With a sharp wit and a sur­pris­ingly easy smile, Mia Wasikowska is fear­lessly tak­ing over Hol­ly­wood.

ELLE (Canada) - - Front Page - By Kathryn Hud­son Pho­to­graphs by Max Aba­dian

The dow­nun­der down-to-earth­ness of Mia Wasikowska.

By Kathryn Hud­son

Mia Wasikowska

is qui­etly dunk­ing her Earl Grey tea bag, still a lit­tle jet-lagged af­ter her flight to New York from her na­tive Aus­tralia. She has one arm folded pro­tec­tively around her waist in a way that makes her seem as vul­ner­a­ble as her doe-eyed char­ac­ter in Alice in Won­der­land, her 2010 break­out film.

Un­like the brood­ing women Wasikowska has em­bod­ied on film—a tor­tured gym­nast in In Treat­ment; Jane Eyre, op­po­site Michael Fass­ben­der; the in­sou­ciant ob­ject of af­fec­tion of real-life boyfriend Jesse Eisen­berg in The Dou­ble— the ac­tress has a still­ness that is of­ten bro­ken by a child­like grin, like the sun peek­ing through clouds.

The in­trigu­ing di­chotomy of quiet wit and sud­den warmth has helped Wasikowska, 24, carve out a niche as one of Hol­ly­wood’s most ex­cit­ing ris­ing stars. In David Cro­nen­berg’s lat­est so­cial satire, Maps to the Stars— which pre­miered to raves at Cannes and is poised to rule at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val this month— Wasikowska plays a scarred py­ro­ma­niac who gets a gig as an as­sis­tant to an un­hinged Hol­ly­wood star (Ju­lianne Moore) and be­friends a limo driver (Robert Pat­tin­son). At the men­tion of the film, Wasikowska smiles. “I liked the idea of play­ing a perky psy­chopath.”

A perky psy­chopath is pretty un­usual! “I’ve played a lot of char­ac­ters who were very emo­tional and trou­bled, so it was re­ally nice to play some­one who was se­ri­ous but wasn’t, you know, weep­ing in ev­ery scene!”

The movie is pretty crit­i­cal of the Hol­ly­wood scene. How did you feel about that?

“I was re­ally in­ter­ested to see how people re­sponded to it, es­pe­cially at Cannes, be­cause it is such a com­men­tary on our in­dus­try. Some people took it quite per­son­ally and were like, ‘Why are you at­tack­ing Hol­ly­wood?’ But if you [look at] dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries where people are lonely and in­se­cure and am­bi­tious and scared, a lot of the same themes would play out. I don’t think it’s exclusive to Hol­ly­wood. It was just a good back­drop for ex­plor­ing a fucked-up fam­ily dy­namic.”

What ap­peals to you about play­ing char­ac­ters with im­per­fec­tions?

“I don’t know any­body who had a straight­for­ward ado­les­cence—go­ing to school, be­ing pop­u­lar, hav­ing a boyfriend—it seems so un­re­al­is­tic. I think it’s more in­ter­est­ing to study things that aren’t so pol­ished.” What was your teenage ex­pe­ri­ence like? “I was pretty ob­sessed with bal­let at the time. I ex­pected high school to be so­cial and great, and then I started do­ing bal­let more full­time, so I was away a lot. I never found my so­cial groove.” Do you feel like you missed out on high school? “I don’t know. Hope­fully you own your ex­pe­ri­ence, but I think, ‘I never went to a sin­gle school dance.’ Some­times I wish I’d been more out­go­ing or more in­volved. It prob­a­bly would have been re­ally nice. I prob­a­bly fed off feel­ing like an out­sider, which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily rec­om­mended.” [Laughs] Why did you give up dance at 15? “I was do­ing it 30 hours a week—I think it was a com­bi­na­tion of be­ing a lit­tle burned out and get­ting my heart bro­ken a lit­tle bit by it. I loved the dancing part, but my body wasn’t the right shape and I could see all the faults in my body. That im­per­fec­tion in my own phys­i­cal­ity be­came frus­trat­ing and kind of dam­ag­ing. So it was good to find some­thing else I loved as much, be­cause there were times when I thought, ‘I can’t imag­ine do­ing any­thing other than dancing.’”

But then you went into film, which some people feel is also a very dif­fi­cult in­dus­try....

“It’s funny. I feel so much less pres­sure from film than dance. Film is slightly more ver­sa­tile in the sense that you need ac­tors of all shapes, sizes and races.” h

I sup­pose it also de­pends on the roles you go af­ter. “Ex­actly. Some­one like Mi­ley Cyrus prob­a­bly feels so much more aware­ness of her body and pres­sure. I don’t know whether that comes from her or the people around her.”

Where did your drive to break into act­ing come from?

“I think all ac­tors ex­pe­ri­ence a cer­tain amount of dis­com­fort within them­selves. I’m more com­fort­able in my­self now, but as a teenager, I felt so much more se­cure in some­body else’s clothes than I did in my own. I got the chance to ex­press all these emo­tions that other­wise were very dif­fi­cult to ex­press, like anger and rage and sad­ness.”

Both your par­ents are pho­tog­ra­phers. Did that in­form your love of film?

“My mom is a film buff, so she al­ways had films play­ing in the house. They were great in terms of ed­u­cat­ing me in art and cul­ture. I re­mem­ber when I first men­tioned I was in­ter­ested in be­ing part of films, my mom hired out a whole lot of Aus­tralian films to ed­u­cate me on what the in­dus­try in my own coun­try was like.”

You must have had your pic­ture taken a lot when you were a child.

“My mom took a bunch of se­ries that cen­tred on us as kids. They’re won­der­ful. She em­i­grated from Poland when she was a teenager, and then, 24 years later, she got a grant to go back, so we lived in Poland for a year. It was at the time when my sis­ter was the same age my mom had been when she left Poland, so my mom was re­ally in­ter­ested in see­ing how my sis­ter re­sponded to be­ing in an­other coun­try, be­ing to­tally mis­placed.”

You must have re­cently got­ten used to feel­ing dis­placed and liv­ing in ho­tels.

“For a cou­ple of years, be­tween films I would be back in my child­hood room at my par­ents’ house in Can­berra in Aus­tralia.” That must have been odd. “It was re­ally strange. A year ago, I got an apart­ment. I didn’t orig­i­nally think I’d live near the sea, but I’m near one of the beaches in Syd­ney. It feels in­cred­i­ble to be able to go and dump my bags some­where—to feel grounded. I feel like I’ll al­ways live there. With act­ing, ev­ery­thing is so in­con­sis­tent that it’s in­cred­i­ble to have one thing that I’m very sure about.”

Be­ing in L.A. brings with it a very dif­fer­ent life­style—and pa­parazzi. Is that some­thing you’ve dealt with?

“When Alice in Won­der­land first came out, they were at the air­ports and stuff, but I think they just fig­ured I’m pretty bor­ing and left me alone. [Laughs] When I pro­mote a big enough movie, they kind of show up to see if I’m go­ing to stum­ble out of the cab or flash my un­der­pants, and then they leave again. I think they al­ways want to test the new young ac­tresses....” Speak­ing of women on the brink, you’re star­ring in an up­com­ing ( and much- buzzed- about) adap­ta­tion of

Madame Bo­vary. How do you feel about the char­ac­ter? “She’s very po­lar­iz­ing. Some people think she’s vic­tim­ized by her sit­u­a­tion, and other people think she’s just a spoiled brat. I love her! She rep­re­sents all the things that we dis in ev­ery­day life. She’s jeal­ous and an­gry and ma­te­ri­al­is­tic in a way that she doesn’t re­ally un­der­stand. I feel like we all have vary­ing de­grees of ma­te­ri­al­ism when we’re try­ing to fill a void, you know?” As your film ca­reer continues to pick up speed, how do

you keep a bal­ance? “It’s re­ally im­por­tant to dis­con­nect your self-es­teem from your work so that you don’t at­tach how you feel about yourself to how the in­dus­try feels about you. That just ends up be­com­ing like an emo­tional roller-coaster ride.” How do you do that? [Laughs] “I don’t know. It’s hard. I’m still learn­ing how to find a bal­ance be­tween my film life and my home life be­cause I don’t want to feel like I have two lives.”

Was there a mo­ment when you re­al­ized you are an adult? “Do we ever feel like adults?” I’m not sure that I do. “I know. I still feel very much like a child half of the time, but I’m more grown-up if you mea­sure it by feel­ing more con­fi­dent and com­fort­able. I feel in

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to dis­con­nect your self-es­teem from your work.

con­trol, as op­posed to other people hav­ing the power of mak­ing me feel good or bad. Maybe that’s the best way to feel like you’ve grown up.”

Is there some­thing you know now that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at 15?

“I would just tell my­self to be nicer to my­self. I think ev­ery­body could prob­a­bly do with be­ing nicer to their younger selves. Ado­les­cence is a pro­foundly lonely time for most people.” Do you read profiles of yourself? “When Alice came out, I did. I found it so heart­break­ing that I just de­cided it was best not to. At the time, I thought you had one shot at be­ing per­ceived in a cer­tain way and that I had blown it. It was such a huge amount of ex­po­sure in a re­ally quick time, and that was overwhelming. I got one re­ally bad re­view for Alice in Won­der­land and it was like, ‘She looks like a heroin ad­dict.’” What are you look­ing for­ward to? “Time off, ac­tu­ally! When I was younger, it was more about get­ting to the next project re­ally quickly, and now I value the sim­pler things a lot more. Just be­ing at home and hav­ing a cup of tea in the morn­ing is, like, my favourite thing. I don’t feel such an ur­gency to be achiev­ing or do­ing things— which is good be­cause other­wise you just end up ex­haust­ing yourself.” Do you have a plan? “I just want to be happy and have a good life. [Laughs] I don’t re­ally have a plan.” n

Dress (Valentino), tights (Wol­ford) and shoes (Saint Lau­rent)

“I love the emo­tional and ex­pres­sive side of dance. It’s so nice to feel re­ally in your body rather than in your mind. But the in­dus­try is such a con­tra­dic­tion be­cause it’s all about con­trol. Whereas ac­tu­ally be­ing able to dance is about let­ting go.”

Dress (Chris­tian Dior)

“Over the past few years, I’ve learned to stand up for my­self and that my opin­ions are valid. There was a long pe­riod of time where I just didn’t think that what I thought meant much.”

Top (Wol­ford) and skirt (Valentino). For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide. Stylist, Ryan Hast­ings; makeup, Hung Van­ngo (The Wall Group); hair, Ryan Trygstad (Star­works Artists); man­i­cure, Elena Capo (The Wall Group); art di­rec­tion, Brittany Ec­cles

“I’m in­ter­ested in fash­ion in the same way that I think it’s a great art form. I love Comme des Garçons, I love Ro­darte, I love Miu Miu. I don’t re­ally wear it in my ev­ery­day life, but I feel lucky that I get to wear it some­times.”

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