FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

Interview with Alice Through The Looking Glass Producer Suzanne Todd #ThroughTheLookingGlassEvent

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

 

Suzanne Todd is a film and television producer whose movies have grossed over two billion dollars worldwide. She owns the film production company, Team Todd.

Suzanne walked into the room carrying a beautiful decorative box, she explained that inside were Alice shoes that sold out immediately in London. These shoes were amazing! Suzanne explained further:

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

 

   There are I think 12 different styles. This one that I got I’ve only worn these twice. I brought them in the box so you could see how beautiful it looks, like a  storybook, right? They only get better and better because even the little tissue paper has amazing Alice characters on it, inside amazing Alice fabric pattern and little Alice(s) underneath, and each of them has a different design on the bottom.

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

Then, something amazing happened. Suzanne was telling us about Maria Shriver and how for her birthday she wanted help with her charity, Move for Minds, instead of buying me a birthday present. Move for Minds raises awareness and money to support research on women’s brains and Alzheimer’s disease.  Then she announced that one of us in the room had made a generous donation in honor of their grandma and that she was so touched she wanted to gift the Cinderella shoes to her – Keri from She Saved was the lucky recipient! The entire room erupted joy as she presented them to her.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland in Disney's ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, an all-new adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll's beloved stories.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland in Disney’s ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, an all-new adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories.

On Alice Being a Great Heroine

Well, obviously, from the beginning my friend, the writer, Linda Woolverton, had come to me 10 years ago with that idea of making a movie where the girl could be the hero, and the heroine. This was so exciting to me.  We had never intended to make a sequel, and we didn’t rush to make a sequel like to just cash in on the financial success of the first one. We wanted to be really thoughtful about it. So I think that was always at the core of it, trying to be true to Alice’s story, trying to be true to the Lewis Carroll Alice and really focusing on time.

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

Focusing on Time as a Mom

I have three kids. You guys here are all, you know, working triple duty as all moms do, and I just feel like the older I get, the more precious I find my time is to me. So that for us was really important. So really, those two things, the idea of being able to put a movie out there that is a kind of we girls can do anything movie for my little girl who is 11 now, and also just recognizing time is so precious to all of us.

When I look at technology, it was supposed to be created to give all of us more leisure time……. but really what is does in some ways is it’s turned all of us into 24 hour workers ’cause there’s no time of the day when you can’t be doing something productive that has to do with your technology. So, it’s a balance that we all have to try and find for when we’re gonna turn it off of put it away and really sit down on the blanket and have a picnic with our kids, because it doesn’t happen enough, but then when it does, I think everybody has that moment where they think oh, this is what I should be doing on a Sunday afternoon, but I’m hoping people will watch the movie and really come out of it and have those conversation or just be in that space a little bit more because the movie inspired them to, so that, that would make me really happy.

Suzanne Todd arrives at The US Premiere of Disney's "Alice Through the Looking Glass" at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, CA on Monday, May 23, 2016. .(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)
Suzanne Todd arrives at The US Premiere of Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, CA on Monday, May 23, 2016. .(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

Making Alice Through The Looking Glass

We wondered if making this film was harder than making the first.

“The older I get, the less I want to ever do a movie that doesn’t feed my soul”

Well, I think maybe harder because the response to the first film was so kind of unexpected and overwhelming. So then there’s all this pressure that you want to do something always with movies that will be commercially viable, because that’s why you get to make more movies, but you also want to do something that says something that’s important to you. Like I said, just for me with the three kids, the older I get, the less I want to ever do a movie that doesn’t feed my soul. You don’t want to do those movies that you’re just kind of doing because you need to, if you don’t have to.

We built big sets on the second one, and getting the cast together was much harder on the second one because they’ve all continued to have like flourishing, amazing careers and have won an Oscar since then and how they’ve done so many amazing things and Johnny’s always booked. On the first movie, the really interesting thing about the casting process is that normally when you’re casting a movie, you go through the script and you make lists of the characters, and then there’s about 20 actors on a list, and you go one by one and you offer it to them. On the first Alice, Tim (Burton) literally just picked the people he wanted, and called them. And every single person said yes. There was one character where he picked somebody and she said yes, and then she had dates issues and so then we had moved on to somebody else, but everybody wanted to do it because they just wanted to obviously work with Tim and they loved the script. So the second time, obviously, we knew who most of the actors were going to be, but scheduling was very difficult.

It probably took us almost another year to really get started, to get all the actors when they could work at the same time. And even then you talk about the scheduling with the three kids, imagine with the actors because it wasn’t like we have all the actors for the three months we need them. We have Johnny for these days here, etc. It’s all like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle.

 

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

A Message for Moms

 I’m learning every day just like the rest of you. I think however many years it is down the road for me now, I know it sounds like an Instagram saying, but I definitely sweat the small stuff less and I feel like in my old life, I definitely sweated it more. And maybe that’s just because I don’t have time for it, or the energy for it, but situations, people, things that bring drama and conflict and aren’t productive moving forward things, I really stay away from or avoid or I will cross the street to get away from.

That’s very different for me than I was probably 10 years ago or 15 years ago. I’m very, very focused on what I think will be a positive outcome, and it’s something I actually talk about a lot with my kids, and stuff that comes up for them, because I always think the best advice I can ever give myself is the advice I tell my kids, because I’m much better at telling my kids what to do usually than I am at telling myself. So if I pause and think about what I would tell them, then I usually do a better job, but that idea of trying to avoid the stuff that actually isn’t helping you get where you need to go, including sometimes your own thought process about it, like having like negative thoughts inside or telling yourself that something is harder than it really is, because it’s not really helping you.

So you can just kind of let that go, like my kids and I say we just kind of like floated away, because I’m also a big meditator. I have been for 20 years and I taught it to my kids now. When people ask me how I get so much done in a busy day, I think that’s a big part of it, which makes no sense to people, because they’re like what do you mean? You take 20 minutes off twice a day to meditate, but for me it really helps me focus and stay on track and gives me a lot of good things that help me get other things done. I would say focusing on what you really need and just being brutal about it. Also a little bit of learning to say no. I’m definitely a little bit less of a people pleaser than I was probably when my kids were younger. And, I think it’s a good thing.

Photo: Jana Seitzer - www.MerlotMommy.com
Photo: Jana Seitzer – www.MerlotMommy.com

Being a Woman in Hollywood

We wondered if she ever had to deal with people not taking her seriously, or treating her differently simply because she was a woman. Her answer……..

 Do you mean yet today, because for sure it happened yesterday. Like every day?

It’s just part of working in Hollywood. You look at these dismal numbers of female directors and female producers and I’ve been doing it literally 30 years now, and it hasn’t really changed very much. I wish that it had changed more. I mean, it’s certainly taken smalls forward, but it’s not like it’s hugely different. It is very difficult. It’s harder as a woman.

Mentoring other Women

I always have a mentee from USC every year and I always have a mentee every year from the producer’s guild, which is another group that I’m affiliated with. I was (also) on the board of a girl’s school here called the Archer School for girls for six years. So I work with those girls also. They just actually had a film festival, and I got to go and speak on a panel for them. I love spending time around young people because they have so much more energy than I do, and you get so much inspiration from them.

I do really appreciate the mentor thing. I always tell them mistakes that I made more so than wisdom that I can pass along, but sometimes you can learn for other people’s mistakes.

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 23: (L-R) Actor Johnny Depp, director James Bobin, actors Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, producer Suzanne Todd, Mia Wasikowska, screenwriter Linda Wollverton, producer Joe Roth and actor Matt Lucas attend Disney’s 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' premiere with the cast of the film, which included Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Sacha Baron Cohen at the El Capitan Theatre on May 23, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Johnny Depp; James Bobin; Anne Hathaway; Sacha Baron Cohen; Suzanne Todd; Mia Wasikowska; Linda Wolverton; Joe Roth; Matt Lucas
HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 23: (L-R) Actor Johnny Depp, director James Bobin, actors Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, producer Suzanne Todd, Mia Wasikowska, screenwriter Linda Wollverton, producer Joe Roth and actor Matt Lucas attend Disney’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ premiere with the cast of the film, which included Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Sacha Baron Cohen at the El Capitan Theatre on May 23, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Johnny Depp; James Bobin; Anne Hathaway; Sacha Baron Cohen; Suzanne Todd; Mia Wasikowska; Linda Wolverton; Joe Roth; Matt Lucas

 

Working with Sacha Baron Cohen and Johnny Depp

When we’d started with him (Sacha) , I thought one of the funniest things was how Sasha talked about how when he’s developing his character that the costume is really, really important for him.  Sasha played so many interesting characters before that there was certain things he wanted to stay away from, like he didn’t want to do anything he had done before, so then it was kind of this process of elimination, but the one thing he really, really wanted to do was wear tights which I thought was so funny, and I didn’t totally understand it, but I went to the first costume fitting and I saw him in the tights.

And it was like, of course, because his legs are ridiculous. He has two spider legs, literally his thigh is the same size as his angle, which if you look closely in the movie, you’ll see, but I love that Sasha understood the ridiculousness, the skinniness of his legs, and that’s why he wanted those little pantaloons with the tights. Then you know under that big hat, he has what we call a man bun.

The there was Johnny, obviously we weren’t inventing a new character, but it was so, so amazing. It wasn’t something I was thinking about the first day that Johnny was working and he came and gone through the makeup and the wig and the contacts and everything and we were doing a scene and I just remember the first time he opened his mouth and spoke, I got tears in my eyes, because it was like seeing the Hatter again.

It had been so many years in between, and Johnny, as you guys saw in the movie, is so gifted and just bringing vulnerability to the Hatter, even behind all of the craziness. He’s such a talented actor and it was just so sweet, it was like seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen for so long.

 

Jennifer Todd and Suzanne Todd pose together at The US Premiere of Disney's "Alice Through the Looking Glass" at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, CA on Monday, May 23, 2016. .(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)
Jennifer Todd and Suzanne Todd pose together at The US Premiere of Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, CA on Monday, May 23, 2016. .(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

 

Favorite Scene

There’s sort of a running joke from the two movies, because I work sometimes with my younger sister who happens to have red hair, so in the first movie, there was always kind of joke to the writer, you know, this sort of Red Queen, White Queen sort of joke, not that the White Queen is the good one and Red Queen is the bad one. Although you may have thought that in the first movie, certainly in the second movie, you get to see it.  There is something about that sister story line because I have two sisters, so that’s very special for me.

Also, when you look at the young White Queen, the idea that she’s not a bad person. I think all of us, my kids for sure, have behaved that way. I behaved that way when I was a kid. When you just make a mistake you feel like you’re on the spot and say the wrong thing like she did and then you see in the movie the trajectory of everything that happened because of that. I love that scene at the end where they have a little tiny bit of reconciliation, although we’ll see how long that lasts, if we make another movie.

 

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Disclosure:  I am being provided with an all-expense trip to LA by Walt Disney Studios to attend the Red Carpet Premiere of Alice Through the Looking Glass. All opinions are 100% my own. This is accordance with Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of. Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.