When we next see Alice, the famous adventurous blonde we've all known since we were kids, Time is going to be a bit of a bother for her. Will Time be on her side, or fighting her at every turn? I have a bad feeling that Time won't be a friend to our fearless Alice this time around. (Too many puns? No?) When the sequel to the 2010 hit movie Alice In Wonderland is released, given how talented and wickedly witty the elusive villain most likely will be, it's a safe bet that everyone will be wondering: Who plays Time in Alice Through The Looking Glass? He's an actor known for his rather, er, unusual roles.
When director James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight Of The Conchords) took the helm of Alice Through The Looking Glass from the legendary Tim Burton, he had some big shoes to fill. Not just those of the director, but also those of a fairly integral role in the movie. Since the cast of heroes and the protagonist Alice were already set, Bobin turned his attention to filling the role of Time, a character determined to destroy Alice's beloved Underland, as well as her friend the Mad Hatter (played by Burton muse Johnny Depp).
As with most Burton-film characters, don't expect to find a cardboard villain when you see Time. Bobin wanted an actor who could draw sympathy from an audience, even while he's being detestable. So who better to play Time than Sacha Baron Cohen, the veritable creator of detestable characters we can't stop liking (Borat, anyone?).
In an interview with Den of Geek, Bobin explained the character of Time as something of an obnoxious gentleman:
Time exists as a person, and he’s annoying. It’s a very Lewis Caroll idea. And so I thought that’s sort of Lewis Caroll’s character, even though he’s never in any of the books and never mentioned ever again... he’s a person. And that would be therefore a very useful antagonist in this plot. Because if you’re going to do a time travel film in the Lewis Caroll universe, it would be great if you had to ask permission to travel through time. It feels very English.
Cohen worked with Bobin in the '90s on Da Ali G Show, where Cohen created fairly reprehensible, socially awkward characters and sent them out into the world to interact with "regular" people. One of his characters, Borat, became a massively successful movie and is regularly quoted by groups of beer-swilling dudes to this day.
As it turns out, Cohen's portrayal of Borat was excellent training for playing the Time character, according to Bobin, who said in that same Den of Geek interview,
Borat does some really terrible things, and says some terrible things, but he’s a very likeable person. You really feel for him. And you often feel sorry for him.
I think that’s a great trait that Sacha has, and I was very keen to bring that out in Time. I didn’t want him to be this one note comedy bad guy. That wouldn’t work. You have to have a character that has dimension. And therefore I wanted to make him lonely. I thought, if you are a despot who lives in a gigantic castle of infinity, surrounded by robots, you’d be kinda lonely. Forever. So therefore if you were to come into contact with a female — and luckily for him it happens to be The Red Queen — then you can easily be taken advantage of. And that was a good idea, I think.
When Alice Through The Looking Glass opens on May 26, expect to hear lots of buzz about the character of Time. Because if there's one thing Sacha Baron Cohen has proven with his eclectic career... it's that he knows how to get people talking.