‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’: Helena Bonham Carter on Deleted Scenes and the Red Queen’s Origins

     May 26, 2016

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There’s a moment late in Alice Through the Looking Glass – The Queen of Hearts confronts her sister The White Queen over a simple lie that’s torn them apart. It’s a moment of real pathos amongst all the whimsy and silly, a turn for the Queen from shrew over-the-top villain into something more human. Helena Bonham Carter, reprising her role from the Tim Burton original, ably justifies this character shift from scenery-chewing villainy to sympathetic anti-hero. “It’s all in the script,” Bonham Carter humbly stresses in between sips of lemon-infused tea. “No matter how crazy the [situation], there needs to be an internal logic amongst all the madness.”

In the sequel, Alice travels back in time to find a cure for The Mad Hatter’s present day depression. The time travel provides the opportunity to delve into particular character’s backgrounds – central among them The Queen of Hearts. The film definitively answers what caused the Queen to go mad, how her head ballooned and, most pressingly, what drove a wedge between her and her sister (Anne Hathaway). This focus on the past becomes particularly interesting after learning that Bonham Carter already had a backstory in place when filming the first film. “I’m big on prep work,“ she says, “I have a file on my computer for each character I’ve played. For [Through the Looking Glass] I just opened the file for Alice in Wonderland as a refresher.”


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Image via Disney

So what exactly was the backstory Bonham Carter had and how closely does it reflect the sequel’s own? “On the first film, I talked with Linda Woolverton [the writer for both Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass] about what caused the Queen to lose her way… we came to the decision it was a tumor in her brain; but we never specified the specifics of the accident.”

Five years have passed in between Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass; but Bonham Carter underlined maintaining a sense of consistency between the two films. “You play it for the truth” she says, “You know she’s been stuck in the middle of nowhere for five years. Then you take the original and you embellish and try to figure out what would’ve happened to her.” To remind herself of the Queen’s plight, Bonham re-watched the first film – “I did watch it again not that I like to watch my performances” she jokes, “But I did have to remind myself what on earth I had done to keep the performance consistent. Actually in one scene – I think it was cut – but I did this big trial scene and I’m mocking my sister. There was a whole line with me remembering when she banished me. So I had to watch that scene again.”

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Image via Disney

That trial scene was, in fact, cut from the finished film (although you can still glimpse bits of it in a few of the film’s trailers). “That was my big scene. My to be or not to be and they cut it,” Bonham Carter says with a laugh, “It’s right at the end. I don’t know how they get to the climax now but there was a trial and I put Mirana [The White Queen] up there [for her crime].” On set though – the script for Through the Looking Glass didn’t change much at all. “Words here and there” Bonham Carter gestures away, “But overall the script stayed pretty much the same.”

Bonham Carter has been working with costume designer Colleen Atwood for over fifteen years, stretching all the way back to Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. Per Bonham Carter: “There’s not a lot of rehearsal time on a movie like [Alice] but you do have extensive conversations with [Colleen] about the costumes.” The two have become so close over the years that Atwood even designs Carter her own personal “underwear and corsets.”


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Image via Disney

On the first Alice, working opposite green screens proved to be quite the challenge. “The green screens made the entire cast sick,” Bonham Carter confides. So for the sequel, instead of green, blue screens were implemented for the effects-driven backgrounds. Working opposite these blue screens were “easier given that [she] already knew what the world looked like.”

As for coming up with her particular version of the Red Queen, Bonham Carter says that she likes to “collect the people I’ve met and use them in different characters.” “I have a bunch of different voices in my head,” she chuckles “[The Queen of Hearts] was based on one particularly haughty school classmate.” Even still she stated that keeping the performance “grounded and relatable” was key. She worked closely with the sequel’s director James Bobin (The Muppets) to insure her performance matched the tone of the film. “It’s all about figuring out a character’s ticks… I need to know more about them than anyone else on set. I need to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing no matter how mad it may be.”

Alice Through the Looking Glass opens everywhere Friday.

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Image via Disney

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