He’s set to return to the big screen as The Mad Hatter in Alice Through The Looking Glass, and Johnny Depp has revealed that his own mind is often as busy as his eccentric ginger alter-ego.
Depp returns to the magical world of Alice In Wonderland with Alice (Mia Wasikoswka) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) also coming back for the sequel.
For Depp, it’s not so much method acting as channelling his own “circus” of thoughts when he enters his most famous character since Jack Sparrow.
“My brain is a circus that’s constant and I don’t know if it’s healthy,” the 52-year-old says. “But I do know that if I don’t keep it occupied, by being in the trenches doing what you love, that to me is a wonderland. I need to keep it occupied whatever way I can.”
A modern adaptation of the classic children’s story written by Lewis Carroll, this time Alice is played by the mother, who falls asleep while reading the the bedtime story to her daughter.
Walking through the Looking Glass, Alice finds herself in Chessland where she meets the Red and White Queens on her journey across the chessboard countryside on to become a crowned queen.
“I think if I had spoken like Willy Wonka constantly, someone would have beaten me up and it’s the same with Hatter”
In a fan Q&A hosted by Disney, Depp revealed he was thrilled to return to the world of Alice – and so he should be, as the original went on to gross hundreds of millions.
“When you do a sequel and you revisit the character, it’s always nice – especially if it’s a character that you had some fun with,” Depp said. “Bringing that character back along with the wild characters and working with Mia again, who is the beating heart of the film, is rare and it works very well.
“Having studied silent film like a maniac, back then people didn’t have the luxury of words. With Mia, it’s there and it rotates and changes and she’s special.”
Still, although his mind is busy, Depp stressed that he isn’t a fan of method acting, and was easily able to distance himself from The Hatter when he needed to.
“There are certain actors who do what they have to do and feel the need to stay in character and speak like the character at all time,” he shrugged.
“I think if I had spoken like Willy Wonka constantly, someone would have beaten me up and it’s the same with Hatter. I don’t work in that way. Once you have a good solid foundation for the character, at a certain point you know the character far better than anyone. I haven’t been stuck in character.”
He also revealed that he and Sacha Baron Cohen – who plays Time in the Tim Burton-produced film – caused crew members on set to walk off when they took an improv session too far.
The scene sees Time find Hatter at the tea party and Hatter tricks Time into staying. During filming, eight minutes ensued of Hatter and Time just saying “hmmm” back to each other.
“I peripherally saw crew members just walking out,” Depp laughed. “My favourite moment in any film is when the bottom drops out, which is far more interesting and far more honest than just learning your lines. When you throw something at someone that they’re not expecting, like a 45-minute improv, then interesting things come out. It’s really happening in the moment.”
Alice Through The Looking Glass is out on May 27.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1