Movie News & Reviews

New Aussie actress becomes 'Alice'

Tim Burton is back in theaters on March 5 with "Alice in Wonderland" but, unlike the filmmaker's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," this bookshelf adaptation veers from its namesake source material in major ways.

We spoke about that and other matters with 20-year-old Aussie newcomer Mia Wasikowska, who has the title role in the film, which also stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover and Alan Rickman.

The film is called "Alice in Wonderland," but really this is neither a pure adaptation of Lewis Carroll's writings nor a remake of previous films. This is a whole new story, correct?

It's a completely different and new story, but it has a lot of the same characters in it. It has the same feel of the original stories, but it's really fun to explore a story that goes further and imagines what all these characters would be like several years down the tracks. Alice doesn't have a recollection of her first visit there. She's gone back and is discovering this world and finding herself again in this place that she doesn't even remember.

There are very few directors who have a style and vision that is instantly recognizable, but there's no question that Tim Burton is at the top of that list. That must make him an intriguing figure for actors.

Absolutely. It is so cool to be part of his vision, to be able to start a project and see it all the way through to the end. It's almost like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was such a fan of his films growing up, movies like "Edward Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood." He has such a distinct style and a distinct sense of humor.

You're at the start of your career, but in this film you're performing with an elite and experienced cast. What was your sense of Johnny Depp, specifically?

He is such a cool guy. He has the humanity to keep this sense of self. He's very kind and generous and so smart. To be able to watch Johnny — just like with Tim — as he takes something from the page to reality and how hard he works and what he brought to it and how much he brought to it, it's amazing. It is inspiring too that he does things in a purely joyous way and has fun with it all, because so often there are people who seem disgruntled. To keep that love of what you do is so important. And watching him and Tim work together is fun. They have a very deep rapport. Watching them, it's like they speak their very own language.

I'm sure you made a lot of decisions about what you wanted to do with the character and maybe a few about what you didn't want to do with the character. What were some of the things you didn't want to do with your Alice?

I suppose I would say I didn't want to bring in a lot of the baggage that is associated with "Alice in Wonderland" and just find the Alice that a lot of girls would identify with. I want to make her identifiable. She's at a crossroads in her life. So many people have an idea of how Alice should be played and there are these images in the public mind about her, but I wanted to keep to my own ideas how she would be and be true to that in the performance. The most important thing was to find the girl beneath this iconic figure.