Mia Wasikowska Is Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is the story of a teenager, a rebellious young woman back in the day when girls were supposed to sit in the corner, look pretty and shut up! Young Jane, a badly-treated orphan, isn’t about to buy any of that.
Jane speaks out, does what she thinks is right and finally wins personal freedom and the guy of her dreams. What’s not to like? The tale also has a spooky mystery in addition to the hot love story in both the famous novel and the new movie.
Petite blonde Aussie actress Mia Wasikowska who played Alice in the recent Alice in Wonderland film, was so hooked on the story of Jane after reading the book that she went looking for a film version so she could star as the character.
Kidzworld is hanging out with Mia in Beverly Hills. Picture her in a classy silk beige and black dress topped with an oversized fuzzy sweater and wearing black tights. No tall shoes for this girl; comfy flats.
Kidzworld: How do you think the film and Jane relate to teens and kids today? I guess the feelings are the same throughout the ages.
- Mia: Yes. I think it’s a very modern story and also a very universal story. When you take away the costumes and the setting, at the core of it is a story of a young girl who is trying to find love and a family and connection in a very dislocated world. I feel like that has transcended. It continues to connect with people. It’s a very universal theme and something almost everybody experiences to a different degree in their life.
Kidzworld: How cold and miserable was shooting some of the scenes in the rain way out on the Moors? Did you get sick?
- Mia: I did. It was day two, I remember that precisely and I got hypothermia but it was okay. It was very, very cold. It’s hard enough standing on the moors in regular clothes let alone with fake rain and period costumes; soggy period costumes.
Kidzworld: There is also not only the weather but there is a grayness to the world Jane is in. How does that translate to how you create the character?
- Mia: Yeah, it was very bleak. When you’re in that environment, you really get a sense of the isolation and the distance between one estate and another estate. Also, as an 18-year-old living in a world where your main source of company is an 8-year-old girl or Mrs. Fairfax [the housekeeper], I thought that was really interesting. Also, in our world, we have so many ways we can escape with technology; TV, Facebook, computers, text messaging and [isolation], for her, was reality every day.
Kidzworld: There is a lot of fear in the film; fear of noises and things in a spooky house and fear of standing alone and being in love. How do you feel about that?
- Mia: There is a fear of the unknown and unseen and unspoken and that’s everywhere physically and emotionally. The whole dynamic with Rochester is kind of like ‘Does he love me? Doesn’t he love me? Is he joking? Is he not?’ It’s not obvious for her so there is a fear emotionally and also physically. Those castles are so desolate and bare and cold. So, yeah, they both kind of play off of each other.
Kidzworld: Jane is one person inside but has to play a game to live in her uptight society. Was that challenging for you as an actress?
- Mia: Yeah, I think so. Something that I really noticed about that period was there is such a mask that people put up. There was a real public persona and a private persona. There was such a system in which things happened, such a definite way of how you performed. Jane kind of goes with and against those things. She’s a real independent thinker and has such a strong sense of who she is and what’s right and wrong despite what society tells her
Kidzworld: And it’s her story, she is telling it to us.
- Mia: Yes, the book, start to finish, is her internal monologue. Everything we know is because of what we’re told directly from her. So, the challenge, when you adapt that to screen, is how do you keep all the intensity of thought and feeling and everything she’s thinking? Then, there is only limited space for dialogue.
Kidzworld: It’s such a serious movie. I heard that your co-star Jamie Bell was cutting up on set. Were there light moments between scenes and who was the funny guy?
- Mia: Jamie and Michael [Fassbender who plays Rochester], both of them are just fantastic. To counter the intensity of the material, we had a lot of fun in between set ups and scenes and I think that was vital. You really have to get your energy from somewhere so if you’re able to have fun and then use that energy and channel that into the mood and feel of the film, that’s always really helpful. So, to have two co-stars like Michael and Jamie was fantastic. There were just a lot of funny things.
Kidzworld: There is the “good girl, bad boy” relationship in this and that also transcends the ages. What do you think it is about girls and bad guys?
- Mia: I don’t know. And why do they get away with it? [she laughs]. But, there was such a formula with which things happened in Jane’s day and I feel like when that was broken, it was exciting and exhilarating and scary and I’m sure every girl knows how that is sort of thrilling sometimes.
Kidzworld: Your dance background probably gives you the discipline but also the body carriage of women of that age who were strapped into corsets. Did the dance background help you with that?
- Mia: Yeah. I think that dancing has helped or prepared me in a number of different ways for the film industry. Not only with controlling your nerves when you walk into an audition because you’re on stage from a young age so that really helps. Also, just being physically aware. When you dance so intensely you are really aware of your physicality and that’s always great to have as a tool when you’re an actress. There’s many tools you can use.
Kidzworld: You have an interest in photography and took pictures on the set contrasting the modern filmmaking equipment with the very old locations. Why do you enjoy that so much?
- Mia: It’s great. I think it’s really important for actors to have another creative outlet, or anyone really, to have a creative outlet that you can control is really important because you do a lot of waiting to be cast then waiting to go into production, then waiting on set. You are relying on a waiting on other people in acting and films so, to be able to have something that I have full creative control over is really very therapeutic.
Kidzworld: You use an old-fashioned Rolleiflex camera. That’s probably closer to what the film camera sees on set. Does it give you an understanding of that kind of process?
- Mia: Yeah. I love the Rolleifex because it’s a square format and it’s film and really great for portraiture and composition. I love using the film camera because there’s a real mystery about it. Everything is so instant right now and also, with film there are endless possibilities. You can blow it up as big as you want.
Kidzworld: What do you think gave Jane Eyre her edge; the fact that she was cast out or beaten or had no friends? What gave her the courage or was she born with it?
- Mia: I think she has an innate sense of self-respect because there is nowhere really that you’d think that could come from. It’s not like she’s had a loving family or a guardian or someone who has been constantly looking out for her which is why she’s such an incredible character because everything that she is is because of what she’s made herself. There is something inside of her that says, ‘I’m worthy of a good life and being treated well and respected and loved’. And, she’s not going to compromise herself for anybody. She’s going to make sure she’s a fulfilled individual before she attaches herself to anyone and she’s rewarded for that in the end.
Kidzworld: Go, Jane! Mia, you’ve played a wide variety of roles. Do you find a little of yourself in every one of them or try to lose yourself in a character?
- Mia: There’s a bit of both. You definitely put a bit of yourself in every character and you always have to have an understanding and empathy for the person that you play. Then, it’s a give and a take. You can always lose yourself in them. I love doing accents because it takes you one step away from yourself and allows you to embody someone else’s character so I like both sides of it.
Kidzworld: How comfortable are you with accents?
- Mia: With an English accent and an American accent, we have so many American and English films in Australia that we hear it often so it’s not too hard to pick up it’s always a challenge.
Kidzworld: What kind of music does the modern Mia listen to?
- Mia: I like a whole lot of things. I like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan and The Kinks.
Kidzworld: Retro girl there.
- Mia: I guess so. Then I love World music and kind of everything. Not particularly one thing.
Kidzworld: You have a project coming up with Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman. Can you talk about who you play?
- Mia: Yeah. It’s called The Wettest County and John Hillcoat is directing it and it’s [set in] prohibition era America. It’s about three brothers and I play the girlfriend of Shia LeBeouf’s character. I start that in a few weeks.
Kidzworld: Did you get the chance to go to any Oscar parties? What was that like?
- Mia: Yeah. It’s a crazy weekend. The Oscar weekend is probably the most surreal weekend and those parties are ridiculous. You turn around and there’s Quentin Tarantino talking to Steven Spielberg and on your other shoulder is somebody else so it’s crazy.
Kidzworld: Do you still keep up with some of your old pals back home?
- Mia: Yeah, for sure when I go home I see them. Then there’s Skype or e-mail.
Kidzworld: What do they think of what has happened with you? I assume most of them aren’t actors?
- Mia: Yeah and it’s lovely going home and not feeling like the film world is the whole world and they’re wonderful. They’re really very supportive and excited.
By: Lynn Barker