Vanity fair
Mad about the hatter
August 2009
Evgenia Peretz
Mary Ellen Mark

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EVEN CURIOUSER Mia Wasikowska as Tim Burton's Alice


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BAD HARE DAY - Johnny Depp, opposite, as the Mad Hatter, photographed at Culver Studios, in Culver City, California.


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Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen


After the huge success of Batman (1989), Tim Burton might have gone the route of Hollywood action director, churning through every iconic American superhero. Instead, he has spent the last 20 years on his own candy-colored, cobwebby path, inventing heartbreakingly peculiar heroes (Edward Scissorhands) and giving a macabre edge to children's classics (Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). It would seem inevitable that one day he'd take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, last seen on film in the bland animated Disney version of 1951. Fifty-eight years later, the Chesire Cat and the Red Queen were beginning to be reimagined by the living master of cheeky Goth.

It's inevitable, also, that it would star, as the Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp, whose real-life passion for haberdashery could hardly be better documented. Now on their seventh collaboration, Depp and Burton both grew up as suburban outcasts and admit to speaking a language on set that no one else understands. The film also stars Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Burton's partner, Helena Bonham Carter, as the Red Queen, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, and Mia Wasikowska (In Treatment, Defiance) as Alice. The director has employed "performance capture" technology and 3-D--two more reasons it seems destined to be of a rare breed: the auteur's blockbuster.

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