Tim Burton's blockbuster rendition of the fairytale Alice in Wonderland is arriving on DVD, Blu-ray and three-disc Blu-ray June 1st, 2010. In the fifth of a seven-part interview series, we caught up with the actors and the filmmakers behind the movie to discuss the making of this billion dollar epic. We now talk with Mia Wasikowska, who played the title character in the film. Here is our conversation with her:
How did you go about getting the accent for Alice?
Mia Wasikowska: I had a lesson with a dialect coach and from then on it felt natural. When I take on a character with an accent then I can't imagine them without that accent. Even when I was reading it in my head it was in an English accent. After a while it became natural. I didn't listen to tapes. There is a lot of British film in Australia so we grew up listening to that and it wasn't so hard to do the accent.
You seemed very determined to get this role?
Mia Wasikowska: I sent an audition tape in February 2008 and ended up in June or July coming over to Britain and doing four more auditions with Tim before I got the role.
Didn't you fly back and forth from Australia to the UK three times?
Mia Wasikowska: Yeah, but I never really expected to get the role. Also you learn not to trust your feelings when you are in the strange period of auditions. It is all very up and down. You can audition, feel very confident and then not get the role. Then you can think the audition was the worst thing you ever did in your life and then you get the role. So you could analyze for weeks and months and it would still not make any sense.
What was it that Tim Burton saw in you?
Mia Wasikowska: I'm not sure. I feel really lucky to be chosen by him. I really love his films. Edward Scissorhands is a really special film for me. Tim has this compassion for characters who are outsiders and he presents them in a way that is not stereotypical.
Had Tim seen any of your work?
What was your research for Alice in Wonderland?
Mia Wasikowska: My research was reading the books and reading about the books and looking at Lewis Carroll's photography and collecting images from any of the illustrators. So Alice in the books was the backbone of the character but we really wanted to explore Alice as an older person.
Are you drawn to play damaged characters?
Mia Wasikowska: I think so, for me they are really interesting characters. But I never felt a connection to the characters in teen movies. So I feel really lucky to have had the chance to portray characters who to me are more real and meaningful.
Tim says you are an old soul?
Mia Wasikowska: There are a lot of different definitions of old soul. Alice has an awareness of what is going on around her and she is a deep feeling person. I did not grow up in movies or with an awareness of the celebrity culture. I grew up in a small city in Australia. My dad is a photographer and a collageist. We grew up in galleries and traveling around. My parents showed us interesting films. I lived for a year in Poland when I was eight years old and that was a similar age to Alice when she first went to Wonderland. At that age when you are removed from your world and placed in a different one you can completely absorb it. That was a very interesting time for me to experience another culture. I used to speak a little Polish but not very well.
You started in ballet, how did you move to film?
Mia Wasikowska: I did dance very intensely for a number of years. From the age of eight to 14. Towards the end I was doing 35 hours a week. So I was always intensely into something. Before I decided to pursue acting, dance had become about trying to achieve physical perfection, which was so unattainable. Then I was smaller and less comfortable with myself and less happy with my body because I was always being confronted with my imperfections. At that time I was watching films that inspired me because they were about people's imperfections. So I became interested in that and that was more true to me.
You like a challenge because after playing an iconic figure like Alice you are playing Jane Eyre?
Mia Wasikowska: That's right. I have kind of started preparing. I have re-read the book and want to be knowledgeable about all things connected to Jane Eyre.
How did you find the costumes for Alice?
Mia Wasikowska: Even though Alice is from another time she is very much like a modern character. If you were to put her in our society she would thrive. I feel she is a modern girl stuck in another time. I love the costumes. Every one of them was so detailed and beautiful.
How do you feel about becoming a new Disney icon?
Mia Wasikowska: I don't know. I guess I have no choice.
What was the green screen experience like in making Alice in Wonderland?
Mia Wasikowska: It was very strange. You have to bring a lot more energy and focus to working. You don't realize how lucky you are to have an environment where you can get some feeling or have an actor from whom to bounce off. When you are acting opposite a tennis ball you have no idea what the Cheshire Cat will actually be doing. It's about trusting Tim.
So was it with a sense of wonder that you finally saw the film?
Mia Wasikowska: Definitely! It is being revealed to me in the same way that it has been revealed to everybody else. I had seen concept art but not the final thing and to see it together was wonderful.