I was so fortunate to have the chance to sit down with Producer Suzanne Todd during the #ThroughtheLookingGlassEvent. Suzanne is well known for her work on movies like Alice in Wonderland, G.I. Jane, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and so many more… including her newest film Bad Moms coming to theaters July 29th!
Suzanne Todd has been working in the film industry for 30 years. Unfortunately that are not a lot of female directors and producers. It is hard to be a woman in the industry, and so Suzanne mentors girls every year from the producer’s guild.
Suzanne Todd is a bright light of energy. When she walked into the room, she filled the room with smiles and laughter. She wears her heart on her sleeve and you can tell she loves what she does. She actually started off the interview with a very special surprise for one of the bloggers. Irregular Choice came out with a special, unique line of Alice shoes. The collection for a Irregular Choice for Alice sold out immediately in 10 minutes. There were like lines on Regent Street in London five hours long. Suzanne was able to get one pair…and that pair she only wore twice…and instead of wearing them on the red carpet, she decided to give them away as her way of saying thank you.
So, why wasn’t she going to wear them? Why was she giving them away? After 30 years of making movies, Suzanne is fairly new to tweeting. Well, last week she shared a tweet from her really good friend, Maria Shriver (who turns 60 this year). Instead of asking for a birthday present, Maria requested her family and friends to help her with her charity. Suzanne was more than willing to help spread the word for Move for Minds (Move for Minds on Saturday, May 21 is a mind-blowing experience where women and men in six cities across the country will use their bodies and their minds to raise awareness and money to support research on women’s brains and Alzheimer’s disease.).
One of the bloggers actually saw the tweet, retweeted, and even donated…in honor of her grandma. It touched Suzanne so much that she wanted to say thank you to her personally. As a thank you she gave Keri Lyn from @shesaved her Alice shoes (and they just happened to be the perfect size…it was meant to be!).
They raised tons of money for Alzheimer’s research… and Suzanne was impressed with the power of social media.
After that excitement, we started the interview…
There are so many great themes in this movie… family, Time, Alice being a strong female heroine…we wanted to know what Suzanne was the most passionate about this movie. From the beginning, it’s been 10 years for Suzanne making these two Alice movies. It was very difficult to craft the sequel. “We had never intended to make a sequel. We didn’t rush to make a sequel like to just cash in on the financial success of the first one. We wanted to be really thoughtful about it. So I think that was always at the core of it, was trying to be true to Alice’s story, trying to be true to the Lewis Carroll Alice and then, that addition … of really focusing on time.”
As a mother of 3, she knows how hard it is to balance life, and she finds her time very precious.
The focus on time was really important to Suzanne. This movie is a “we girls can do anything movie” and shows us how “time is so precious to all of us.” Being a working mom can be difficult. “And when I look at technology like we’re talking about this, lovely positive power of the internet, you know, there’s a thing about technology is that it was supposed to be created to give all of us more leisure time. Like remember, the fax machine or a blackberry, and now you’re gonna leave work early and have extra time to spend with your kids, but really what it does in some ways is it’s turned all of us into 24 hour workers, because there’s no time of the day when you can’t be doing something productive that has to do with your technology. So, it’s a balance that we all have to try and find for when we’re gonna turn it off of put it away and really sit down on the blanket and have a picnic with our kids, ’cause it doesn’t happen enough, but then when it does, I think everybody has that moment where they think oh, this is what I should be doing on a Sunday afternoon, but I’m hoping people will watch the movie and really come out of it and have those conversation or, you know, just be in that space a little bit more because the movie inspired them to, so that, that would make me really happy.” What I took from Suzanne, it that time is so precious, sometimes we need to unplug and live in the moment.
Suzanne is a single mom… and she is able to manage her family life with her work life. She sets aside certain times where she won’t answer her phone. “After 8 o’clock or this is Mommy and Me time.” Dinner time is family time… no cell phones at the table! Suzanne has been divorced for 6-7 years and has her kids 100% of the time. She has found that it’s important to have all three of them together with her, but to also have individual time with them. “I didn’t realize that in the beginning, how important it was to carve out time for each of them, because they’re all different and unique in their one way. But yeah, my schedule is always crazy. I use Google calendar. Probably everybody does. Everybody has a color and I always joke and say it’s like a war operation of like moving people around or, you know how it is. You make your plan, and on the day somebody gets sick or they forget their homework. She forgot her volleyball shoes and it all kind of goes, you know, that’s the same for everybody. It’s just a little bit of craziness.” But that sounds like a real mom, like the rest of us.
Producing Alice Through The Looking Glass was slightly harder than Alice in Wonderland. “The response to the first film was so kind of unexpected and overwhelming,” so there was all this pressure to make something that was commercially viable…but also to make something that was important to us. “Like I said, just for me with the three kids, the older I get, the less I want to ever do a movie that doesn’t feed my soul.” Suzanne didn’t want to do a movie, just because she had to…she wanted to.
Getting the cast together was much harder during the second film because everyone has such amazing careers…such as Johnny Depp who is ALWAYS BOOKED. “On the first movie, the really interesting thing about the casting process, because it was Tim Burton…” Normally when you are casting a movie you would go through the script and make a list of the characters and list the actors you think fit the part. Then you would go one by one and offer them the part. But on the first Alice, “Tim literally just picked the people he wanted, and called them. And every single person said yes. There was one character where he picked somebody and she said yes, and then she had dates issues and so then, you know, we had moved on to somebody else, but everybody wanted to do it ’cause they just wanted to obviously like work with Tim and they loved the script. So the second time, obviously, we knew who most of the actors were going to be, but scheduling was very difficult. It probably took us almost another year to really get started, to get all the actors when they could work at the same time. And even then, you know, you talk about the scheduling with the three kids, imagine with the actors because it wasn’t like we have all the actors for the three months we need them, you know. We have Johnny for these days here and we have Anthony’s days here. We have Sasha for these days, when he’s finishing the other movie. And it’s all like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle.” But it all worked out…and the movie turned out amazing!
A message for moms…
Every day is an opportunity to learn. Suzanne said, “I definitely sweat the small stuff less and I feel like in my old life, I definitely sweated it more. And maybe that’s just because I don’t have time for it, or the energy for it, but situations, people, you know, things that bring drama and conflict and aren’t productive moving forward things, I really stay away from or avoid or I will cross the street to get away from.” Staying away from the drama and focusing on the positive is something she talks a lot about with her kids. The best advice she can ever give to herself is the advice she tells her kids. “I’m much better at telling my kids what to do usually than I am at telling myself. So if I pause and think about what I would tell them, then I usually do a better job, but that idea of trying to avoid the stuff that actually isn’t helping you get where you need to go, including sometimes your own thought process about it, like having like negative thoughts inside or telling yourself that something is harder than it really is, because it’s not really helping you. So you can just kind of let that go, like my kids and I say we just kind of like floated away…” Suzanne has been a big meditator for the past 20 years. She taught her kids how to meditate too. She takes 20 minutes off twice a day to meditate, which helps her focus and stay on track.
A funny moment…
Working with the actors you never know what’s going to happen. “I thought one of the funniest things was [when] Sasha talked about how when he’s developing his character, that the costume is really, really important for him. And when we got into it with Colleen, our genius talented Colleen Atwood, Sasha played so many interesting characters before that there was certain things he wanted to stay away from. Like he didn’t want to do anything he had done before, so then it was kind of this process of elimination, but the one thing he really, really wanted to do was wear tights.”
Colleen and Suzanne though Sasha’s request was funny and didn’t totally understand it…but after the first fitting when they saw him in tights it made sense “because his legs are ridiculous. And I was like, he has like two spider legs where literally like his thigh is the same size as his angle, which if you look closely in the movie, you’ll see, but I love that Sasha understood the ridiculousness, the skinniness of his legs, and that’s why he wanted those little pantaloons with the tights. And then you know under that big hat, he has we call it a man bun. And then at one point, we had discovered this really funny Instagram feed that’s called Man Buns of Disneyland. So it’s only pictures of dudes with man buns at Disneyland. And we were joking leading up to the movie that we kept saying we wanted to get some like Sasha pictures put together like he was at Disneyland, so that Time could be in Man Buns of Disneyland, because we love that feed. So many entertaining feeds.”
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Read More About My Amazing Trip To LA
I was invited by Disney to attend an all expenses paid trip to cover the #ThroughTheLookingGlassEvent & #ZootopiaBluRay in LA on 5/22-5/24. All opinions are my own.