Star Mia Wasikowska, director James Bobin and producer Suzanne Todd take you Through the Looking Glass!
Few could have predicted back in early 2010 that Tim Burton’s big-screen take on Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland would become as globally embraced as it did. With the original bringing in more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, a sequel to Alice in Wonderland has been teased for years. This summer, it’s finally here as The Muppets and Flight of the Conchords helmer James Bobin takes the director’s chair for May 27th’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Mia Wasikowska is back as Alice alongside a host of returning Wonderland faces and, thanks to a new villain played by Sacha Baron Cohen, it’s very much about Time.
“Once we came across the idea, which was a small notion in the books, of time and the importance of time, the significance of time, that seemed like something that we could all relate to,” says returning producer Suzanne Todd. “It feels like everybody struggles with it or, in some cases, you don’t struggle with it and you just waste your time all day, surfing Facebook or doing Buzzfeed quizzes… We wanted to take that on in a serious way.”
“This film is a prequel and sequel,” says Bobin. “…It’s very hard. Time travel movies are very hard… Luckily we have the license of it being Wonderland, which is kind of crazy, but helpful, because obviously, logic in films is always a nightmare anyway. Logic in a time travel film is 100 times that… [But] I wanted to have an idea that she couldn’t change the past. The past is the past. It’s been and done, and that’s not normal. Normally in films, if you change the past, it affects the future, the fading photographs and stuff. That’s a normal trope with this. I liked the idea that she couldn’t change anything. She can’t help his wife from dying. She can’t do that. She couldn’t change the past, but she could observe it and then learn things that could help her solve the problem in the future. That, I thought, was a much more clever idea and that’s what I wanted to pursue with this.”
“The rule in the second movie is you can’t go where you’ve been before,” Todd explains, “Which is why they need Alice’s help, because, as the White Queen will tell you, we’ve already been there, so we can’t go there again… We call it Alice brain, when you talk too much about who she was where when and at which time and where you could go and where you couldn’t go.”
The story begins some time after the events of Alice in Wonderland with Mia Wasikowska’s Alice returning from a trip to sea.
“In the first one, she’s very much finding her feet and is a little awkward and uncomfortable,” says Mia Wasikowsa. “In the second one, she’s got a much stronger sense of who she is. She has just spent a year abroad traveling and being the captain of a ship, so she’s got a very strong sense of who she is.”
It is upon her return to England that Alice finds herself suddenly returning to Wonderland where she learns that something has gone very wrong with the Hatter. In an effort to save him, Alice confronts the living embodiment of Time (who just so happens to be in a relationship with Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen).
“Time itself has this design whereabout he is clockwork,” Bobin explains. “He’s not a human, though he has human traits. He is clockwork machine.”
Sacha Baron Cohen found his inspiration for time, however, from a somewhat surprising source. According to Todd, the character’s accent is largely based on legendary German film director Werner Herzog.
“There was a guy that had written this very famous piece that went viral, called ‘Werner Herzog’s [Note to His Cleaning Lady].’ You should read it if you haven’t read it. It’s really funny. Sacha had read it and that had sparked in his mind as a Werner thing that plays throughout the film.”
“Their dynamic is quite funny,” says Mia Wasikowska of Alice’s relationship with Time, “because she’s the only one who makes him explain himself a little bit, because he’s sort of just talks in like a circle and everybody else is just really confused. So, they have a really cute, really funny banter between them.”
There was also funny banter between Sacha Baron Cohen and Johnny Depp that got, at times, a bit too funny.
“I know both of them very well and they’re very dear friends,” Bobin explains, “but they both like to talk a lot… It was a hot day and obviously Pinewood doesn’t have air conditioning, because why would it? England is never that hot, so don’t bother. Basically, we are doing an outdoor scene, indoors, so we have a thousand lights upstairs shining down. I think it was 105 degrees. It was very, very hot and they’re both wearing these enormous costumes, but they’re having such fun. They’re talking and talking and talking and, in one take, they did an eight-and-a-half minute take, which broke the camera. The camera was hovering on a crane and suddenly it just powered down, because it was massively overheating. Because they keep going and going and going.”
“It was so R-rated,” laughs Todd. “Completely R-rated. We were like, ‘Please say something I can put in the movie!'”
“It’s fun, and you end up using bits of it,” smiles Bobin, “but yeah, it’s also something where you go, ‘Maybe a shorter take next time? Maybe the script? I don’t know, maybe the script works?”
“I do envy it a little bit,” says Mia Wasikowska. “It seems really fun. They get to sort of be really wild. I understand that in Alice there needs to be a grounding character and Alice is very much the audience’s way into the story and their eyes. She’s more like grounded, centered eyes that you can experience this really bizarre characters.”
Alice Through the Looking Glass opens in theaters on May 27, 2016. You can view new posters and photos in the gallery below.