AUSSIE ACTOR CONTINUES ALICE’S SILVER-SCREEN ADVENTURE
A few weeks ago producer Suzanne Todd was looking at some large photos hanging on the wall of a conference room at the Disney studios in Los Angeles.
The photos featured the cast of Todd’s 2010 surprise box-office blockbuster Alice in
Wonderland, including Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter.
Despite the star power in the photos, Todd’s eyes were focused on “baby Mia”.
Canberra-born actor Mia Wasikowska was only 19 when cast by Todd and director Tim Burton as the title character, based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 children’s classic.
“I’m so impressed with her,” Todd says. “Even at 19 she was self-possessed, thoughtful and intelligent and came at everything from a place of integrity.”
Wasikowska’s first break was in the TV series All Saints in 2004 and in 2008 a role on the US series In Treatment introduced her to American audiences and filmmakers. The surprise success of Alice
in Wonderland, which joined Titanic and Avatar at the time as the only films to earn more than $US1 billion at the global box office, would have tossed many young actors down a Hollywood rabbit hole.
However, Wasikowska landed on her feet.
Instead of searching for other blockbusters, Wasikowska starred in a mix of critically acclaimed roles helmed by elite directors including Gus Van Sant ( Restless), Rodrigo Garcia ( Albert Nobbs), John Hillcoat ( Lawless), Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), Lisa Cholodenko ( The Kids Are All Right), Park Chan-wook ( Stoker) and John Curran’s challenging Australian adventure film, Tracks.
Wasikowska says the success of Alice in Wonderland did not impact her because she believes she had little to do with its huge box-office return.
“I felt like a very small part of it because a lot of the success was because of the other really great actors and creative people who were doing it,” Wasikowska says. “I felt kind of removed.” Wasikowska, Todd, Burton, Depp, Hathaway and Bonham Carter have reunited for a sequel loosely based on Carroll’s follow-up novel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Burton has taken a producing role, with Brit, James Bobin, directing.
There was pressure after the success of the first movie to make a sequel, but Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass lacked a storyline so it was a struggle to come up with a strong script.
“It was eight chapters about a chess game and although it is very entertaining, there wasn’t anything to draw from for a three-act structure for a movie,” Todd says.
The creative team, however, latched on to a small part of the book relating to time – how people spend their time, waste it and do not necessarily realise how precious it is.
The main new character in the movie sequel is Time, played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
Wasikowska, 26, says audiences will discover Alice is a different person in the new film.
“In the first one Alice is a little uncomfortable, awkward and unsure of herself, but this one she has just spent a year travelling around and being the captain of ship so she is extremely empowered and knows who she is,” she says.
Todd says that is actually a good description of Wasikowska – not just today but back when she was 19year-old “baby Mia”.
“There are so many young actors who struggle with decisions in their career,” Todd says. “There are so many trajectories.
“Are you going to be somebody who takes every movie because you want to work all of the time or do you just want to be on the cover of
People magazine? “Mia has always been someone who has been about the work.
“She made her choices very carefully based on interesting directors she wanted to work with and cultivating experiences.”
Mia Wasikowska in the title role with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice Through the Looking Glass.