Academy Award nominated actress Anne Hathaway will be a far cry from her dramatic role in Rachel Getting Married when she appears in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland as the White Queen. Hathaway has come a long way since The Princess Diaries by landing roles that constantly challenge her as an actress and this character is no different. She plays one of the good guys in the film, who seeks the aid of Alice to defeat her maniacal sister.
As the White Queen Hathaway is a stark contrast to Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen. She’s fair skinned, fair haired, and free spirited in every sense of the word. As an audience we see the character as the victim of her sister’s wicked ways, but Hathaway doesn’t think she’s that innocent. According to the actress, there’s something else brewing beneath the surface of the White Queen that’s a lot more devious than anything we could ever imagine.
Unlike a lot of people, Anne Hathaway didn’t read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a child but as an adult, so her first impression of the story was far from the norm.
I was really moved by it, she’s a very emotional character and I think a lot of people feel confused at 19 years old. Who they are? Who they think they are? Who they want to be? You struggle with a sense of identity then and other times in your life. I read the book from that perspective as a girl who’s trying to find her identity, which is great because that’s what the movie really focuses on. Which Alice are you? That’s my experience.
Even though she didn’t get on board with the mythology until later, she was familiar with the Jabberwocky character and shared an experience she had as a child that ended up resurfacing on set for the film.
I’m glad you reminded me about Jabberwocky because when I was in 5th grade I had teacher and he made the entire class memorize Jabberwocky and perform it. I made Tim [Burton] during the battle sequence, I made him let me recite the poem and he was like, ‘it’s not going to be in the film,’ I’m like, ‘I know but just for my own sense of completion, please let me do this.’
Hathaway’s version of the White Queen has been described as “a punk-rock vegan pacifist” who was inspired by bands like Blondie. On the surface it sounds like a weird mix of things that have absolutely nothing to do with Wonderland, but Hathaway begs to differ.
The pacifist thing was in the script. My character has taken a vowel of non-violence, but it was [also] in the script that when she talks about that she hits a bug and then it’s like… I thought about. That gave me the idea that she’s taken this vow against her will, that she recognizes that her sister is sick and believes that an ends to a means is cutting people heads off. It’s her default setting. I’m just like, I don’t want her to be in charge, so I guess I have to be in charge.
Hathaway’s inspiration for the character came from a very random, very eclectic mix of pop culture icons.
I like the idea that my character probably left to her devices, might not have wanted to be queen. Then I started to think about who she was when she was in her off queen time. She spends a lot of time in the kitchen, and I kind of imagined her in mosh-pits and not really punching anyone, but butting against people very hard. I like Blondie, so I thought, she’s blond, so that was kind of obvious, but I still wanted her to have a regal thing so there’s a Greta Garbo movie I watched because I still think no one has ever quite moved on film the way she did. Her whole body just looks like it’s breathing and it was a time where acting was very stylized to kind of be very over the top.
In the film, the White Queen is the exact opposite of her sister, and there’s an interesting dynamic between the two. Director Tim Burton didn’t want their portrayals to be cut and dry, good or bad. He wanted there to be moral ambiguity.
That was one the most fun parts about my character, there was this freedom Tim gave me from the first conversation we had. He said, ‘in Wonderland I don’t want anything to be all good or all bad, so I don’t want it to be the Red Queen is the bad one and you’re like the nice benevolent one who’s all good.’ So he said, ‘have fun exploring the relationship between the two of them that come from the same place.’ I thought, how fun, if my character has a sort of hidden psychosis.
She is interested in knives and things like that, and is kind of adorable on the outside and has tried very hard to become this good almost over the top positive creature, but underneath she has a murderous streak that comes out when she’s around weaponry. It wasn’t necessarily that they were opposites, they were just sisters who were different.
The White Queen is one of the few characters in the film that isn’t CGI. Unlike her co-stars Michael Sheen and Matt Lucas, Hathaway’s character appears the old school way using hair and makeup. We wanted to know if she would have preferred being a partially animated character as opposed to being live action.
Honestly, I would do anything. I’m fond of saying that I would have played a mushroom if that’s the way he [Tim] saw me. I would have happily dawned my green Onesie and been up in stilts. I would have just done anything to be in Wonderland, but I don’t know, it’s kind of nice to be a real person, I have no preference. I’m sorry, I don’t.
Alice in Wonderland opens in theaters nationwide on March 5th.