‘Jane Eyre’s’ Mia Wasikowska is no plain beauty
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Mia Wasikowska is a most unlikely movie star.
First of all, she proudly holds on to the tongue-tying family name of her mother’s Polish ancestry (pronounced VAH-shee-KOF-ska). Then, she lives in Australia with her family, far from the Hollywood spotlight, and only commutes to L.A. and to locations for film projects.
And, the 21-year-old former ballet dancer and star of the newest film version of “Jane Eyre” once gave up performing at age 14 after years of rigorous dance training because she said the relentless quest for physical perfection was damaging to her self-esteem.
Fortunately, Wasikowska eventually discovered acting as an outlet for her creative energies and in the last year alone has delivered attention-grabbing performances in the title role of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and in the potent ensemble of the Oscar-nominated “The Kids Are All Right.” For her work in those films Wasikowska was honored with the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Breakthrough Actress of the Year.
Now, Wasikowska is donning corset and gowns to take on an edgy new interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s much-filmed 1847 novel “Jane Eyre,” and she said this might be among the most modern and timely roles of her young career.
“I think (Jane Eyre) is such an important character for women, and for young women especially, because she is someone who is born with an innate sense of self respect,” Wasikowska said during bustling press interviews hosted by Focus Features at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. “And there’s really nowhere that that would have come from. It’s not like she had a loving upbringing or anything. But she has something inside of her that says, ‘I’m worthy of being treated right and I’m worthy of having a good life and being loved.’ And that’s something I think people connect to and have continued to connect to. And that’s what makes her timeless and very modern as well.”
In casual clothes and without makeup, Wasikowska doesn’t look the part of an actress or a movie star. She has an open, guileless face and slightly tomboyish demeanor, and she said, “I’m never really disturbed or recognized (in public). It’s nice.”
That’s just the modest quality that director Cary Fukunaga saw in the actress that convinced him she was perfect for the outwardly plain but inwardly radiant yet steely character of Jane.
“Charlotte Bronte’s perspective of herself was that she was plain, and I feel that Charlotte Bronte is the essence of Jane,” said Fukunaga. “But Mary Rivers counters Jane later in the story and says, ‘you are pretty. You’re not plain.’ It’s Jane’s own vision of what she sees herself to be.
“And that’s actually quite common,” he continued. “How often are girls like, ‘God, I’m gorgeous.’ Mia has that in a way. You wouldn’t look at Mia and think, ‘Wow, she should be on the cover of Maxim.’ She has a very different kind of beauty. It’s sort of a timeless beauty. It’s a classic beauty. She has amazing porcelain skin. She kind of glows in this interesting way.
“And the more you get to know her and see her personality come through you see she is actually quite beautiful,” he said. “But its doesn’t seem like a plastic sort of beauty, which in a way I think Blanche Ingram is supposed to be, you know, almost a kind of vulgar beauty, exaggerated beauty. Whereas Jane’s is a slow burn.
“That’s not to say that Mia couldn’t be on the cover of Maxim,” he added with a quick laugh. “I don’t think she’d want to be on the cover of Maxim. She has a different kind of aesthetic and self-representation.”
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