In this Screen Tests interview, actress Mia Wasikowska discusses her nomadic childhood, her intense ballet training as a girl and how her film career took off thanks to Google search.
Mia Wasikowska, with her almost spectral elegance and innate grace, is somehow the love child of Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. This otherworldly quality made her the perfect actress to portray out-of-time heroines like Alice (in Wonderland) and, most recently, the title character in the new Jane Eyre. Though 21, the Australian actress is convincing as a modern teen in The Kids Are All Right and the upcoming Restless, directed by Gus Van Sant. She often has a faraway, slightly unknowable look in her eye: Wasikowska and her characters seem to have secrets, which fuel the mystery of both.
What was the first movie that made a big impression on you?
I think it was Bambi. I remember being traumatized by the experience—I was so upset when the mum died in the movie. There were a few films that got me interested in acting and cinema. I’m Polish, but I grew up in Australia. My mom used to have a lot of European cinema playing in the house, so I’d catch bits and pieces of films. I really, really loved Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films, especially Blue and Red.
Do you speak Polish?
A little bit but not very well. When I was eight years old, we lived in Poland for a year. I was just there about three weeks ago—it definitely seems very familiar. I am at home there, but I feel like I could live anywhere now.
Perhaps that’s because you’ve been on movie sets all over the world from the time you were a teenager. Did you get your start in school plays?
I did a few amateur theater productions when I was young, but I was really shy. I didn’t like drama classes, so it has always surprised me that I ended up in films. I’d always done dance. I was eight when I started ballet. I was really serious—I danced about 35 hours a week. I finished with dance when I was about 15.
All of a sudden?
Well, I started not enjoying ballet, because it was so much about physical perfection. What I like about film is it explores imperfections. That was something that really attracted me.
When I decided to pursue acting at 15, I heard that you had to have an agent to do film and television, so I did a Google search for acting agencies in Sydney. I hounded one to take me on and started auditioning. I did some films in Australia, and then I started working in America on [HBO’s] In Treatment when I was 17.
You played Sophie, a 16-year-old Olympics-bound gymnast who was in a state of emotional anguish.
Although I’m not particularly troubled myself, I do have a lot of empathy for troubled characters. When it came to the last episode of In Treatment, I was a mess. That character was like my friend—I was in another country, away from my family—and then she was gone.
You’ve embodied two very famous characters: Alice, in Alice in Wonderland, and now Jane Eyre. Was it difficult to play such icons?
Alice is beloved, so that was a responsibility. I did about five auditions for Alice before I got the role.
Did you have to wear a corset as Alice?
Yes—for two scenes, and it was very painful. But now, having done Jane Eyre, I realize the Alice corsets were sissy corsets. The corsets I wore in Jane Eyre were incredibly painful. Ballet hurts, but it’s more like your feet are killing you. With a corset on, you can’t breathe properly.
But does wearing the proper costume help you get in character?
Absolutely. It’s the last piece of the puzzle. Once you get in the costume, it’s like, Okay, this is who this person is. With Jane Eyre the corset helped me understand the repression and pain of the character.
You have a natural sweetness—do you think anyone would ever cast you as anything but a heroine?
I would love to play a villain. I’ll have to learn to seem more diabolical.
Read the full story here - https://www.wmagazine.com/story/mia-wasikowska-michael-fassbender-jane-eyre
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Mia Wasikowska on Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and In Treatment | Screen Tests | W Magazine