Mia Wasikowska: 'I think it's important to explore yourself or your mind to find out who you are'
Australian actress discusses her role in Mirrah Foulkes' gloriously off-kilter debut, Judy & Punch
'As a teen I fucking loved those makeover movie scenes! But seeing it from the perspective of my young niece I feel a little conflicted,' explains actress Mia Wasikowska on the subject of shifting standards in entertainment and what that means in reality. 'It's really funny that experience. I have a niece and nephews – they're still quite young but I'm starting to rewatch some films with them that I adored as a kid. I don't want to name and shame any movies in particular but when you're sitting there with your young niece it just puts it in a different light … and so much especially with rom-coms. It just doesn't really register at that young age the kind of messages that you're absorbing from everywhere.'
Australian director Mirrah Foulkes' impressive debut feature specifically tackles the depiction of violence in entertainment with a richly layered reimagining of the once popular British seaside puppet show Punch & Judy. Foulkes reverses the title to put a woman front and centre, with Wasikowska turning in an electrifying performance as Judy who goes on a punishing and empowering journey in the film. It's a feminist reworking reminiscent of Angela Carter's provocative twists on the fairy-tale.
On why she was attracted to the film Wasikowska says, 'I like anything that turns the norm on its head. I mean really it was the whole package with Judy & Punch. When I read the script, I liked that it was really original and it combined humour and tragedy in this really unusual way. I like it when films combine those elements and you can't quite relax into knowing what's going to happen or where it's going because you're on your toes because the tone's changing.'
Over the past decade, Wasikowska has worked with big name directors like Park Chan-Wook, David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch and Guillermo del Toro to name a few, and become something of an icon for fans of cult films with her depictions of complex, unpredictable or powerful women. What draws her to these kinds of characters? 'For me personally they're more inspiring or more interesting. I feel like that's an important thing to share with people that sometimes that kind of power or sense of self comes with a lot of pain at some point, but it's important to push through it and come out the other side. I think it's important to explore yourself or your mind to find out who you are.'
Judy suffers through brutal torment, with themes of domestic violence, the silencing of female voices and the importance of speaking out against the pack all rising to the fore in the film. 'I love that speech at the end where Judy says "Today the witch is me, but I think you all know that it could be you tomorrow", explains Wasikowska. She continues saying, 'Regardless of the entertainment industry I just see that in our world – that kind of misplacement of fear and that unconscious othering of something that is different from you. You can see it globally, the fearmongering and that mob mentality and just how important it is to know who you are and what you stand for. It takes real courage to step outside the comfort of being in the mob.'
Judy & Punch is in cinemas from Fri 22 Nov.