The fearless Mia Wasikowska is taking over Hollywood

This Maps to the Stars actress is winning the movie industry with quick wit and an easy smile

Jul 30, 2014
Kathryn Hudson

celebrity-MIA-wasikowska.jpgYou must have had your picture taken a lot when you were a child. “My mom took a bunch of series that centred on us as kids. They’re wonderful. She emigrated from Poland when she was a teenager, and then, 24 years later, she got a grant to go back, so we lived in Poland for a year. It was at the time when my sister was the same age my mom had been when she left Poland, so my mom was really interested in seeing how my sister responded to being in another country, being totally misplaced.”

You must have recently gotten used to feeling displaced and living in hotels. “For a couple of years, between films I would be back in my childhood room at my parents’ house in Canberra in Australia.”

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That must have been odd. “It was really strange. A year ago, I got an apartment. I didn’t originally think I’d live near the sea, but I’m near one of the beaches in Sydney. It feels incredible to be able to go and dump my bags somewhere—to feel grounded. I feel like I’ll always live there. With acting, everything is so inconsistent that it’s incredible to have one thing that I’m very sure about.”

Being in L.A. brings with it a very different lifestyle—and paparazzi. Is that something you’ve dealt with? “When Alice in Wonderland first came out, they were at the airports and stuff, but I think they just figured I’m pretty boring and left me alone. [Laughs] When I promote a big enough movie, they kind of show up to see if I’m going to stumble out of the cab or flash my underpants, and then they leave again. I think they always want to test the new young actresses....”

Speaking of women on the brink, you’re starring in an upcoming (and much-buzzed-about) adaptation of Madame Bovary. How do you feel about the character? “She’s very polarizing. Some people think she’s victimized by her situation, and other people think she’s just a spoiled brat. I love her! She represents all the things that we dis in everyday life. She’s jealous and angry and materialistic in a way that she doesn’t really understand. I feel like we all have varying degrees of materialism when we’re trying to fill a void, you know?”

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As your film career continues to pick up speed, how do you keep a balance? “It’s really important to disconnect your self-esteem from your work so that you don’t attach how you feel about yourself to how the industry feels about you. That just ends up becoming like an emotional roller-coaster ride.”

How do you do that? [Laughs] “I don’t know. It’s hard. I’m still learning how to find a balance between my film life and my home life because I don’t want to feel like I have two lives.”

Was there a moment when you realized you are an adult? “Do we ever feel like adults?”

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I’m not sure that I do. “I know. I still feel very much like a child half of the time, but I’m more grown-up if you measure it by feeling more confident and comfortable. I feel in control, as opposed to other people having the power of making me feel good or bad. Maybe that’s the best way to feel like you’ve grown up.”

Is there something you know now that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at 15? “I would just tell myself to be nicer to myself. I think everybody could probably do with being nicer to their younger selves. Adolescence is a profoundly lonely time for most people.”

Do you read profiles of yourself? “When Alice came out, I did. I found it so heartbreaking that I just decided it was best not to. At the time, I thought you had one shot at being perceived in a certain way and that I had blown it. It was such a huge amount of exposure in a really quick time, and that was overwhelming. I got one really bad review for Alice in Wonderland and it was like, ‘She looks like a heroin addict.’”

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What are you looking forward to? “Time off, actually! When I was younger, it was more about getting to the next project really quickly, and now I value the simpler things a lot more. Just being at home and having a cup of tea in the morning is, like, my favourite thing. I don’t feel such an urgency to be achieving or doing things—which is good because otherwise you just end up exhausting yourself.”

Do you have a plan? “I just want to be happy and have a good life. [Laughs] I don’t really have a plan.”

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