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Exclusive Interview with Director James Bobin: Alice Through The Looking Glass


Alice Through The Looking Glass is NOW in theaters!
When James Bobin took on the Alice Through The Looking Glass project, he knew he had mighty big shoes to fill.  Not only following in the foot steps of Tim Burton, who directed Alice in Wonderland, but also the legacy of Lewis Carroll.  James, having hits such as The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted and Da Ali G Show under his belt, was up for the challenge!


With cup in hand, he walked into the interview room and charmed the audience immediately!  His passion for not only this film but the legacy that IS Alice and Wonderland was very apparent throughout the interview.  Here are some of the highlights:


On Joining The Project
I was working for Disney already. I made some Muppet movies back in the day. I remember being on set with my executive, Kristen Burr, and she was talking about things they were thinking about doing. She mentioned the word Alice to me and of course I jumped at that because I grew up in England. And so Alice is like part of your life. She’s just someone who you know really well, she’s like Christopher Robin. My parents read it to me. I read it as a kid. My grandparents read it to me. Everyone has it. And so for me, I did the same with my children. So we love Alice in our family.
When I found out we were doing it, I was really excited because when you know something, it’s quite a good way for starting it. You think you have a clear idea of who she’s gonna be in the film. And who I felt Alice was to me growing up. But also when I read Lewis Carroll as a kid, he used to make me laugh. He has a very witty way of writing. He’s very clever with language.  I think comedy is often about the specificity of language.
On The Challenging Part In Making The Film
The story is challenging because it’s not the story of the book.  I loved the book very dearly.  But even as a kid I realized that it’s quite unusual because Lewis Carroll wasn’t that concerned with narrative. He liked imagery & ideas. And the book kind of falls in on itself deliberately. Things happen and then other things happen. And they seem very consequential. It’s only cause and effect. So I knew that for a film, it would make an interesting avante guarde movie. But I’m not sure I could do that in this situation. So I knew the story would be a new story.
Linda (Woolverton) had an idea about the time travel movie based on the characters from before. But at the same time I wanted to pay tribute to the book. The book’s incredibly important.  Lewis Carroll is very important to me. So I wanted to take elements of the book like the backwards room and obviously the looking glass and the characters and the spirit of Lewis Carroll, the idea of something which is fairly complex but not so complex that my eight year old daughter wouldn’t understand it. It’s important you understand the story.  I remember as a kid, I liked working stuff out in a movie. I didn’t want to be given it all straight away. I wanted to feel like I was ahead of the characters in the movie.
And so I’m hoping that even kids may be ahead of the story some ways that when Alice works it out in her head you may already know that stuff, which is great and very satisfying as the kid to think ‘I’m cleverer than the people who made this movie.’ So that was a challenge to try and make a story, which is complex and interesting but not overly so in a way which would be distracting for children.
On Time & Sacha Baron Cohen
Yeah, I mean obviously when you work with someone as brilliant as Sacha, you always try to think of ways of getting him back involved in things you’re doing. He and I worked years ago on Borat and Ali G and Bruno.  To do that job you have to create characters that live in the real world. People aren’t gonna say to you ‘I don’t believe who you say you are.’ And to his great credit, they never ever did. So I knew that if you’re going to create a new character for this world, particularly whereby you have iconic characters like the Mad Hatter and Alice and the Red Queen, we needed to create a character, which is Time.
Time, of course, is Lewis Carroll’s idea. It’s not my idea.  I only borrowed it from him. Lewis Carroll talks about time as a person in the book Alice in Wonderland. Hatter says when he very first meets Alice at the tea party, he’s kinda stuck and he says to her I’ve been stuck here since last month where Time and I quarreled. I thought that is a brilliant idea for a character. In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll thinks time is not just an idea but a man, a person, and so that would be a very useful character to have in this film. It felt right for the movie to have a new character and that it would be Lewis Carroll’s idea.
Playing tribute To Lewis Carroll
When [Alice] goes into the backwards room for the first time with the chess match in progress, the chess match is in the original looking glass book.  At the very beginning of the book prior to the title page, is a layout of the chess game in progress. So the chess game in progress in the book is the same chess game in progress in the backwards room. There’s those kind of things that are very important to me. The mantle piece clock in the room is the same mantle piece clock that John Tenniel drew in 1871. So those little touches mean a lot.
When the Red Queen bumps her head as a child, the first thing she sees upon coming round is white roses. And so we always wondered, what’s up with the white roses thing? Why does she keep changing it to red? And then maybe because in her head there’s this terrible moment in her life. And that’s why there could be no white roses. That sort of stuff I really like.


Take Away From The Film
In my personal life, I feel the passage of time can sometimes be a sad thing. And the way I overcome that is if you really appreciate the time that you’re in and the people you’re with then you have no regrets because you did your best to appreciate it at the time. And that for me is a brilliant message for your life. I know for this film and the fact that Alice kind of learns that in this film is really important to me ’cause it’s a personal thing for me too that you can learn to appreciate time.



I definitely recommend taking the TIME to go out and see this film!  It is fun, magical and a true tribute to the original story!  Alice Through The Looking Glass is NOW in theaters everywhere!!


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