Bold heroines, imperfect queens rule ‘Alice’ sequel – USA TODAY

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Mia Wasikowska stars as Alice in the Disney film ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass.’

BEVERLY HILLS —Anne Hathaway always knew the White Queen couldn’t be that good.

So what was her reaction to her character’s rather sinister backstory in Alice Through the Looking Glass (in theaters Friday)? “Thank God,” Hathaway emphasizes. “It was nice to have a suspicion about my character confirmed.”

Mia Wasikowska, too, returns as the adventurous Alice in the sequel, and continues to defy norms of the era, refusing to be married off or take a desk job. Thrown into a mental hospital and diagnosed with hysteria, Alice escapes to Underland, determined to travel back through time to rescue the Mad Hatter’s family (Johnny Depp also returns). “She has such a strong sense of who she is, especially in that time,” says Wasikowska.

Director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) says Alice’s self-assuredness is just following Lewis Carroll’s lead from the books, written in the mid-1800s. “She’s always been this incredibly strong character,” he says. “She really feels like the girl from book who’s grown up into the woman that Mia is.”

It’s their characters’ faults and frailties that lit Hathaway up. “I’m so ready to torch perfection,” says the new mom. “Just throw some lighter fluid on it and light it up. I think everybody’s ready for that.”

Eschewing Victorian gowns of the time and donning exotic outfits from her worldly travels (and even chopping her long blond locks), Alice adds another notch in Disney’s belt of atypical princess stories. “Despite everything that happens to her and (the fact that) expectations around her are really low, she holds on to that core sense that she’s worth more, which I think is important for girls — and also boys,” says Wasikowska.

Growing up, the actress cites the female characters in books like Matilda and stories by Roald Dahl striking her as inspiring. For Hathaway, it was the movie A League of Their Own. “I loved all the characters in it,” she says. “It was a moment when women were expected to be strong.”

Meanwhile, a fresh villain awaits Alice onscreen. In Looking Glass, Wasikowska is still hunted by the revenge-fueled Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), whose origin story is explored.  But she’s also chased by Time, played “sort of like this all powerful buffoon” by Sacha Baron Cohen, says Wasikowska, whose Alice steals his time-traveling device called a Chronosphere.

“Sacha’s very good at playing characters which are basically confident idiots,” says Bobin, who was a writer and director on Cohen’s Da Ali G Show.

Wasikowska laughs that somewhere “there’s like a 6-hour version of just Sacha being X-rated Sacha. I don’t know how he thought any of that could end up in a Disney movie, but he’s super-smart and really funny. He made that character what it is.”

If the sequel dwells on our bittersweet relationship with time, Hathaway, who is nursing her 8-week-old son Jonathan (with husband Adam Shulman), is definitely on her baby’s clock.

“Somebody told me when you have kids, the days are long and the years are short and that’s kind of the way I am right now. I haven’t slept since he was born, and that should be making me cranky and that should be making the days feel endless, but they’re not,” she says, smiling. “My day revolves around when he’s awake and that feels like such a short amount of time right now.”

Bold heroines, imperfect queens rule ‘Alice’ sequel – USA TODAY

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