By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) reprises her role as Mirana a.k.a. The White Queen in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 adventure film “Alice in Wonderland.”
This time around, the colorful, effects-laden fantasy is directed by James Bobin (who also helmed the recent “Muppets” movies) from an adapted screenplay by Linda Woolverton, and is based on the Lewis Carroll classic.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska, reprising her role) returns to Wonderland via a mirror (looking glass) in order to go back in time to find out what happened to the Hatter’s (Johnny Depp, reprising his red-haired milliner) family. In order to do so, she must steal a chronosphere, which is guarded by Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). She isn’t the only one after the device. Bossy, bigheaded Iracebeth a.k.a. The Red Queen (played again by Helena Bonham Carter) wants it and Time is smitten with her so he sort of wants to give it to her. When Alice takes off to the past in the orb-like contraption, she witnesses events that reveal long-buried secrets about why things are the way they are in the present. Of course, The Red Queen and Time are hot on her heels, which leads to trouble.
In addition to the time-traveling action in the sequel, there’s an intricate drama going on between Iracebeth and Mirana, a riff that dates back to their childhood.
The 33-year-old Brooklyn native, who recently gave birth to her first child with husband actor/producer Adam Shulman, looks elegant in a flowery pant suit while talking about reprising her role in the Disney family adventure film, how becoming a mother won’t necessarily affect her penchant for risky roles and how she feels more powerful as a woman in Hollywood the older she gets.
Q: You’re coming back as the White Queen and we get to see the backstory of the divide between the sisters. Was it fun to go back in time and play that younger character with Helena as the Red Queen?
Hathaway: Yeah. It was fun to learn that she’s not perfect. I think she’s sort of lovely in the first one but a bit oppressively good so it’s nice to know that, like everyone, she’s got a past and she has regrets and she feels shame, she feels guilt and that you forgive her these things, so I actually was really thrilled that we were trying to see what the emotions were about this character who looks so fantastical but then feels so believable.
Q: You have played a lot of great characters in major films. Who would you like to work with in future and would you do some low budget films as well?
Hathaway: I just made a really weird movie last year. I think the budget was $5 million, when it was stretched to that, called “Colossal.” You’ll see it, I hope. It’s not too dissimilar from this. I’d be thrilled to work with everybody I’m sitting with again and, yeah, I always get such a blank when asked who I want to work with. I think it’s the actor in me that says, “Don’t get too specific. Just be grateful for what you have” but I’ve always wanted to be in a Quentin Tarantino film. I love the way he sees women and I think there’s not enough of that in the world and I’ve love to be in one of his films.
Q: You have been a few family-oriented films like the “Princess Diaries” films. Do you think, “This is something that my son can watch?”
Hathaway: You give me a lot of credit as a mom that when I was 17 years old, I thought, “My kids are going to watch this someday.” I’m an exceptional mother. (She laughs.) I didn’t think about that when I did “The Princess Diaries,” and I got questions about being a role model. It never occurred to me that actors should be role models for a multitude of reasons but that’s not what I’m interested in so I don’t make films for that reason. If they happen to work out that way sure, I’m thrilled. I’ve now been in a lot of films, actually that you can go to into a theater and have a date night with your family or you can sit down on the couch in sweat pants and become a human amoeba and just chill out together and feel warm and connected and I’m proud of that in my body of work are stories that allow families to experience them together. I can’t say that I’m going to continue to make them because I have a child now. I just will hopefully continue to make them because I respond to them and seek challenges as an actress.
Q: This film has a lot of female empowerment subtext woven into it. How do you relate to scenes in the movie about time being put, figuratively, in a box?
Hathaway: I saw the film three weeks ago and there was one scene in which I was surprised to find myself really crying during and it was the scene where Alice wakes up and she’s in a mental institution and the reasons that she was committed were for being excitable and imaginative I think maybe. It was a typical female hysteria and they tried to inject her with A drug that would dull her and to make her less herself and more controllable and she fights back and turns it around and winds up injecting him (the doctor) with it and I was bursting with pride to be in a movie that is taking the narrative back. I was proud to work with a company like Disney who is really looking at where it has been and whether or not it wants to continue with that. It looks at the stories that it has put out in the world and now it has the courage to revise them based on what we know and how we’ve evolved.
So that part really moved me. And, in terms of time, I invite all of us, all of you in the room with your incredible power as journalists to stop the narrative of saying that women lose power as they get older. I don’t feel trapped as I 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 that Alice does.
Q: When you were growing up, were you ever told you couldn’t do something because you were female?
Hathaway: I was really lucky. My parents were very smart and they never said, “You can do anything because you’re a girl.” They just said, “You can do anything.” And, they said the same to my brothers and I believed them because I loved them and I trusted them. I’m really grateful they didn’t tell me it was going to be harder because I think when you say to someone that it’s going to be harder for you because of x, y or z, generally one thing, you believe it. So, you start off 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” so I think I was really lucky and, as I’ve gotten older, I learned what the challenges are but I’m really happy that my parents gave me that beautiful gust of wind to take off with.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your lovely wardrobe in “Alice Through the Looking Glass?” Did you have favorite pieces that you enjoyed wearing?
Hathaway: I loved it, actually. You know I thought that Colleen’s (Atwood, Oscar winning costume designer) costume for me probably created my character. I had certain inclinate ideas about who Mirana was and as soon as I put on the dress, it was like “Oh, she’s there.” I also started to think about the relationship between her and Helena and I thought if you have a family member who has a very large personality, has a lot of emotions, you compensate by taking up less space. I thought here’s somebody who is literally turning herself into almost weightless and yet it is still so ornamented so I just thought it was very rich and very airy so that is how I came up with my airhead.
Q: What was your introduction to Lewis Carroll’s books? Do you appreciate his work more now that you’ve looked closer at the source material in making these movies?
Hathaway: I first read Alice as a teenager. I was reading “Lolita,” and it was an annotated version. In it, I read that (Vladimir) Nabokov was really influenced by Lewis Carroll, specifically by “Alice in Wonderland,” and I thought if I really want to understand “Lolita,” I’d have to read ”Alice in Wonderland” first so I read it. I think being 19 and fairly dramatic and being in college at the time, I focused so much on how well Lewis Carroll described madness—the idea that you see the world just a little bit off, and I remember feeling very connected to that at the time. I felt a kinship and at home and was very pleased with it.
Q: What kind of relationship did you have with Helena Bonham Carter on the set? Did you discuss your scenes together?
Hathaway: I think Helena is one of my favorite people on the planet Earth. I think the world is better because she is on it. She’s so inventive and fresh, literally all the definitions of 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 so it was really exciting for me to have more scenes with her this time around Yes, I got to work with an incredible actor but also because I got to talk to her between scenes which I love. I think we had a really nice time crafting a sisterly relationship together and trying to find something that felt true to us and that people would understand.