Mia Wasikowska stars in three of 2014’s best movies
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
RPL Film Theatre
Mia Wasikowska is in three of this year’s best movies. As an unruly vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive, a withdrawn adventurer in Tracks and aloof love interest in The Double, the 24-year-old Wasikowska challenges us to dislike her. And in each case, it’s impossible not to be captivated by her persona.
I met Wasikowska at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival (yup, I’m still coasting on that press trip a year later). In person, she looks younger than she is: demure and ever so slightly coquettish. And there’s not a trace of diva in her.
Here’s our conversation, presented in a convenient Q&A format.
In Tracks you play Robyn Davidson, who crossed the Australian outback with four camels and a dog. Did you know her story before signing on for the movie?
I knew of the book, but had never read it. My parents however were very enthusiastic. “You have to do it!” they told me. I was surprised to find out a lot of people my age were very aware of her existence.
How did you learn to handle a camel?
I spent a couple of days in the desert with Robyn and a camel wrangler learning how to be around them. I was well looked after, and the camels were wonderful. They’re the most obliging animals ever — they just follow you around and they’re used to long treks. They’re perfect for film because their stamina is never-ending. The dogs were harder to work with.
Did you keep any?
No, they couldn’t fit in my apartment.
Then there’s the massive snake.
I turned up on set and everybody was holding different snakes and asking me, “What do you like?” I was mildly terrified, and nobody asked me if I was okay with a snake winding over me. Then I held a few and they were really amazing. I went with the python, because the smaller ones were a little nippy. The python was supposed to slide across my body while I was asleep, but then it came right at my neck. It was strange.
How was meeting Davidson?
I was apprehensive. She’s such a feisty person in the book, and I wasn’t sure how she felt about the film. I was surprised by her openness. She was aware it was an abstraction of her novel, which in turn was an abstraction of her own journey.
You shot Tracks right after Only Lovers Left Alive. How would you describe working with Jim Jarmusch?
I was very keen to work with him. I was attached to the script for a very long time. I was curious what he would do with a genre that’s so distinct and how he would put his Jarmusch spin on it. I love his movies. That’s how I approach most of the things I do, as a fan first.
Your Only Lovers Left Alive character is like a toddler with no impulse control.
I was excited to play a bratty character, a silly girl that despite being around for centuries has never broken out of being a teen.
Alice In Dystopia
Other than Alice in Wonderland, Wasikowska’s résumé is light on blockbusters — but that’s going to change. She’s set to star in Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (reportedly more Pan’s Labyrinth than Pacific Rim), as well as a sequel to Alice. She also has Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars and a Madame Bovary adaptation set to open for Oscar consideration towards the end of the year.
Later this month, Wasikowska will land in theatres yet again as Jesse Eisenberg’s love interest in The Double. Based on the Dostoevsky classic, The Double is set in a dystopian world where Simon (Eisenberg) is everybody’s favourite punching bag. The ongoing abuse hits a fever pitch with the arrival of James (Eisenberg again), Simon’s doppelganger. James has all the confidence Simon lacks, and steals everything Simon considers precious.
What was it about The Double that caught your attention?
I was drawn by the identity confusion: how we’re perceived, how we perceive ourselves and the repercussions that come from it. Plus, I dig the paranoia vibe: since everybody is seen through the protagonist’s eyes, they all seem crazy and ganging up on the one sane individual.
Which Jesse Eisenberg character do you prefer?
I thought it was amazing how, through the whole film, there was never any confusion about who is who at what time.
At the end of the day, were you able to leave the set and clear your mind, or did any of these films go home with you?
I was always so happy to leave the set, especially on Tracks, so I could have a shower. It’s strange: you don’t think these films have an impact on you, but they definitely do. Just by being on location for a period of time,you can’t help but take something away.