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As if you didn’t already know, Time is a villain — in Alice Through the Looking Glass, at least. Director James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords), who took over the reins from Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton, explained to EW where the character comes from.

“Actually it was Lewis Carroll’s idea,” Bobin says of the Alice author, who died in 1898. “When Alice first meets the Hatter, he says, ‘I’ve been stuck at this tea party since last March, when Time and I quarreled.’ Carroll thinks Time is a person.”

And Bobin’s idea for who should play that person was a no brainer. He has been friends and collaborators with Sacha Baron Cohen for two decades and was present — and indeed something of an OBGYN — during the births of Borat and Ali G and Bruno. “I had him in mind from the beginning,” Bobin says. “Look at all of Sacha’s comedy and you’ll see that he is very funny, obviously, but he’s also very good at playing confident idiots. He can be such a powerful buffoon but you kind of like the guy and feel a little sorry for him.”

In Through the Looking Glass, Time is a lonely despot living in a dark castle that’s built like the inside of an old Victorian clock, with gears turning and pendulums swinging everywhere. He’s an omnipotent demigod but he has one tragic flaw — loneliness.

And what does a lonely old tyrant do for companionship?

“His friends are these little steam-powered clockwork guys,” Bobin explains. “We call them Seconds and they’re basically Time’s little servants. We were very keen no to make then sci-fi and keep them in the Industrial period. We had the artistic license to go as far as Lewis Carroll but not go into Star Trek or Star Wars.”

The Seconds are essentially harmless little puppies, but when Time is in danger, they have the capacity to gather into groups of 60 and turn into — wait for it — Minutes. Who, as you can see from a quick glimpse in the movie’s trailer, are not so innocent.

Alice Through the Looking Glass opens on May 27. For much more on the Seconds, check out EW’s Summer Movie Preview, on stands April 15.

Watch the full trailer here:

Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Movie
  • 108 minutes