The Suzanne Todd interview for the Alice Through the Looking Glass movie took place at the luxurious five-star Montage Beverly Hills. Located in the heart of Golden Triangle, its elegance and vintage Hollywood decor sets the mood for talent interviews.
The mood in the room was at an all time high. When you do what we do and you’re among 24 of your blogging colleagues who are all pumped and grateful to be able to interview blockbuster filmmakers, you’re on cloud nine. Add that to meeting one of the most gracious and inspiring women in Hollywood, it was a pretty epic interview. Held on the day before the film’s premiere day and following our screening at Walt Disney Studios [review here], we were elated to meet the producer who not only holds thirty years of film experience, but is a single mom too!
Alice Through the Looking Glass movie IN THEATERS NOW watch the trailer here:
About Suzanne Todd
Suzanne Todd holds production creds a mile long to include Bad Moms, Austin Powers, G.I. Jane and Alice in Wonderland, to name a few. So not only is she rocking the blockbuster scene, but she’s totally doing it as a single mom! I’m like whoa, this one is badass! I was immediately intrigued, empowered and inspired all at the same time. Being a single mom myself, I am officially naming Suzanne my new hero.
And let me add, Suzanne is incredibly sweet, down-to-earth and the kind of person who enjoys speaking to people about her work and her life as a single mother of three. When talent and filmmakers are eager to connect, it makes everyone’s work so enjoyable.
Producer Suzanne Todd Interview for Alice Through the Looking Glass
As if I wasn’t already over the moon with Suzanne after finding out she is a single mom, she shocked the room when she gave her Alice in Wonderland Irregular Choice heels to Keri from She Saved (one of the bloggers). Mind you these heels sell at over $200 and sold out in London in 10 minutes.
She did this with a little back story.
Suzanne’s dear friend Maria Shriver has a charity called Move for Minds, which raises awareness and money to support research on women for Alzheimer’s Disease. Keri had made a generous donation prior to this interview in honor of her grandma. It got on Suzanne’s radar and she was so touched by Keri’s donation that she gave her these special heels.
We. All. Died. What a remarkable gesture. I’m telling you, Suzanne is truly an amazing woman.
So let’s talk about the interview shall we… Here are some of my favorite bits from that morning.
On Memorable moments with Johnny and Sasha:
Sasha talked about how when he’s developing his character, that the costume is really, really important for him. And when we got into it with Colleen, our genius talented Colleen Atwood, 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.
The one thing he really, really wanted to do was wear tights.
Which Colleen and 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. And I was like, he has like two spider legs where literally like his thigh is the same size as his ankle, which if you look closely in the movie, you’ll see.
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, you know—we call it a man bun. At one point, we had discovered this really funny Instagram feed that’s called Man Buns of Disneyland. So it’s only pictures of dudes with man buns at Disneyland. And we were joking leading up to the movie that we kept saying we wanted to get some Sasha pictures put together like he was at Disneyland, so that Time could be in Man Buns of Disneyland, because we love that feed.
With Johnny, obviously we weren’t inventing a new character. It wasn’t something I was thinking about the first day that Johnny was working and had come and gone through the makeup and the wig and the contacts and everything.
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 the craziness. It’s like he’s such a talented actor and it was just so sweet, like seeing an old friend.
And in a different way when Helena was doing the Red Queen and yelling and all that over again.
On favorite scenes:
Well, you know, 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 inside joke to the writer, 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, but I mean, I love all the scenes.
There is something about that sister story line, you know, because I have two sisters, that’s very special for me.
And 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, she just did the wrong thing and in the moment, you feel like you’re on the spot and she said the wrong thing. And then when 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.
On comparing Alice in Wonderland to Alice Through the Looking Glass:
In a way, I think maybe harder because the response to the first film was so 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, you know.
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.
Also, 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 flourishing, amazing careers, and Johnny is always booked. On the first movie, the really interesting thing was about the casting process, because it was Tim Burton. 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. You kind of work your way through the process. On the first Alice, Tim 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 cause 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 know, you talk about the scheduling with 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 and we have Sasha for these days, when he’s finishing the other movie. And it’s all like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle.
On the themes in the film and which is closest to her heart:
We didn’t rush to make a sequel 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, you know, was trying to be true to Alice’s story, trying to be true to the Lewis Carroll Alice and then, you know, that addition, and I’m sure James talked about this as well, of really focusing on the element of time.
I have three kids. You are all 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 for us that was really important, 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, and also recognizing that time is so precious to all of us.
I’m hoping people will watch the movie and really come out of it recognizing how precious time is and just be in that space a bit more because the movie inspired them to. That would make me really happy.
On that moment you know you’re doing a sequel:
So we all took a moment to kind of breath and, you know, relax after finishing the difficult movie the first time. And then Linda and I went back into the literature, read the books and re-read the books again then re-read the poems. Then we actually read a couple other books just on feminism, raising girls and the specific art of the emotional life of girls. Then it kind of started to gel for Linda, you know, she had an idea.
Once it came together into this idea, she wanted to go back and see the characters when they were younger and what that trajectory was for Alice and look at these different themes we talked about before. Then it became clear that it was something we really wanted to do.
Yeah so, she’s a badass in film…
On making it all work as a single mom of three:
I’ve been divorced like 6 or 7 years now, I have my kids 100 percent, so I found over the years that it’s important to have time for the three of them together with me. You know family time. But also to have individual time with them. I didn’t realize that in the beginning, how important it was to carve out time for each of them, because they’re all different and unique in their own way.
My schedule is always crazy. As for organization I use Google Calendar—probably everybody does. Everybody has a color and I always joke and say it’s like a war operation of moving people around. You make your plan, but on the day somebody gets sick or they forget their homework or volleyball shoes, it’s just a bit of craziness.
When we were shooting in London as opposed to other locations (where I can fly back and forth if it’s close enough), I just picked the kids up. They came with me for the entire time. A working mom will never have it so good because they were my prisoners.
We would wake up in the morning and would all go to Shepperton together, take the crew call and then off to class. They each had a classroom where they would go and do their school work from home with a tutor. Then we would have lunch together.
After that, they each had a department that was their favorite. My oldest would go to the camera department, and my little girl would go to (she called it fashion) the costume department. She would go and work with Colleen and by the time we wrapped, we would have dinner, watch dailies and go home. They were in my clutches. They weren’t going off with their friends or going to their softball games.
On single moms in pursuit of epic careers:
I’m learning every day just like the rest of you. 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. 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 stay away from and avoid. I will cross the street to get away from that stuff. And 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. 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 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.
That idea of trying to avoid the stuff that isn’t helping you get where you need to go, including sometimes your own thought process (like negative thoughts inside or telling yourself that something is harder than it really is), it’s not really good for you. Let that go.
I would say focusing on what you really need and just being brutal about it, and also a bit of learning to say no. I’m definitely a bit less of a ‘yes to everything’ people pleaser than I was when my kids were younger. And I think it’s a good thing.
On sexism in the film industry:
It’s just part of working in Hollywood. Unfortunately you see dismal numbers of female directors and female producers. I’ve been doing it literally 30 years now, and it hasn’t changed very much. I wish that it had changed more. I mean, it’s certainly taken small steps forward, but it’s not like it’s hugely different.
It is very difficult. I’d like to lie and say oh, no, that’s not true at all, but that’s true. It’s harder as a woman.
On mentoring women in the industry:
I always have a mentee from USC where I went to film school, and a mentee from the producer’s guild. I was also on the board of a girl’s school here called the Archer School for Girls for six years.
I love spending time around young people, because they have so much more energy than I do. I’m old and tired, and when I spend time around my mentee and a young person and I get so much inspiration from them.
I really appreciate that mentor thing. I can share mistakes I made. Sometimes you can learn for other people’s mistakes.
That’s the theme is in the movie, too. You can learn from the past. Yes, well, you really have no choice, right, because you can’t go back. Looking backward is, you know, in some ways, just a waste of time.
It was an absolute pleasure to interview Suzanne Todd. I will be following her work as long as she’s grinding it out! Be sure to check out Alice Through the Looking Glass in theaters now!