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Behind the scenes: Making a new Wonderland

How Tim Burton put a new spin on a classic

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Lewis Carroll’s 1865 literary classic about a young English girl who follows a white rabbit into a fantastical world has been adapted into everything from silent films to anime to stage musicals to porn movies, but Burton — who has already put his unique stamp on such beloved characters as Batman, Willy Wonka, and Ichabod Crane — didn’t feel weighed down by all that history. ”There are interesting versions of Alice, but I don’t feel like there’s one iconic version,” he says. For this latest take, which boasts a budget reported to be over $200 million, Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton incorporated characters including the Mad Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Cheshire Cat into a whole new story that returns Alice, now a strong-willed and independent 19-year-old, to Wonderland for the first time since her childhood. Reuniting with the nonsense-spouting Mad Hatter, Alice learns that she must slay a fearsome dragon called the Jabberwock in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy and free Wonderland from the tyranny of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). To bring his vision of Wonderland to life, Burton shot the actors against a greenscreen and filled in the world around them with computer-generated imagery. Still, Depp had no problem getting into the proper bizarro spirit. ”There’s all this surreal stuff going on: Everything around you is green, there are people dressed in, like, green Spider-Man outfits so they can hand you something during a shot. Maybe some actors would find it all a hindrance, but it was so ludicrous I actually got into it.” As for Depp’s Mad Hatter getup — from the pale makeup to the green, walleyed contact lenses to the frizzy orange hair — that was all real. ”We did research on orange-haired characters, from Bozo to Carrot Top and everything in between,” says Burton. ”It was quite disturbing.”