Dorothy and the Witches of Oz: There’s no place like homage

Paulie RojasPaulie Rojas is a bold and beautiful up-and-coming actress that stars in the iconic role of Dorothy Gale in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, which opens in the Valley’s Harkins Theaters on Feb. 17. Paulie (aka Ana Paula Rojas) will be making a special appearance at the opening night premiere and is thrilled about the U.S. release of this modern interpretation of the L. Frank Baum classic books.

In Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, director Leigh Scott pays homage to the original Oz stories by crafting a tale in which Dorothy is actually the author of the Oz books and she discovers that their stories are not just fantasy, but repressed memories. I talked with Ms. Rojas recently, and when describing the plot behind this new take on the Oz mythos, Paulie said, “Leigh has been dreaming of and working on making this movie for the past 12 years, and it really is his homage to the original books.”

The movie was originally distributed overseas as both a television mini-series and a theatrical film called The Witches of Oz, but for its release in the U.S. the film has been shortened, re-edited, had its special-effects reworked and then an additional 15 minutes were added. The new trailer for the reworked Dorothy and the Witches of Oz has a distinct Victorian-era science fiction look and feel to it that is sure to draw the attention of the growing steampunk community.

Ms. Rojas is thrilled to have been cast in the role of Dorothy, saying, “I have profound memories of my father bringing home the 1939 Oz film and watching it repeatedly on video.” Later in life Paulie was inspired by the original Dorothy when she read a Judy Garland biography and was impressed by star’s strength and her “giving” performances.

But for Rojas’ own interpretation of the iconic role, she strove to make it her own and put her heart into creating a memorable and original spin on the character of Dorothy. An avid reader, Paulie has read The Wonderful World of Oz many times and says, “The book has so much heart and it’s a place I turn to when I need happy thoughts.”

Dorothy and the Witches of OzA lot of the action in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz was performed in front of a green screen, and Paulie, together with the other actors (including Christopher Lloyd, Billy Boyd and Lance Henriksen) had to use their imaginations to envision the world they were performing in. Ms. Rojas tapped into her love of “magical realism” to spark her creativity and help to conceptualize the mythical world in which the film was set. She said she was astonished at how amazing the final special effects and backgrounds looked in the finished film.

When asked about working with Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd, she said he is nothing like the wacky characters he’s known for playing on screen. “He was fascinating, quiet and so observant of everything happening around him. You could tell that the wheels were always turning. When the director says, ‘action,’ he transcends the camera. It was such a privilege to work with him and he was really the catalyst for bringing everyone together on this film.”

Paulie has played Audrey Hepburn in a short film called Before Breakfast, and she has an uncanny beauty that resembles the famous actress. There is even a Facebook drive to persuade the producers of an upcoming remake of My Fair Lady to cast Ms. Rojas in the starring role. She says that while she loves Audrey Hepburn, and especially her legacy of charity work with UNICEF, if approached to play the Eliza Doolittle role she would love the opportunity, but would be determined to make it her own and has no interest in copying the former star’s performance.

For fun, I asked Paulie what she would do if she had power and influence over the flying monkeys of Oz (which look pretty cool in the Witches trailer) and she said, “I’d make them give rides to people so they wouldn’t have to use their cars. I’d give them the power to discuss philosophy and they’d be great travel buddies.” While the new Dorothy and the Witches of Oz film speaks to the philosophy of destiny and fate, it looks like this incredible new actress is destined for stardom!

Meet Ms. Rojas at the film’s red carpet premiere event at Harkins Superstition Springs Theater in Mesa, 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. Hit the link to buy your tickets in advance.

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