Mia Wasikowska in Alice in Wonderland.
Mia Wasikowska in Alice in Wonderland. Contributed.

World of wonder

WHEN Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found herself in a bizarre and unusual world.

She found herself in a world where eating something can make you grow, and drinking something can make you shrink. A world with talking rabbits, mad hatters and tea parties with crazy Queens.

Mia Wasikowska's trip down the rabbit hole is not entirely dissimilar.

The 20-year-old Australian actress plays Alice in Tim Burton's new film, Alice in Wonderland.

Making a career from creating weird and unusual worlds, Burton is the man behind films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd – films where nothing is ever quite as you imagined and nothing is ever quite as it seems.

Alice in Wonderland will be no different, with Burton creating a world straight from the imagination.

“Visually it will be stunning,” Wasikowska said.

“Tim is so wonderful in that way. He articulates feelings and thoughts visually in a way that so many people react to.”

Even the film-making process to create Alice In Wonderland was slightly bizarre for the young actress, with many of the scenes created on a green screen.

“It's strange,” Wasikowska said.

“It's a weird way to make a film because there is nothing to draw from from your environment.

“When you are working with another actor, you can bounce off their energy.

“I imagine that Wonderland is also similarly bizarre and doesn't make sense.”

Burton selected Wasikowska from scores of hopefuls, all vying for the opportunity to work with the acclaimed director and the stellar cast he had selected.

Reuniting Sweeney Todd cast mates Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp as the Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter respectively, Burton already had an award-winning formula on his hands.

He then pulled in some of the biggest names in showbiz, including Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry and Matt Lucas.

The set would have been like a night at the Oscars but Mia said it was also an incredible learning opportunity.

“They are all so cool and nice and friendly and instantly disarming,” she said. “Johnny is such an incredible actor who takes his job very seriously but still has fun.

“He creates this character that is really crazy and wonderful but has this core humanity.

“Helena and Annie are so smart as well.

“They have all had such wonderful careers in different ways and achieved different things.

“They work really hard and they have a good balance between their private and public lives.

“It was great to see how they work.”

For a young performer, the experience of working alongside such luminaries was invaluable.

But Wasikowska and Burton had the rather terrifying task of creating one of the most loved characters in the world – an experience Mia will never forget.

“There is a certain amount of pressure that comes when you are working with a character that is a cultural icon,” she said.

“That was the thing that me and Tim decided about playing Alice – to strip away the baggage that comes with her being Alice in Wonderland and just to make her a teenage girl, and that was what we aimed for the most.”

With that in mind, Burton and Wasikowska set out to make an Alice most of the audience would relate to.

“We used the character in the book as the backbone of our Alice and the framework from which we built our teenage Alice,” she said.

“A lot of teenagers go through this awkwardness and discomfort in their skin – that was something I have seen my friends go through, or parts of that have been a similar experience to mine.”

Finding a character who was awkward wouldn't have been too much of a stretch for Wasikowska, who filmed many of her scenes with one of the hottest men in Hollywood: Johnny Depp.

So the question everyone wants to know the answer to – is he just as hot in real life?

“I don't think anybody would be disappointed,” Wasikowska said. “He is lovely,” Wasikowska said.

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland opens in cinemas on March 4.


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