Mia Wasikowska beat out thousands of young actresses to land the title role in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. The native Australian is a relative new comer to American audiences, which will undoubtedly change after the release of this film. At only 20 years old she’s landed a gig alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter so when we had the opportunity to attend the official press conference for the film we wanted to know what it was that made her THE Alice.

In the film, Alice is no longer the precocious girl we’re using to seeing and hearing about in popular culture. She’s an adult dealing with some serious challenges regarding her future. During this time her family has marriage on the brain and she feels pressured to conform to what they want despite her own reservations. Wasikowska used her own interpretation of that struggle to make her version of the character truly unique.

Alice in Wonderland is based on the Lewis Carroll books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its unofficial sequel Through the Looking Glass. The latter featured a much older Alice who was dealing with the pressure of being a young woman in her old school society. The idea of what she wants to do with her adult life constantly clashes with the plans that her family has for her in the film. Through all the conflict and confusion Wasikowska felt that there was something she could bring to the role because she connected with the character on multiple levels.

I think that Alice, at this time in the story, I think that she’s at this time in her life that a lot of people sort of experience something that she’s going through. It’s this kind of uncomfortable or this discomfort in your skin and with who you are. She just has this awkwardness about her that I think a lot of people really go through in their life. That was something that I kind of understood and ultimately her story is kind of her coming back to who she is as a young girl, which is really assertive, and very sure of what she believes is right and wrong. And so, the story is just kind of her reconnecting with herself.

Wasikowska had to do her homework and re-familiarize herself with the character before shooting the film. She discussed her first experience reading the books as a child and the differences she noticed in the stories as an adult.

I read the books when I was about 8 or 9 and then I read them again before we started filming and saw that as an older person I saw this whole other side to them that I didn’t really catch as a kid. I think it’s amazing ’cause it kind of constantly reveals itself to you in different ways and the humor becomes evident. And I’m sure as a kid I saw something else that I didn’t get as an adult and there were parts that I would have loved as a kid that I probably, you know, missed as an older person.

Tim Burton is a director known for his unique visual style and has had an extremely successful career over the past 20 years. To be cast as the leading lady in one of his productions is an amazing feat for any actress, especially one so young. Wasikowska’s relationship with the director on set was based on trust. She felt comfortable in his creative hands and knew that his vision of Alice would be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

I’ve loved his films for such a long time so the coolest part was actually seeing [them] from the beginning because you know, I always just see the end, like the final product. So just to see the whole process was really amazing and also Tim’s really trusting as a director so from the minute that you know you’re cast, you just feel a lot of trust and freedom and collaboration as well, which is sort of all you can ask for.

Alice in Wonderland opens in theaters nationwide on March 5th.

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