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Johnny Depp talks ‘Alice in Wonderland’

johnny depp alice in wonderland
BY TODD GILCHRIST
Johnny Depp, star of the upcoming adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, told reporters that he’s enjoyed a lifelong love of the source material. “I do vaguely remember roughly five years old reading versions of Alice in Wonderland,” Depp said in a press conference Saturday for the film in Hollywood Calif. “But the thing is the characters. You always know the characters. Everyone knows the characters, and they’re very well-defined characters, which I always thought was fascinating. Most people who haven’t read the book definitely know the characters and reference them.”

Depp plays the Mad Hatter, who in the actor’s typical style is fleshed out with fascinating, oddball flourishes. He explained that what he took most inspiration from was Carroll’s own idiosyncratic additions to the periphery of the character, rather than the comparatively simpler stuff of his physicality. “Ironically, it was only maybe a year prior to Tim calling, I had re-read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and what I took away from it was these very strange, little cryptic nuggets that he’d thrown in there,” he said. “I was really intrigued by them, became fascinated by them because they were asking questions that couldn’t be answered almost, or were making statements that you couldn’t quite understand.”

“Like, ‘I’m investigating things that begin with the letter M’,” Depp offered as an example. “That took me through a whole stratosphere of possibilities, and doing a little research and discovered that the M is mercury. And then, ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’ Those things just became so important to the character. You realize that the more you read it, [and] if I read the book again today, I’d find 100 other things that I missed last time. It’s a constantly changing book.”

Depp’s filmography is populated with adaptations of 19th century fantasy literature, from Sleepy Hollow to his portrayal of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. When asked what it is that keeps bringing him back to subject matter from that era, he explained it was the complexity and timelessness of that material that keeps him creatively stimulated. “I’m hoping to do The Hashish-Eater next,” Depp joked. “I just adore it, from certainly J.M. Barrie and the wonderful characters he created, Lewis Carroll, even French literature, like Baudelaire or over in the states, Poe. You open those books, you open The Flowers of Evil and begin to read, if it were written today, you’d be absolutely stupefied by the work.”

“It’s this incredible period where the work is timeless, ageless,” he continued. “So yeah, I just love all those guys. It’s my deep passion in those great 19th century writers.”

Alice in Wonderland opens nationwide in Disney 3D on March 5, 2010.

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