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Zach Braff's name may be among top billed in "Oz the Great and Powerful" — just below James Franco, who plays the titular Oz in the "The Wizard of Oz" prequel, and Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis, who play a trio of warring witches fighting for control of the Emerald City — but don't expect him to have too much face time in the movie. Braff spends the majority of "Oz," which hits theaters in eye-blistering 3D technicolor Friday, voicing the character of Finley, Franco's talking and flying monkey sidekick. In fact, moviegoers will only see Braff's visage, familiar from a decade on air as a goofy doctor on the sitcom "Scrubs," for only a few minutes in the film's first act.
Braff chatted briefly with NextMovie ahead of the wide release of "Oz," revealing his spirit animal, his unusual passion for "Baby Got Back," and getting the most bang for your buck.
Congratulations on "Oz," it's really an exciting movie.
Thank you for caring. Great, that's what we like to hear.
Have you seen it with an audience yet?
Yeah, I saw it at the premiere for the first time at the El Capitan. it was really cool, just a special experience.
Did you have it in 3D with all the bells and whistles?
I've been working on the movie for so long, and haven't seen it completed with all the effects done, so it was so thrilling to see it not only in 3D but with all the visual effects completed.
You're only physically in the movie toward the beginning, and in the rest you're voicing a CGI character. Were you on set during the Oz parts?
Yeah, [director] Sam [Raimi] really wanted me to be there and interacting with them. He didn't just want to capture my voice, he wanted to capture all my facial expressions and my interactions. He wanted us to improvise, and particularly most of my scenes with James he wanted us to be riffing and really create this friendship for real. He was right in saying that that wasn't going to happen if I showed up in a sound booth at the end, so he really had me there and interacting and often scrunching down my body to be 36 inches tall so I could be in the right place for the monkey.
So did you get to ride around on James Franco's shoulder?
I never got to. I tried it!
Are you a big "Wizard of Oz" fan?
Of course! It's the most watched movie of all time, they say, so I was one of those kids that grew up watching it when it came on TV every year with my family.
Do you have any favorite songs from that?
Um, probably "If I Only Had a Brain." I also, I know it was based on the book, but I love "Wicked" too. The whole world, I think, along with a lot of people, obviously, was so fun for me. The universe of it was so cool.
Would you ever be in a musical?
I'd love to be in a musical, you know, when the right things line up. I grew up going to musicals as a kid, my dad, I grew up in Jersey, so I'd go into New York City and I loved all the Broadway shows, but I have yet to do a musical. When the right one comes along, I'd love to do it.
Speaking of singing, what's your favorite karaoke song?
Um, "Baby Got Back"? Oh no, "Funky Cold Medina."
Do you need the prompts on the screen, or do you know it by heart?
Um, no, I need the prompts.
You play a monkey in this movie. What animal would you be in life?
Probably a koala, because I just got back from Australia, and I learned from the Sydney Zoo that koalas just sloth all day, eat eucalyptus leaves, and then go back to sleep and then have sex and then go back to sleep and then eat more eucalyptus leaves. It sounds like a nice life.
Sounds like it. Your first directorial and screenwriting effort, "Garden State," was nearly 10 years ago. Do you have any plans to write or direct again?
Yes, I'm working on a new project that I've written with my brother, and I'm hoping to direct this year. It's in development, so I can't talk about it quite yet.
You can't share any plot or anything?
No, I can't go into details. Coming soon to a press release near you!
"Garden State" is still the perfect kind of mixtape soundtrack. If there was a movie about your life, what song would be featured?
"Baby Got Back." Yeah, and "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls."
What's on your iPod right now?
"Baby Got Back."
I'm sensing a theme.
Oh, what am I listening to? I've been listening to Kurt Vile. My girlfriend is addicted.
There's a current trend of rebooting classic stories with a twist, including "Oz." What story would you put a new spin on and what would the change be?
I'd like to retell "Annie," the musical "Annie." No, they're not remaking "Annie." [Ed. note.] I don't know, I don't have a good answer to that. Pass.
You're pretty prolific on Twitter. What's the strangest thing anyone's said to you online?
Oh my God, I couldn't even tell you something that you could print. Or put anywhere. Some of the things that get sent to me on Twitter, someone sent me a photo today — and I'm quite savvy on the internet — it's the most disgusting photo I've ever seen in my life. It makes "Two Girls, One Cup" look like a children's musical. So people are insane on Twitter and I couldn't even tell you. It's the Wild West.
It is. Do you ever Google yourself?
No, that's a bad idea. You stumble across people who are mean.
How about your IMDb page?
No, no, IMDb comments are the meanest spot in the Wild West.
I was pretty surprised by some of the twists in the movie. Do you think audiences will be surprised by what they see?
Um, yeah, I hope so. The movie has lots of surprises and I think that I always think that ticket prices are so expensive these days for everybody, that you really get your money's worth with this movie. There's so much going on, there's so much to see, it's 3D, it really is the most bang for your buck.
In a tweet length or less, convince our readers to come see the movie.
I'd say, "James Franco, three stunning, beautiful witches and a funny monkey named Finley. Come check it out."