LONDON — For Mia Wasikowska, reprising her iconic title role from “Alice in Wonderland” was something of a belated treat. After the success of the Tim Burton film in 2010, “It was quite unexpected.
“I really thought if there was a sequel it would happen right away. But it’s been six years, so it’s been quite a long time,” said Wasikowska, smoothing out her floral dress in a very Alice-like proper manner, as she sat down to chat about “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (opening Friday).
“However, I must say I loved getting the chance to revisit Alice as a grown-up,” she said. “One of the best things was the chance to reunite with most of the same cast and creative team.”
The many costumes she wears — more than in the first movie — helped the actress visualize her character’s needs in various scenes.
“I think it was especially important on a film like this, because you are in a bit of a void with so much of the film shot against green screens [with the backgrounds being inserted digitally afterward]. The costumes are the first thing that give you a sense of where you are and the tone of the film. Even seeing the other characters, like seeing Sacha [Baron Cohen] as Time and seeing how ridiculous that character was, it gives you quite a lot to work with as an actor.”
Along with Cohen, Wasikowska again got to play opposite Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter. In this film, he has gone to a very dark, depressed place.
“I don’t know if you all know this,” Depp said at a press conference for the film, “but back in Victorian times, hatters — people who made hats at that time by hand — they used glues that contained mercury. … It’s come to be understood that the exposure to mercury actually did turn many of them truly mad. So there’s a historical truth to the creation of the Mad Hatter.”
As for Wasikowska, the actress lit up when asked what she would have liked to ask “Alice” author Lewis Carroll if she had the chance. “I would like to know the inspiration for the real Alice Liddell and how much his storytelling was inspired by her. I would sort of quiz him on that, I guess,” said Wasikowska.
Charles Dodgson (who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll) reportedly was asked by the then-10-year-old Alice to entertain her with a story — the basis for what was to become “Alice in Wonderland.”
In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” time travel is a major theme. Asked if she would rather travel forward into the future, or back into the past, Wasikowska said, “I don’t think I’d like to see the future. There’s a reason we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and that’s good. If we knew, maybe we’d act in ways to try and affect that. I know that’s all ridiculous, but I definitely would not want to go forward in time, except in the natural way.”
The actress did say, “If I had to choose between traveling in time forward or backward, I would go backward, but not like to some ancient time, or to meet some famous person, because I think we would be in a very awkward situation. You have to realize we are 21st Century people and it’s likely we would not relate too well to the cultures of earlier eras. It’s one thing to read about history in a book, but I think to actually relive it as a contemporary person flung backwards would be horribly weird.
“No, if I would go back, I’d like to go back to a really great day in my life that I remembered and would want to relive a moment that was truly wonderful.”
Before we parted, I asked Wasikowska how it was to play opposite the actor who actually did play a human representation for Time: Sacha Baron Cohen.
The actress laughed and said, “I think [director] James Bobin puts it really well when he says Sacha really plays a confident idiot very well. In this film Sacha plays exactly that!
“Now, when you think of his career, a lot of the characters he’s played over the years are like that, from Borat to Bruno to that ridiculous character in ‘The Dictator.’ He’s kind of exactly that in this film. But Sacha’s genius is that he plays these crazy characters, but they are never quite the same. He’s incredibly clever and funny. But here, I like the fact that Alice is the only one who pulls him up on his lunacy and calls him out. When you think about it, Alice is about the only voice of reason in the whole film — certainly in the scenes set in Wonderland.”