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WONDER GIRL; Alice role earns Mia place at Hollywood 's top table.

Byline: Rick Fulton

SHE is already on lists of faces to watch in 2010 - and critics say she'll be one of the stars of the next decade.

But 20-year-old Australian Mia Wasikowska, who plays the title role in Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland, admits she feels a bit like Alice in Hollywood.

Being catapulted on to Hollywood's A-list by working with director Burton and actor Johnny Depp felt like her own version of falling down the rabbit hole.

Mia said: "I think I had a similar experience to Alice - I was definitely thrust into a world that was unlike my own.

"Making the film was very bizarre and odd, and it mimicked exactly what it was like for Alice to be in Wonderland.

"The way we were shooting didn't make sense and it was comical and weird and bizarre.

"I think it was all the things that Wonderland was as well.

"I definitely relate to Alice. At the beginning of the film, she is awkward and uncomfortable in her own skin, which I think a lot of teenagers experience.

"I think it has been a similar process for me - being able to feel comfortable with what I do, the way that it is done and the way other people relate to you.

"And there is a certain amount of control that you don't have over it. You just have to let that go and go with it."

Although many people wouldn't have heard of Mia before, she has had roles in two big movies before this.

Her international break through came in Defiance, the 2008 war film starring Daniel Craig. She played Chaya, the wife of Jamie Bell's character.

And she was Elinor Smith in last year's Amelia, in which Hilary Swank played the title role.

Hollywood, and Burton, have certainly taken note and she's due to star in at least two, if not three, of the most anticipated films of 2010.

The first is Alice in Wonderland, which will be in 3D, and then there's The Kids Are Alright, which tells the story of two children conceived by artificial in semination who find their birth father.

And it's rumoured that Mia will play the title role on Hollywood's version of Jane Eyre.

She's also filming for Good Will Hunting and Milk director Gus Van Sant's latest, untitled project.

While she's obviously regarded as a rapidly rising star by Hollywood, Mia says she can handle the pressure.

She said: "This is one part of my life, and then when I go home to Australia it is completely different.

"I feel they are very separate lives. When I am working in LA, it's all very mangeable.

"When I finish, I go home and there is another world. It is not all about movies and films.

I have recently finished school, so whenever I go home now, it is like a holiday. I still live at home with my parents and my brother and sister. It is very simple.

"I love travelling and I love doing this, because I am exposed to all these different experiences.

"It is really fun and exciting but then, after a while, you miss what you know, so it is always nice to go home and be in my own room, in the same house I have lived in my whole life."

OFCOURSE, being Tim Burton's vision, this is not the Alice in Wonderland of Lewis Carroll's imagination.

Mia's Alice is a 19-year-old and returns to Wonderland not remembering her first visit.

While many of the characters are computer-generated, Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter is fully formed.

Carrying on from his cartoon-like Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Johnny looks incredible with frizzy ginger hair, yellow eyes, a pale white face and a colourful, oversized bow-tie.

Mia revealed: "Johnny is such a lovely guy and he is so personable and friendly and immediately makes you feel comfortable.

"To be able to watch him prepare for his role - to watch not just the parts that will be in the film, but the parts that will not make it into the film - and to see how he and Tim work together, and how they lift each other's game, was really special."

The film also features Burton's wife Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen with an inflated head, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, who floats rather than walks. Stephen Fry provides the voice of the Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen is the voice of the White Rabbit, Alan Rickman as the voice of the Caterpillar, Barbara Windsor is the voice of the Dormouse, Matt Lucas is both Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and legendary actor Christopher Lee is the Jabberwock.

There are scenes in t he real world. Mia filmed on location in Charleston, Cornwall, to get a Victorian feel.

But acting by herself against a green screen with no one else there was a bizarre experience.

She said: "I was filmed falling down the rabbit hole and had to wear a lot of different kinds of harnesses.

"I wasn't too high because I was against a green screen and green carpet.

"It's surreal when you are in a green room, kind of sickening. You get disoriented.

"It was really odd acting alongside tennis balls and cardboard cut-outs.

"It was strange not to have the connection with another actor sometimes, but we got used to it and it was more using your imagination to create the world that you are in at that time.

"There were also concept images I looked at that really helped, and little models. But it was like being in a bucket of green.

"Even for the shrinking scenes, I'd be in a green suit."

Mia started her entertainment career performing ballet. She danced 35 hours a week from the age of nine until she was 15. But as a teenager her love of ballet began to wane and she started acting instead.

She had an American agent by the time she was 16 and broke into the US through the television series In Treatment.

She played Sophie, an aspiring Olympic gymnast who is sent to see a psychotherapist (Gabriel Byrne) following a suspected suicide attempt. The role gained her a nomination at 2009's Australian Film Institute awards, although she lost out on the International Award for Best Actress to Toni Collette.

Mia has also been nominated in the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Female in small film That Evening Sun.

However, it will be as Alice that Mia will be introduced to the wider, blockbuster-loving cinema audience.

She said: "The film will be for everyone. It's for young kids, who will love the story and the visuals and the colours, then it's for the teenagers, who understand Alice and where she is in her life. Then it's for adults and fans of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and Alice in Wonderland. Everyone can enjoy it."

Alice in Wonderland is released on March 5. Check out Grant Lauchlan's look at the movies to see in 2010 on pages 42,43.

CAPTION(S):

HOLE NEW WORLD: Thanks to Alice in Wonderland, Mia will soon discover the life of an A-list actress. She previously played Jamie Bell's wife in Defiance, below right
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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