Mia Wasikowska owned her role as Alice in Wonderland. The film made over 1 billion dollars helping create the anticipation of Alice Through the Looking Glass and what to expect this time around. She has mentioned, “it’s different, but familiar just the same.” With a new director but the same cast and the familiar Tim Burton magic, Mia shares her experiences of playing Alice, working with director James Bobin (The Muppets), and of course, we had to ask about being on set with Johnny Depp and Sasha Cohen.
Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh Interview
Mia entered the room, and it was evident she was prepping for the premiere that evening. She is charming, confident and sweet.
Do you have a favorite part scene?
I really like when I see the Hatter in the marketplace, and I’m trying to explain to him that we’ve met, but when he’s older, and I’m younger. I think that’s so sweet, and it’s got like such an essence of the original book to it, that whole abstract, quite bizarre nature of it.
Alice has become independent with the passing years. How did it feel stepping back into the role with those changes?
It was great. I really love Alice and I like seeing her journey. I think in the first film, she was quite, kind of still a little uncomfortable and trying to bridge that gap between knowing who she is on the inside and then being able to be that on the outside. And I think that was sort of her journey in the first film. And then in this film, she’s just spent two years as the captain of her ship, and she has a really strong sense of who she is. She comes back into this story with a really strong sense of that despite the fact that expectations of her are low in her society. She manages to sort of hold on to that sense of being worth more than what people want of her, which I think is really great and important for young girls and boys everywhere.
With so many incredible quotes in the film, is there one that resonates with you?
There are so many, but I do like the message from Time, “You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it.” I think even though we kind of know that, I think to really deeply understanding that is really important. It’s the best way to kind of live your life and be in the moment, to accept what’s happened in the past and move on into the future openly and not be sort of fixated on trying to change something that’s already happened, which I feel like we can get a bit caught up in.
You have a lot of relationships with the other characters in the movie. Do you have a favorite?
I like a few of them. I do like the relationship with Alice and Time. I think Sasha plays a confident idiot very well. (Laughing) He’s like this powerful old loser in a way, and Alice is the only one that kind of isn’t scared enough to pull him out on how he just doesn’t make any sense at all. I like that she has no fear in approaching kind of anyone, but, especially him, because he’s gotten such a strong ego.
I also really like the scenes with the Hatter. When you’re filming a film like this, and it’s green screen for five months you spend a lot of time running around and jumping around. And so obviously the more enjoyable days was when it was those lovely scenes between the two of us, and that was really nice.
Were there challenges to stay in character doing so much CGI work?
Yeah, I mean even just like when you read the script and it takes like an hour and a half to read, and you’re like okay, so I do a lot of running. That then translates to like five months of running every day and jumping, and it feels quite physical. And so sustaining that level of energy and when you have quite little coming back at you, in terms of the set (or lack thereof). It’s just a big green blob of light, and there’s not much sort of, we had a few more sets of this film, which was really great, but otherwise it’s quite like an abstract experience.
The costumes are incredible. Did you get to participate in any of the design?
Yeah, I mean a little bit. I mean, Colleen is really brilliant, and she did the first Alice. So I knew her and so we were able to have a good dialogue about it, but I feel like in this film, I had like kind of more accessible like active kind of clothing. I mean, I had so many trousers even when they kind of like look like skirts. They’ve got a leg bit, which was really good and even having her in a captain suit at the beginning and the end and just a sense that she’s like more active and less restrained in her like gaudy dresses. That was quite nice.
Alice is such a great role model especially for young girls to young women watching it. Is there a particular message that you’d like for girls to take away from this movie?
Yeah, I think just sort of like what I said before of that, she seems to have this innate sense of who she is and even though she’s got all these challenges and people always kind of questioning her, she manages to hold on to that really strong sense of herself and you know, even when she goes to the ball with the oriental costume and, ah, she just doesn’t’ even seem to notice the judgment like coming off of everybody else and that sort of just seems to roll off her back. So, I guess just that sense of not caring so much about what other people think is really important.
Alice is a bit of a tomboy with her take charge attitude.
Yeah, I think so. I mean she doesn’t have that sense of femininity being like a restriction to her. And she still manages to be feminine and connected to that side of her without compromising anything. I like to think you can kind of have both and not in a way where it’s like limiting to be a woman or to enjoy certain aspects of that. But yeah, I definitely kind of go for comfort over sort of style, like her I guess.
You said there was a lot of running. I’m assuming there was probably some wire work that you had to do. What was the training like for that?
I had like a two week period before we started filming with the stunt coordinators, who are really great. They were really are a brilliant group of people. There was no illusions of the fact that I did quite a lot of the physical stuff, but I had a wonderful like stunt double, who did a lot of that really difficult, painful stuff. So I would come in and do like the fun, whimsy bits, and then she’d be like thrown across the room.
Is there anything by playing Alice taught you about yourself?
I guess you learn a lot of stamina, and I think the film world in general, sort of what I’ve learned about it is the perception is quite different to the reality of it. So I find that like quite interesting. Like filming a film like this is great, and really fun, but it is definitely like a lot of hard work and a lot of very long days.
You work long days so how do you relax?
Well, I still live in Sydney and so I spend a lot of time like in my home. I have a very small garden, but I love gardening, reading and being with friends. I live not too far from the ocean, so I go for walks a lot, yeah, but pretty boring, pretty simple existence.
It is. It’s amazing. It’s pretty fantastic. I’m very lucky.
What was it like working with Johnny Depp this time around? Was it different?
It was great. I guess like the main difference was just that I knew him before and with all the cast I had like that level of familiarity with them, and that was really nice. So we all sort of knew each other and that always helps stepping into a project like this, which is quite abstract. He’s such a wonderful person, such a lovely, sensitive person and I love that he’s so kind of creative. I mean, all his characters are very, very different, but they’re also distinctly his own characters. You always sort of know a Johnny Depp character and yeah, he’s great.
And how about working with Sasha?
I think there’s like a six-hour version of the film somewhere because he improvises a lot, so he’s quite ambitious about it. I’m not sure how he thought half of that was going to get in a Disney movie if you’re at all like familiar with his previous work. (Laughing) So, you know, it was just very entertaining. Every day was something completely different. So I would say he’s very ambitious, very smart and really funny.
You’ve done a lot of period pieces. How do you approach something that’s a little bit more of fantasy and abstract like this compared to the period work?
I guess this is a bit more of a like heightened experience for all sorts of reasons, and I feel like period pieces can kind of cross many genres in one way and many different tones. I’ve done some period films that have felt like quite naturalistic and then others that are quite like exaggerated and fantastical. This was just sort of a different level of energy, I guess, and obviously like there’s not much like ambiguity in children’s films because I think that ambiguity is unsettling, like, you know, so things are very light straight forward.
What did the Alice stories mean to you as you were growing up and what effect has that put upon you playing this role? Do you feel a little bit more bonkers?
I think the great thing about the books is that you can read them at any stage in your life, and they mean like a completely different thing. I think kids see stuff in it that adults don’t and vice versa. I like that it lends itself to like many different interpretations. I mean I hope if anything like all these interpretations kind of bring people back to the original source material. As it’s been said, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” I think that’s like really comforting and great.
How does it feel to be a role model for young people? You play this independent woman who isn’t worried about what other people think. That’s an exciting message to share with our kids – look at what you can be if you believe in the impossible.
Yeah, it’s really great. It’s not something like I ever considered. Until like, you’re doing a film and then you see that it has an impact on people. It’s not something that I really ever thought about until like after the fact, but, I mean, I’m excited for this film because I for all sorts of reasons we’ve come a long way and especially in terms of in this film, we kind of satirizing the idea of female hysteria, which only a hundred years ago was taken very seriously. So it’s a big step to be able to be like well, this is so obviously ridiculous. Whereas like not so long ago it was so serious. So that’s a big step, and then, you know, there’s obviously a long way to go before things are entirely equal. But I’m like excited that slowly it’s more normal that there’s like a lead character in a big summer movie that’s a female and such a feisty one. And she’s not in a love interest. It’s just around being a friend and a loyal person, and I think that’s really important.
If you can go back in time, what period would you visit?
Well, I probably would go to the Victorian era, just because I’ve like done so many films in that era, and I want to sort of see if we kind of like got it accurate. And I want to know what we’ve missed, you know. I would never, ever want to live in that time even having spent just a few months in those costumes. (Laughing) Even after the first one, I said I’d like never do another period film, and I obviously like haven’t kept that up. But yeah, I would never really want to live in that time, but I would love to see it.
The movie has so many different themes to it, with family and friends and obviously not hating or despising Time. What is the thing that resonated the most for you?
I did really like that it looks at the relationships between all the characters a lot, like Alice and her mother, and the Hatter and his father, and then it looks at sort of like the root of the rivalry between the sisters. And, but you know, I mean, your own relationship with your mom like changes again and again as you grow older, and you go through different stages in your life, and that kind of reestablishing that relationship and how that happens like constantly. Alice and her mom kind of learn from each other and are able to like really appreciate each other again. It’s really sweet in this. I really liked that.
Were there any scenes that got cut, that didn’t make it to the screen, that you would have liked to have seen stay in the movie?
Yeah, there was one scene that I really liked when she’s chasing the butterfly through the house, the butterfly goes over the long buffet table where they’re having the ball, and Alice kind of like jumps on the table and she’s like running towards the butterfly. And she ends up sort of like jumping on Hamish and, and having a little scrap with him, but maybe it was like too, too, too much, so they obviously like got rid of that, but that’s fine. I loved filming that scene.
Is there a genre of film that you would like to work in that you haven’t thus far?
I would love to do maybe like some comedy. I think it’s really hard to find a good comedy. I think there are a million great dramas every year but comedies, maybe are a tiny bit harder to find that one that feels really great and funny. So yeah, I would like to explore that.
We would like to see you in one.
Thanks very much.
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS In Theaters this Friday May 27th