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12 things we learned at the mad Alice Through the Looking Glass press conference

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To celebrate the release of Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass in the UK on the 27th of May, the film’s stars: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska and Sacha Baron Cohen, as well as director James Bobin, and producer Tim Burton, dropped by the Corinthia Hotel in London to talk to press from all over the world. Live for Films was in the audience and has picked out the highlights for you from a lively Q and A.

In Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Directed byJames Bobin, who brings his own unique vision to the spectacular world Tim Burton created on screen in 2010 with “ Alice in Wonderland”, the film is written by Linda Woolverton, based on characters created by Lewis Carroll, and produced by Tim Burton.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” reunites the all-star cast from the worldwide blockbuster phenomenon, including: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter, along with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. We are also introduced to several new characters: Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans), the Mad Hatter’s father, and Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), a peculiar creature who is part human, part clock.

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Baron Cohen was in high spirits, but not a fan of the cakes set out for him – desperately trying to find an empty cup or hand to deposit one in after an exploratory chew. Depp, on the other hand, used them as a prop – balancing a plate full of muffins on his head until they crashed down at Mia Wasikowska’s feet. Wasikowska was fairly reserved, humble, quiet and highly intelligent, and Tim Burton kept his head down a little too, but became rather animated by the end. Buckle up – things are about to get a little weird…

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Sacha Baron Cohen based his character, ‘Time’, on a wardrobe decision, and may have been victimised on set:

During production I was very depressed. This guy here (Depp) was bullying me. Elastic bands were thrown at me, he had his security team hound me – pinning me down, and I was I think the term is “wedgied” by a large man from Zambia. [everyone laughs]

‘Time’ is complex. I wanted to wear tights, as I have ladies legs. So it was very important to me to wear tights to create the character. [everyone laughs] It was also important to create a character who was immature, incredibly narcisistic, and ill suited for the most important job in the world – a bit like Donald Trump. [everyone laughs]

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Johnny Depp on why he really returned to play The Hatter, and the historical origins of his madness.

It was great to go back and explore this story of Alice some more… I actually did the movie on a dare! [everyone laughs] It shows a very different side of The Hatter – beyond the multi-personality – and shows him at his lowest point. C’mon – that was fascinating!

The hatter’s back in the 19th century worked with beaver pelts to make top hats, and the repellant that they used was rife with mercury, so at the time a lot of hatters started going a little… mad. Hence the orange and green… So yeah, hatters used to go crazy because of mercury.

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Mia Wasikowska’s thoughts on time travel.

Um… I’m probably alright not travelling in time? [everyone laughs] There’s not anything I’d like to do again, I don’t think. It’s very much about accepting what’s happened and that freeing you to being more comfortable in the present.

If I did travel through time, I’d probably just do something really boring like go back in time to when I was one-year-old and having someone look after me in a pram or something.

Depp (deadpan): Well I can do that. After this. I’m free. [everyone laughs]

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James Bobin didn’t heed Tim Burton’s warning.

One of the first things I did was visit Tim in Vancouver, and he warned me about how hard it was. But did I listen? No. I’m still here. I created my world within the parameters of his, and we were shooting in London and Tim lives here – so that was very helpful.

I felt that as the film was in a different time period and geopgraphical place I had some freedom to still do what I wanted in Tim’s universe. Sacha’s character had to fit in with what had gone before.

 

Tim Burton had good reason for selecting incoming director James Bobin, and developed a colour phobia after Alice in Wonderland.

James wanted to do it. He had this enthusiasm and was so positive about it. He had such a clear idea, and a different energy. That’s a big thing – you need someone with that energy and that focus. I’m still seeing green from all the green screen on the first film! In fact I kicked a few people out of here earlier for wearing green shirts!

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Johnny Depp’s first love isn’t movies.

Music was my first love. I was 12 and it hasn’t stopped since – it’s still my first love. There was a certain point when people started to know who I was for acting, and that dream just stopped. Then we had Alice (Cooper) in Dark Shadows, and he asked me to jam at the 100 Club. We played a bit then he asked me to write some songs for him. I wrote five or six songs and suddenly I was writing songs for Alice Cooper! Then that turned into this Hollywood Vampires band. So in a weird way that dream that I left behind became a reality in the end. Movies have become my day job. Doing this film was a real treat, but I’m not a real movie watcher.

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The origin of Sacha Baron Cohen’s accent as ‘Time’ is up for debate.

He’s German… He’s more slightly… He’s a Bavarian-y… kind of… I don’t know… He’s Bavarian by way of California? [everyone laughs] He has that. Kind of. Emphatic. Pompous. Way… of… talking… Where everything… seems… very. Crucial. Info.

Burton: I thought you based him on Jean-Claude van Damme? [everyone laughs]

Depp: No. That was me. [everyone laughs]

 

Who Mia Wasikowsaka would have a tea party with if she could invite any three guests – dead or alive.

Patti Smith, Mary Shelley and Amy Winehouse.

 

Depp and Baron Cohen’s tea party improv scene did some damage to the filming equipment.

Baron Cohen: The studio was so hot, and the improv scene lasted so long that the camera melted. [everyone laughs]

Depp: Peripherally, I could see crew members just walking off for lunch. [everyone laughs]

 

Johnny Depp’s four life lessons.

Search for simplicity.

Stay away from anything that makes people stare at you in a restaurant, or follow you around.

Avoid people who write incredibly ludicrous fiction about you and you family.

If anyone ever gives you any shit just beat the fuck out of them.

 

Tim Burton’s opinion on the amount of LGBT characters in the Disney universe.

Well… I mean… I hate labels. I know we’re in a time when… I I wish we weren’t in a world where… “Why do women not get paid as much as men?” It’s stupid. None of these things… Are there gay or lesbian… It’s unfortunate that we have to even talk about it. How do you deal with it? I don’t know. It’s unfortunate. But I don’t what that is anyway. I don’t know if I’m gay or straight, or if my friends are, or if they’re men or women. So I’m way behid the times.

 

And, of course, Johnny Depp on dog smuggling.

Depp: I would really like to apologise for not smuggling my dogs into England. Because it would have been a baaaaad thing to do. The Australians are… chipper, aren’t they?

Burton: I forgot to tell you: they’re dead – I just sat on them earlier, by accident.

Depp: I tried to kill them after Australia!

 

 

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