Latest casting rumor: Disney pursues Johnny Depp to take over the leading role in OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL?

“Robert Downey Jr. has fallen out of Oz, the Great and Powerful, Disney’s prequel-ish take on The Wizard of Oz tale, and the studio is in discussions with Johnny Depp to step into the great wizard’s robe.” That report comes from Borys Kit at The Hollywood Reporter, a credible source; there has been no confirmation of the discussions from Johnny’s side, but given his longstanding relationship with Disney and his suitability for the role, it seems safe to believe the two sides are talking. The major stumbling block for Oz, assuming the script passes muster, would appear to be Johnny’s always-crowded schedule. He is due to begin shooting Dark Shadows for Tim Burton at Warner Bros. this spring, and he is committed to playing Tonto in the Jerry Bruckheimer/Gore Verbinski Lone Ranger for Disney. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oz, the Great and Powerful is “a high priority” for Disney, and the studio “hopes to start production in the second half of the year,” with Sam Raimi directing.

“Disney clearly would love for Depp to do both,” says The Hollywood Reporter — of course! — “but if he commits to Oz, that pushes Ranger back. Can the other talent involved in Ranger wait that long?” A good question; and Johnny has long-standing relationships with Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski that go back to their first Pirates film. So this will take some scheduling magic; we’ll have to wait and see what the wizards at Disney can do.

For those who are curious about the plot of Oz, the Great and Powerful, the events happen before Dorothy Gale ever travels over the rainbow. Oz is a magician; he’s described as “a young illusionist with a grandiose attitude” who is fleeing a traveling circus in a hot air balloon when he gets swept up by a tornado and carried to the land of Oz, which is run by a couple of witches.

The picture above shows Johnny Depp during Sunday’s Golden Globes; he is in conversation with Robert Downey Jr., who was cast as Oz and has just departed the project. To see a larger version which shows the actors together, CLICK HERE. The Zone thanks FANtasticJD for the picture and Theresa for sharing the news.