It was a bit of a mad tea party at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills on a nice Sunday afternoon. Although we were inside one of the hotel’s ballrooms, a small stage was decked out like a mini-tea party for some very special guests to arrive. Alice Through the Looking Glass director, James Bobin; producer, Suzanne Todd and two of the stars of the film, Anne Hathaway and Mia Wasikowska spoke with us about this time-traveling sequel to Alice In Wonderland.
Anne comments on the backstory and divide between the sisters, how fun it was going back in time to play that younger character with Helena?
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): Yeah, it was fun to learn that she’s not perfect. So it was nice to know, like everyone, she’s got a past and she has regrets. You get into these things. I was actually, really thrilled that we were trying to see what the emotions were of some of these characters that look so fantastic, but then feel so beautiful.
On the wardrobe in the film and wearing the costumes.
MIA WASIKOWSKA (Alice): Colleen Atwood (costume designer) is brilliant and obviously such a genius, but also quite evil, cause they’re very uncomfortable costumes. But in this one I got to wear lots of trousers. Things that were a lot more accessible. Obviously this film is really active. I wear a suit at the beginning and at the end, even that Oriental coat skirt is pants also.
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): I wore no trousers, I loved it actually. I thought that Colleen’s costume probably created my character. I knew I had certain kinds of ideas of who she was, and as soon as I put on the dress, it was like “She’s there.”
How do you pay homage to what comes before to retain that essence, but put your spin on it?
JAMES BOBIN (Director): This movie is obviously set in a different time period and geographic location, so I was allowed to bring something of myself to it as well. I wanted to pay tribute to him (Lewis Carroll) in a sense in a story he could appreciate. As a mathematician he would appreciate time-travel, cause equations and physics basically. And having Time be a person was, of course, Lewis Carroll’s idea. Lewis Carroll wrote it in the book.
SUZZANE TODD (Producer): We were very lucky in many cases to have Danny Elfman come back to do the score and Colleen Atwood, who won an Oscar for the first Alice, to come back and do the costumes. We had a new production designer, Dan Hennah, another Academy award winner that we were lucky we really chose someone who really fit in and helped James. Again, to honor what Tim (Burton) had done, but push it into something fresh and new that was James’ thing.
How they got into Alice and the source materials.
JAMES BOBIN (Director): In England they’re often published together, the two books. I think they got read to me first as a young child, then once I learned to read myself.
SUZZANE TODD (Producer): Growing up in California, I went to Disneyland and I rode the Alice ride. There are actually two Alice rides at Disneyland, there’s the Mad Tea Cups and Alice’s Adventure ride. Just as a very young girl I was, and still as obsessed with Disney. Not just Disneyland, all Disney Parks the happiest place to be. And after having been on the Alice ride I did get very interested and have a reaction to it.
MIA WASIKOWSKA (Alice): When I was younger, I think I was out with my mum showing us the stop motion version of the film and then I read the books. I don’t know when, but I also read them before we started the first film and then read both of them before that film.
Mia on what it was like coming back to work on the sequel and reprising the role of Alice, since getting her start from the first Alice movie.
MIA WASIKOWSKA (Alice): It was really unexpected. I didn’t think it was going to happen and then I was really surprised when about 3 years ago they started talking about it again. But it was really great. Six years has passed having already done the film and having worked with the cast and a lot of the creative team, I knew what I was stepping into a second time around… and it was really enjoyable because of that.
What was it like doing the stunt work in this movie?
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): My stunt got cut.
Laughter all around as James comments, “It was very well done.” Anne replies with, “Thank you.”
Suzzane also adds in, “Saving it for the DVD extras.” Anne replies with, “That means a lot.”
JAMES BOBIN (Director): The journey Alice undertakes to save The Hatter involves a bit of work, for sure. You can’t do those things with a normal character and this character is not a superhero. She’s a girl who’s brave and has intelligence. We made sure Alice struggles to do these things. It’s not easy. She’s a sea captain, she’s a real person. She can climb rigging, but it’s not easy. She can jump on to the hands of a clock, but she falls over easy. I didn’t want to make her feel too competent. She wouldn’t be. You’re brave, you’re strong and you’re determined, so that was the basis of the action.
MIA WASIKOWSKA (Alice): That’s where a great stunt lady, Helen Bailey… I did a couple of very minor things.
The group comments about her doing a stunt spinning and spinning until she was blue, which is very nauseating.
Then James comments on her shooting on the ship at night, in England, in November, being in a 19th Century wool frock coat being completely blue. Blue lips with ice forming on the deck which was amazing.
Asked how they relate to the theme of the movie about time moving against you and being a female in the business.
MIA WASIKOWSKA (Alice): There are so many messages in this film that I think are really great. There’s always things that we wish we could do different in the past, but the best way to have peace with it is to accept it and then move forward. As for the female lead… I guess it’s an anomaly to have a film, a big summer blockbuster… it has a female lead. I guess that’s strange. That’s unusual. So hopefully that will become more normal.
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): I saw the film a few weeks ago and there was one scene that I was surprised to find myself really crying. It was scene where Alice wakes up and she’s in the mental institution and reasons she was committed was for being excitable. Typical female hysteria and they tried to inject her with a drug to dull her. To make her less herself and more controllable and she fights back. She turns it around and winds up injecting him with it. I was bursting with pride to be in a movie that is taking the narrative back. And I’m really proud to work with a company like Disney, whether or not it wants to continue doing that, looks at the stories and now has the courage to revise them based on what we know and how we’ve evolved. So that part really moved me. In terms of time… I invite all of us in this room, all of you with your incredible power as journalists to stop the narrative saying that women lose power as they get older. I’m becoming way more powerful as I get older and I’m tired of myself feeling the opposite. And I’m not going to do it and I can’t do it alone. It’s going to take everybody in here to stop using that language and take the narrative back the way Alice does.
Asked if they had any experiences, as a young person or as an actor, being told they couldn’t do that because you’re a girl or it’s too hard?
SUZZANE TODD (Producer): I think we all had that. I think that if I asked every woman in here, like raise your hand if you were ever told that it was going to be hard for you or you couldn’t do something because you were a woman, right? Unfortunately it’s commonplace in society. It’s part of what has been the narrative for so long and there some positive things happening to change it, but I think we’re all really happy that we get to be part of that conversation. We’re talking about a big summer movie and also be talking about female empowerment. It’s fantastic and hopefully that’s a step towards change.
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): I was really lucky. My parents were really smart. They never said, “You can do anything because you’re a girl.” They said, “You could do anything” and they said the same thing to my brothers. And I believed them because I loved them. I trusted them. I’m really greatful they didn’t tell me it was going to be harder. Because I think when you say to someone it’s going to be harder for you because of X, Y or Z, you believe it. And so you already start off, kind of, a little bit defeated. It’s helpful knowledge but I’m not sure how helpful it is for a kid to know that something is unpossible. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned what the challenges are and I’m going with them. But I’m really happy that my parents gave that initial, beautiful gust of wind to take off with.
When asked where the characters come from and who Alice is based from.
JAMES BOBIN (Director): A lot of this comes from Lewis Carroll himself. Read the books. Alice was a real girl. Alice was the daughter of Charles Dodgson, who’s the real Lewis Carroll, whos bosses daughter was Alice Liddell. She was born in the 1850’s and he read that for her, and about her, and I really think he saw within her the 8-year old girl as we remember her to be.
Anne on working with Helena Bonham Carter.
ANNE HATHAWAY (The White Queen): I think Helena is one of my favorite people on the planet. I think the world’s better because she’s on it. She’s so inventive, and fresh and literally in all definitions fresh. She’s got a wonderfully fresh mouth, and she’s fearless, and she’s vulnerable, and she’s open, and she’s friendly and I admire her so much. It was really exciting for me to get to have more scenes with her this time around. Yes, because I got to work with an incredible actress, but also because I also got to talk to her between takes. Which I loved and I think we had a really fun time crafting a sister relationship together.
What inspired Time’s Castle?
James collects mantle piece clocks and got his inspiration for Time’s castle from one of them. Opening the back, seeing the gaps and cogs made him think about how Alice would traverse these to get to the Chronosphere.
Opening Scene tidbit:
Mia thought that everyone really enjoyed throwing water on her during the ocean scene. In which James replies that it was fun and that if you look at the takes, Mia was smiling.
After the Q&A event was over, I kinda wondered if the cakes were real and what they did with them if they were. They did look too pretty to eat.
Alice Through the Looking Glass comes out in theaters on May 27th.