Update: Well, it looks like Sam Raimi managed to clear his schedule for this one. Yesterday we reported that Disney was courting the director to take the reins of Oz, the Great and Powerful, a proposed prequel to the original The Wizard of Oz, but that he had other commitments (World Warcraft) to consider before accepting. Now, Nikke Finke over at Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Sam Raimi has in fact agreed to take the directors chair in a meeting that went down with CAA (Creative Artists Agency) reps last night. Raimi will direct Robert Downey Jr. in the title role as a circus wrangler who gets whisked away by a tornado to the land of Oz, where he somehow manages to finagle his way onto the throne in the Emerald City.
Original story (June 14): Vulture is reporting that Disney has reached out to Sam Raimi to helm Oz, the Great and Powerful, a prequel to the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Although it had been rumored that Sam Mendes and Adam Shankman were also in the running for the gig, insiders are now reporting that Raimi received an official offer for the project this weekend.
However, it's not yet clear whether Raimi's schedule will allow him to accept. The director of the Spider-Man trilogy had planned on shooting a live-action adaptation of the popular video game World of Warcraft after wrapping Spider-Man 4, but since Sony has dumped Raimi and ordered a Spider-Man reboot, the director's next project has been a matter of speculation. World of Warcraft is now in pre-production, with a planned release date some time in 2013, but Disney is interested in beginning principal photography on Oz, the Great and Powerful sometime this year.
Even if that leaves time for Raimi to direct Oz, the Great and Powerful, Warner Bros. has been concurrently developing two competing Oz-based films of their own. One, called Wizard of Oz, is connected with studio producer Basil Iwanyk and scribe Josh Olson (A History of Violence); the other project, Oz, is being developed by Twilight producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey and writer Darren Lemke (Shrek Forever After) for Warner's New Line Cinema. Both would have to contend with British filmmaker John Boorman's straight-up CGI adaptation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is due sometime this year.
While it's not unusual at all for competing studios to be in development of similar subject matter (especially when said subject matter is now public domain, as the original L. Frank Baum novel has been since 1956), pressure from Warner Bros. may force Disney's hand; if World of Warcraft becomes a major commitment for Sam Raimi, I wouldn't be surprised if the studio moves ahead on Oz, the Great and Powerful without him.