Director James Bobin and Sacha Baron Cohen have had a close relationship for years, first working together all the way back in the late-1990s when Cohen was first developing his Ali G character on the U.K.'s The 11 O'Clock Show. This obviously gave the actor a bit of an edge when it came to the casting of Time in Bobin’s upcoming Alice Through The Looking Glass - though the gig goes beyond just their friendship. The director truly feels that Cohen was the perfect actor for the part, largely because his ability to balance both being funny and infusing his roles with heart.
I had the opportunity to sit down with James Bobin earlier this month during a Alice Through The Looking Glass press day held in London, and the first subject that we discussed was his collaboration with Sacha Baron Cohen. Acknowledging Bobin’s past work with the actor, I asked if the casting was further influenced by Cohen’s past work with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – and while the answer to that was mostly a no, the filmmaker went on to explain why he felt that the actor was the proper choice for the part. Said Bobin,
I wanted the character to not be the main antagonist, because I think the Red Queen is always going to be that, but to bring on a character who would appear to be bad at the beginning, but eventually turn out to be just neutral – he’s a good guy. Sacha’s very good at playing characters who are both funny and vulnerable, and Time feels like that. Even though he’s all powerful and has this incredible ability to stop time and move time forward, he still is lonely. And I love the idea that powerful people are lonely! It feels apt for him.
Going further, James Bobin added that understanding this within the character of Time was something monumentally important for the development of his arc within Alice Through The Looking Glass - particularly when it came to the end of the story and capturing the proper level of emotion. The audience is meant to have a degree of sympathy for this powerful-but-solitary figure who finds himself manipulated by the person he loves, a.k.a. Helena Bonham Carter’s The Red Queen. The filmmaker explained,
I think that the scene with Alice at the end, where they say goodbye, had to have a certain poignancy to it. And if he was just a funny buffoon you wouldn’t care, but he plays it with such heart, because he’s totally taken advantage of by the Red Queen. He has no idea what’s going on! And he’s deeply in love, but he’s a lonely individual, and he doesn’t really understand the rules of courtship. The Red Queen, knowing he’s so powerful takes huge advantage of him. I’m thrilled, because he’s naturally very funny in the movie, but he brings a great deal of heart to it, which is great.
You can watch James Bobin discuss the casting of Sacha Baron Cohen and the part of Time in Alice Through The Looking Glass in the video below:
Alice Through The Looking Glass arrives in theaters this Friday, May 27th.