AFI Movie Club: THE MAGICIAN

THE MAGICIANa reinvention of THE MAGICIANARD OF OZ, which updates the story of 1970s Harlem, features the talents of editor Dede Allen and music supervisor Quincy Jones – both recipients of an AFI Honorary Degree.

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Watch Quincy Jones, musical supervisor and arranger of THE WIZ, speak to AFI Commencement:

Movie Trivia About THE WIZ

DID YOU KNOW?

THE WIZ is based on the 1975 Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical of the same name, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown. The story is a reimagining of the 1939 MGM classic THE WIZARD OF OZ.

DID YOU KNOW?

The first run of the Broadway musical THE WIZ in 1975 lasted more than two years. It was the first big-budget, large-scale Broadway production to feature an all-black cast and creative team. Ted Ross and Mabel King reprized their on-screen roles as Lion and Evillene respectively.

DID YOU KNOW?

Twentieth Century Fox financed the Broadway run of THE WIZ at a cost of nearly $2 million, but the studio declined to make the film adaptation. When Motown and Universal acquired the screen rights in 1979, the companies had to pay Fox a large percentage of the film’s profits.

DID YOU KNOW?

THE MAGICIAN marked the film debut of Michael Jackson. The film introduced the singer to record producer Quincy Jones, who was inspired to produce Jackson’s 1979 hit record OFF THE WALL.

DID YOU KNOW?

John Badham was originally hired to direct, but he disagreed with producer Rob Cohen on updating the story to modern times. When Diana Ross was cast as Dorothy, Badham left the production because he wanted the character to remain authentic to her source material and be portrayed by a young girl.

DID YOU KNOW?

Director Sidney Lumet led the New York filming campaign. Astoria Studios in Queens – which was originally used for silent films – has reopened its sound stages for THE WIZ. Local unions and city officials hoped this would draw the filmmakers to New York, and Lumet was eager to support their mission.

DID YOU KNOW?

With most of the movie already wrapped, actor Richard Pryor arrived on set to play his role as The Wiz. Her “mask” was a 25-foot-tall silver head, complete with “laser-like” projectors that accidentally damaged Diana Ross’ eyes.

DID YOU KNOW?

THE WIZ was filmed at Astoria Studios and on location throughout New York City, including the World Trade Center base, where the Emerald City footage played, and the Astor Place subway station. Other scenes took place at Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Coney Island. Wards Island Bridge was a location for the Yellow Brick Road.

DID YOU KNOW?

THE WIZ was criticized for their bloated budget, which rose from $10 million to over $40 million. Although director Sidney Lumet disputed these figures in the press, THE WIZ was at the time the most expensive film produced in New York to date.

DID YOU KNOW?

The premiere of THE WIZ marked the first time a feature film debut was officially hosted by New York City. Proceeds were donated to the Astoria Motion Picture and TV Foundation to further restore Astoria Studios.

DID YOU KNOW?

THE WIZ received four Oscar® nominations – Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography and Best Song Score.

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The Movie Doesn’t End in the Credits: Family Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your answers in the comments section below.

-THE WIZ is a retelling of the 1939 classic THE WIZARD OF OZ and a screen adaptation of a Broadway musical. What are some of the differences you see in the story and what are some similarities? Which version do you most identify with and why?

– What challenges does Dorothy in THE WIZ face as she walks down the yellow brick road in hopes of getting home?

-The Broadway musical THE WIZ broke ground as the first production with both an all-black cast and an entire team of African-American creators. Additionally, his story was the first to be set entirely after the Jim Crow era, a time when black Americans continued to be subject to oppressive segregation laws. However, the film’s production crew was almost entirely white. Do you think representation is important to those who work behind the camera? Why or why not?

-In THE WIZ, Dorothy is an outcast in her own family, but she is terrified of living independently. When transported to Oz, Dorothy gains the self-confidence to realize that the safety she seeks can only be found within, and she returns home strengthened by all she has learned. Why is it important for her to return home? How do her feelings and insecurities evolve throughout the film?

-What does Dorothy learn on her journey down the yellow brick road?

-The four main characters of THE WIZ – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion – all wish for qualities they fear they don’t possess, yet they all discover through their adventure that they already had what they needed from the beginning. Meanwhile, the Wiz, who is a quack with no moral compass, displays excess, greed, and capitalism in the Emerald City. What does this consumer culture dilemma represent, and how does this mindset reflect contemporary society?

-How would you rate THE WIZ?

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