Oz, the Great and Powerful: Robert Downey Jr. Out, Johnny Depp In?

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Robert Downey, Jr. has reportedly backed out of the upcoming Disney film “Oz, the Great and Powerful.”  Seems his balloon won’t be landing in the Merry Old Land, after all.

The film, which is reported to be a prequel of sorts to the much-loved “Wizard of Oz,” will follow the wizard as a young performer, forced to leave the circus he’s traveling with, when his balloon is swept away by a tornado and…well, you get the point.  Sam Raimi is on board to direct the fantasy film.

The studio is in discussions with that man of a thousand characters, Johnny Depp, to take over the title role, but that might take some shifting around on Depp’s – and Disney’s – part.  Depp is, at present, committed to begin filming Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” shortly, with Disney’s “Lone Ranger,” helmed by Gore Verbinski, after that.

So, where will Oz fit in?

In terms of development, it’s slightly ahead of “Lone Ranger,” and those in the know seem to think that the sense of urgency lies with “Oz.”  The studio would like to begin the project before 2011 is out.

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