“Jane Eyre” star Mia Wasikowska is very excited about being in Chicago for the first time and has something somewhat surprising she’d want to do if she had time.
“I would totally do a drive-by [of] Kevin’s house from ‘Home Alone.’ That was my favorite movie when I was a kid,” she says during a chat at the Peninsula Hotel, also noting that she’d like to see the city’s architecture and the Art Institute.
It’s great to see such lightness from the 21-year-old Australian actress, whose recent turns in “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Kids Are All Right” and, as the star of yet another big-screen version of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel “Jane Eyre,” are emotionally intense and quite far from the slapstick
If you’ve never before read or seen a version of “Jane Eyre” (which opens March 18), here’s the plot in a nutshell: Jane (Wasikowska) is ultra-plain and tormented by her family and experience at boarding school, but the strength of her character ultimately earns the affections of Rochester (Michael Fassbender), who harbors the sort of dark secret not often found in hyper-British costume dramas.
Wasikowska says serious roles tend to be more satisfying, and right now she seems to have her choice of practically any role and filmmaker she wants: She’ll soon star in movies directed by Gus Van Sant (“Restless”), John Hillcoat (“The Wettest County in the World”) and Park Chan-wook (“Stoker”). She recently turned down an offer from David Fincher to audition for Stieg Larsson's “Millennium” trilogy because of the time commitment it required.
“I really like doing things that are different, and I like doing things that challenge me in different ways,” she says.
Surely many young stars in Hollywood would love the luxury to be that choosy.
These days stories like “Jane Eyre” tend to be modernized or have zombies thrown in. Why isn’t your movie “Jane Eyre Meets Vampires”?
[Laughs.] I mean, maybe the next one will be. [Laughs.] I don’t know, I think [director Cary Fukunaga] was conscious of making it fresh and new but not necessarily having to throw in that shock factor thing or [be different] just for the sake of being different.
It could be nice just to have a few zombies living in town so people would never know if they’re about to strike.
[Laughs.] Well, you can talk to [Fukunaga] about that. I’m sure it’s not too late. [The movie] comes out in a few days.
So he can just digitally throw some in there?
Put one on the poster and get some guys [to see the movie].
In the wake of your interview with Movieline in which you talked about co-star Michael Fassbender getting a horse excited during shooting, how prepared are you to use the phrase “horse erection” a lot more than usual?
[Laughs.] I’m not going to say that word again. I’ve learned my lesson.
How offended were you that the horse was more excited by him than by you?
[Laughs.] That’s just the effect Michael has. On
When playing such serious characters, are there some days where you get to work and say to yourself, “I’m in a giggly mood; this is going to be hard to get more intense”?
Yeah, but I am often in a giggly mood or a high energy, fun mood right before those scenes. And that almost makes that easier to channel that into drama.
Not easy, but … with me and Michael, we [had] a lot of fun because we needed to get our energy from the fun, and once you have the energy you can turn it into anything if you really let yourself become overwhelmed by the material and the words and the other person.
You say you love “Home Alone.” What was your favorite prank that Kevin pulls in the movie?
He’s just so clever. Everything. [Laughs.] The little crunchy things under the window. He puts the little bulb balls from the Christmas tree at the booby-trapped window. And then I always thought it was so cool how he puts the cardboard cutouts of people on trains and then moves them in front of the window.
Would you be interested if someone said, “They’re doing a ‘Home Alone 4’ and you’re playing Kevin’s wife”?
[Laughs.] Um, sure. Yeah. Why not?
What was your reaction when you found out you were starring in “Alice in Wonderland”?
It was something that felt bigger than me. And to be part of it was like, “Wow”—that they trusted me with that material. And I was just so honored to have been picked by Tim [Burton], who I’ve admired for so long. And I just so respect him and his work.
What was it like your first day working with Johnny Depp?
It was cool. I was so excited to see what he was going to do, ’cause there were no rehearsals. It was such a mystery to me, and so it was like this huge discovery to be able to see what he was going to do. I was blown away by it. I didn’t recognize him as the Mad Hatter the first time I saw him. [Like,] “Who’s that funny looking guy?” The first time I saw him in full hair, costume and make-up, I didn’t know it was him.
Compared to “Alice in Wonderland,” were your corsets for “Jane Eyre” more or less comfortable?
They were so much less comfortable. I didn’t realize how wimpy my corset was on “Alice” until they locked me into this one. And it’s really an incredible repression. You really get a sense of the repression that people were under in that time. Not only does it squish you in [the torso area] but then you can’t really bend over and you can’t really reach up and you can’t really eat and you can’t really breathe. It’s a real pain.
What's it like to have only a few movies under your belt and already be a corset expert?
It's pretty cool, but I couldn't complain around Judi [Dench]. 'Cause she's worn them her whole career and they don't faze her at all, whereas I'm complaining away in the corner.
What she did after last night's Q&A in Chicago: "On our way back to the hotel we went past the Bean. I thought that was very cool. I was super impressed. I took lots of pictures."
What she does in her downtime: Take pictures, read books, go home to Australia, see friends and family
Next up: John Hillcoat's "The Wettest County in the World"; Park Chan-wook's "Stoker"
Another director she wants to work with: Jane Campion ("The Piano")
On her iPod right now: "I have a lot of old music. I like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and the Kinks. And Tom Waits and Cat Stevens."
Better Australian band, Men at Work or Silverchair? [Laughs.] "Um, I don't really know either of them very well, but I remember my sister used to listen to Silverchair."
How many mushroom-induced hallucinations she's had recently: [Laughs.] "None since 'Alice.'"