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Gerke lands in Oz prequel



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Eric Gerke (click for larger version)
August 10, 2011 - Oxford resident Eric Gerke, 8, has been to the land of Oz and back, minus the tornado and ruby red slippers.

Gerke was cast as an extra in Walt Disney Pictures "Oz: The Great and Powerful," the upcoming prequel to the 1939 classic "Wizard of Oz."

The prequel is set to be released on March 8, 2013.

According to Gerke, he was cast as a little boy who ran around during a scene, and at one point, was going for a walk with his parents in the movie. However, due to a confidentiality agreement he and his mother Kristy had to sign, they were not allowed to discuss details of his scene.

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Eric said the entire experience of being on a movie set was "fun."

Directed by Sam Raimi, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" examines the Wizard of Oz's beginnings. It stars Academy Award nominee James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from Kansas to the land of Oz, where fame and fortune await him until he meets three witches, who are not convinced he is a the great wizard the inhabitants of Oz are waiting for.

Digg's reluctantly gets drawn into the problems facing the Land of Oz and must find out who is good and evil before it is too late.

Golden Globe nominee Mila Kunis will play the witch Theodora, Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz will play Kunis sister Evanora and two time-time Oscar nominated actress Michelle Williams will play Glinda, the Good Witch.

The cast also includes Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Zach Braff, who will play Franco's circus assistant as well as be the voice of Finley, the winged monkey who accompanies the magician on his journey to Oz.

Gerke was selected after Kristy saw an article about an open call for the movie in June. She thought about submitting something for herself, but then she saw they were looking for children six and up to be extras, so she submitted a photo for Eric.

"I just sent in a school picture and wrote on the back his size and his age, and they called right at the beginning of July and said they wanted to use Eric as an extra," Kristy said. "We were so excited."

Filming began on Monday, July 25 at the brand new, 200,000 square foot Raleigh Studios in Pontiac.

Gerke's scene was filmed on Aug. 1.

"Originally they gave us three confirmed dates for filming, then possibly the rest of this week," Kristy said. "The first two days of filming changed, so he really only got to do Monday. So all of us are hoping there will be more scenes he will get called back for."

According to Kristy, the only main actor Eric saw was Braff, who was in the scene with Gerke.

Kristy said one thing that surprised her about the shoot was the lack of down time they had.

"They had them going," she added. "We brought books and a DVD player because all you hear about is this down time...but they kept us on set with one little break for four hours."

After the first session, they broke for a half-hour lunch and continued to film for another hour before Eric was finished for the day.

According to Kristy, the early portions of the film take place in Kansas, just like in "Wizard of Oz." So when Eric went for his costume fitting in early July, Kristy said he looked like he just came from "Little House on the Prairie."

Even though Eric thought the whole process was fun, he said his favorite part about the day was eating the food caterers provided.

"The food was good. They had chicken, mashed potatoes and German chocolate cake, which I love," Eric said.

Movie making might already be in Eric's blood has he has already made multiple home movies using his Legos. According to Eric, his favorite type of movie to make is action.

Eric said he wanted to do more acting in the future.

"He always liked acting and being in school plays, but we might try and branch out a little more after this" Kristy said. "He seemed to have fun."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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