Josh Olson On ‘Oz,’ ‘The Twisted Land Of Oz’ And Todd McFarlane

Earlier this week, we ran an excerpt from MTV Splash Page editor Rick Marshall’s interview with Todd McFarlane. In the article, the McFarlane discusses what some of the plans are for adapting his “Twisted Land of Oz” toy line into a feature film. He also mentions a writer, “A History of Violence” scribe Josh Olson, who turned in a script that McFarlane wasn’t satisfied with. Well there’s more to the story, and Olson has kindly taken some time out to share his side of the story.

My name is Josh Olson, and I am the screenwriter who wrote the script for the Warner Brothers “Oz” project. I read MTV’s interview with Todd McFarlane yesterday, and just wanted to clear up some confusing misunderstandings.

I was never hired to write anything based on “The Twisted Land of Oz.”

The project I pitched to Warner Brothers was based entirely on my own ideas, and the works of L. Frank Baum, the brilliant creator of “Oz.” My goal was to create a feature film that would be faithful to both Baum’s wonderful books, and the classic MGM film.

The project came out of a meeting I had with producers at Thunder Road, who had recently been pitched an “Oz” story by Todd, based, I gather, on his line of toys. For various reasons, they were not interested in moving forward with that version, but were intrigued by the idea of a new “Oz” film. When they brought the subject up to me, I came up with the idea of a straight-up sequel that they loved. We then went in to Warner Brothers, and the studio bought my pitch. I have no idea if Warner ever heard Todd’s pitch, but I can emphatically tell you that I never did.

In that the whole thing came from a discussion my producers had had with Todd, it was my understanding that he was going to receive some sort of screen credit, but that would be the extent of his involvement. I never discussed any aspect of my take with him, and have no idea if my producers ever did either. Todd called me at home after I’d sold my pitch, and asked if I wanted to kick some ideas around with him. I thanked him for his interest, but passed, as I was fully prepared to commence writing my screenplay.

Aside from that initial and brief conversation, we’ve never spoken.

The last I heard was that they were talking to comedy writers to make it funnier, which is fine. One doesn’t undertake writing the sequel to the most beloved movie of all time for a major studio without the certain knowledge that there will be other writers brought in.

It may be that since I handed in my last draft the studio has decided to change gears and do something more in line with Todd’s ideas, but if they did, that would be, for all intents and purposes, a completely different project from the one I worked on.

I’m sure Todd knows that it would be unseemly and unprofessional to badmouth a writer’s work on a project in progress, and did not in any way intend for his comments to come across in the manner they did.

That said, I do think it’s important that the record be set straight.

Josh Olson’s screenplay for the film “A History of Violence” was nominated for the Academy Award, the BAFTA, the WGA award and the Edgar. Recently, he wrote an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction with the legendary Harlan Ellison, and was the writer on the “Halo” movie with Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp. He adapted Dennis Lehane’s story “Until Gwen,” which he will also be directing.
He is currently adapting “One Shot,” one of the best-selling Jack Reacher books, for Paramount.