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July 29, 2014

Modern 'Alice' Goes Through the Looking Glass

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Dec 2nd 2009 11:55PM



Ever wonder what famous literary character Alice would be like if she were alive today? Well, ponder no more! Nick Willing, director of 2007's record-breaking, Emmy-winning miniseries 'Tin Man' is taking the classic Lewis Carroll story and putting a modern spin on it. Just as Willing took 'The Wizard of Oz' and twisted it into 'Tin Man', he's taken 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' and adapted them to the contemporary world in a 4-hour, 2-night miniseries 'Alice'.

Alice is now Alice Hamilton, a fiercely-independent twenty-something who witnesses her lover Jack Chase get kidnapped by two thugs and driven into darkness. Desperate to find Jack, Alice puts her trust in a stranger who calls himself White Rabbit, and suddenly finds herself on the other side of the looking glass.

She's a stranger in an outlandish city of twisted towers and casinos built out of playing cards, all under the rule of a devilish Queen who isn't happy about Alice's arrival. In her quest to get answers and find Jack, Alice must deal with a host of outrageous characters including the flying scarabs, the thundering Jabberwock, the Pool of Tears and the clinically insane Doctors Dee and Dum.

The 'Alice' cast is star-studded, including Canadian Caterina Scorsone as Alice, Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts, Tim Curry as Dodo, and Colm Meaney as the King of Hearts, among many others. AOL TV Canada sat down to talk to the director and Scorsone about the upcoming miniseries, and how the 150-year-old story is relevant to today's world.

Read Q&A After the Fold!


Ever wonder what famous literary character Alice would be like if she were alive today? Well, ponder no more! Nick Willing, director of 2007's record-breaking, Emmy-winning miniseries 'Tin Man' is taking the classic Lewis Carroll story and putting a modern spin on it. Just as Willing took 'The Wizard of Oz' and twisted it into 'Tin Man', he's taken 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' and adapted them to the contemporary world in a 4-hour, 2-night miniseries 'Alice'.

Alice is now Alice Hamilton, a fiercely-independent twenty-something who witnesses her lover Jack Chase get kidnapped by two thugs and driven into darkness. Desperate to find Jack, Alice puts her trust in a stranger who calls himself White Rabbit, and suddenly finds herself on the other side of the looking glass.

She's a stranger in an outlandish city of twisted towers and casinos built out of playing cards, all under the rule of a devilish Queen who isn't happy about Alice's arrival. In her quest to get answers and find Jack, Alice must deal with a host of outrageous characters including the flying scarabs, the thundering Jabberwock, the Pool of Tears and the clinically insane Doctors Dee and Dum.

The 'Alice' cast is star-studded, including Canadian Caterina Scorsone as Alice, Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts, Tim Curry as Dodo, and Colm Meaney as the King of Hearts, among many others. AOL TV Canada sat down to talk to the director and Scorsone about the upcoming miniseries, and how the 150-year-old story is relevant to today's world.

Nick, tell us more about the prep you did for 'Alice', and any challenges you faced.

Nick: The most difficult thing was finding Alice. I must've seen 500 actresses for the role, in the US, Canada, and the UK. In the end we found the perfect Alice, Caterina. As for the prep, the script was pretty much done when we started. We were quite pleased with it. It was really getting the design concept right, a look at the film, getting the tone of the film both visually, in costume and in the set. Also in the visual effects and the look of the flamingos, for instance, and the Jabberwocky and all the creatures in Wonderland; creating that world effectively and doing it in a new, original way.



Caterina, what first attracted you to the role, and what were your challenges?

Caterina: Well the attraction was manifold. 'Alice in Wonderland' is a classic piece of literature and most of us have either read it or seen various adaptations. And so that's a huge draw initially. And then I was sent Nick's script and it's incredible. Not only does it have all of the classic characters and many of the themes of the book, but it's been re-imagined into this fantastic adventure. That was pretty hard to resist for an actor. And so yes, it was just attractive all ways around. And then I met Nick, and he's so irresistible. I think everyone in the cast will agree: once you meet Nick, you're like, 'Where do I sign?'

As for the second part of your question, there's this rainbow of emotions that we were playing with every day - while at the same time doing gigantic action sequences and fight scenes and horseback riding and CGI. So it was really quite a 360-degree workout, physically, dramatically, and psychologically.

There are some great names in the film, especially Kathy Bates. How were you able to get her on board?

Nick: Oh, yeah. Kathy Bates was literally my first choice for the role of the Queen of Hearts. She is, to me, one of the most spectacular actresses in the world and I don't know anyone better to play a vicious character with a huge heart. When I sent her the script she said yes almost immediately. It was incredibly, fantastically easy. the character of the Queen of Hearts in our film is quite a complex person with, you know, very complex goals. And so she was greatly attracted to that.

Initially, she was a bit tentative about doing the English accent. I mean, I couldn't get over the fact that the Queen of Hearts to me had to be English because she's such an iconic English character from literature. So she did - but she did one of the best English voices I've ever heard any American actor do. But it's also true of the character of Alice, isn't it Caterina, that she was not quite the same character as in the book?

Caterina: Right. No, not at all. It was quite a project. I mean, for one thing, she's much taller than she was in the book. She's grown substantially. But yeah, what was really great about this script that Nick wrote - which is different from Lewis Carroll's book - is that Alice in this story has a real emotional journey of her own, whereas in the book she's this wide-eyed young girl who's walking through this fascinating land. But she, herself, isn't terribly fascinating. And in this version, the fascination of the land in some ways almost acts as a metaphor for the fascination inside her personality.

In what ways do you see today's world as a wonderland?

Caterina: There are so many levels to that question. I think the one that we talked about, and why Wonderland would be such a relevant story right now, is that since 9/11 so much has happened in our world to turn it into this topsy-turvy place that people wouldn't recognize 20 years ago. So much political and economical change has happened in the last little while that I think people are all kind of walking around with wide-open eyes like Alice, asking 'What on Earth is happening?' So that, I think, has made 'Alice' very much a story for our time.

Nick: Well, Wonderland is a place where extraordinary and amazing things happen in the original book, but also very dark and frightening things happen, as you know. We used both books as inspiration: 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. 'Through the Looking Glass' is a story where everything is literally - as Caterina has said - turned on its head, where opposites are how to behave. I think there's something in what Caterina says, that maybe our world has become inverted - it is now possible to act in ways which may seem strange and insane, but are part of the norm.

I do think also one of the things about our world is that we have advanced technology to such a point where we can get what we want to when we want to get it. We can get somebody on the phone. We can watch a TV program when we want to watch a TV program. And we can enter into worlds of fantasy at the touch of a button. That certainly wasn't possible when Lewis Carroll wrote that book 150 years ago.

'Alice' is a two-night event, airing Sunday Dec. 6 and Monday, Dec. 7 at 8:00 PM ET, on Showcase.

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