'Alice in Wonderland': Johnny Depp on why the Mad Hatter is really mad
Johnny Depp went into great detail at the "Alice in Wonderland" junket on Saturday (Feb. 20) to explains his affinity for -- and his development of -- the madcap milliner, the Mad Hatter.
Seems the hatter's crazy behavior -- and the phrase 'mad as a hatter' has a basis in fact. The mercury used in the trade of hat-making caused irreversible brain damage and it was common for hatters to develop mental, physical and emotional problems.
The mercury solution was used -- not in the glue -- but in the process of turning fur into felt and was subsequently breathed in by the hatters, who would exhibit trembling, loss of coordination, slurred speech, loosening of teeth, memory loss, depression, anxiety, etc.
Depp decided to explore the tragic nature of the Mad Hatter: "This guy was damaged goods, physically and emotionally obtuse. He decided that as opposed to being a "hyperactive nutty guy," we should explore "all sides of his personality at extreme levels, from levity to... dangerous rage."
And the mercury also explains why the Hatter was "investigating things beginning with the letter M."
"It was interesting trying to map it out," Depp explains. Burton then jumps in, "Being a Disney movie, we decided not to focus too much on the mercury poisoning aspect." Cue nervous laughter.
There are still modern concerns about mercury poisoning coming from higher levels found in the fish we eat, as well as in paint, pesticides, mercury tooth fillings, cosmetics, floor waxes, batteries, air conditioning filers, fabric softeners, talc and body powder.
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