter how many times I put it on, everyone pointed and laughed at me,” he recalled. Braff is 6 feet tall, and when hunched in the booth he was about 36 inches tall.
“Sam wanted…wanted to capture everything…gestures and my facial expressions.” In other instances, Zach got to be on the set and operated a puppet version of Finley, particularly when the script called for Finley to fly. When Zach wasn’t able to be on the set in scenes with James Franco, James would have to direct his gaze to a monitor attached to a pole. “He’d get the tiny ear piece in his ear, and so that’s how we could do it, ’cause Sam’s biggest thing was, I don’t want you in a sound booth at the end of the shoot. I want you there, I want you and James improvising, I want it to be two buddies on a road trip.”
Zach’s favorite moment on the set was when Oscar and Finley first encounter China Girl . “It genuinely was so moving,” he said of the moment when Oscar repairs China Girl’s broken legs. “I actually had my eyes welled.” Raimi kept Zach’s emotional moment in the film; Finley discreetly wipes away a tear so that Oscar doesn’t see him crying.
There were times when Zach was nervous on set, too. Since he was largely in the sound booth, he was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to capture all of the subtleties in his performance. Because of how long it takes for motion capture to be taken to the finished product, Zach didn’t actually see it all until the night of the premiere. “At the premiere I finally saw, and for the first time, fully photo-real and realized, and it was so exciting for me. Because it really did, little subtle face ticks, and things I never would have thought they would have picked up in the eyes.”
Zach Braff is most recognizable for his role as JD on Scrubs. Zach told us that his time working on Scrubs actually helped him with his performance in Oz the Great and Powerful. “I had a wide range…the physical comedy from Scrubs helps…and also the improvisational stuff, ’cause on Scrubs…the rule was, hey, do one. Once we have one as written, you guys can play around.”
We wanted to know how he researched to play a monkey. “I did actually go to the Detroit Zoo…I stumbled across two monkeys, let’s just say in intimate embrace…none of that proved useful. Maybe for the sequel, I don’t know if the monkey gets a girlfriend or not,” he joked.
To win the role of Finley, Zach went to what he thought was an audition where he would read for the part. “He didn’t even want me to audition. He just kinda wanted to talk.” Zach went with Raimi into a room where he had a rough visualization of Finley. Zach was given no lines, and was asked to improvise. “He showed me the animation and I was watching it, and I saw him jump off and Oz says, what are you doing, you’re jumping off. And I just went, I have wings. And Sam just started dying laughing and I was like, I guess that’s a good sign. I found out when I got home I got the gig, ‘cause I made the director laugh.”
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*Disney provided me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the red carpet premiere and participate in cast and crew interviews. No financial compensation was received in exchange for this post.*