One of the (relatively) more divisive elements that places director Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland apart from countless adaptation that've come before is the relationship between a nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) and
WonderUnderland resident Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). Burton, along with the film's screenwriter Linda Woolverton, upgraded the Hatter's importance in Alice's story - and that was either detrimental or beneficial to the narrative, depending in part on how you feel about Depp's interpretation (whose appearance and manner is meant to be a colorful allusion to someone with mercury poisoning).
Burton won't be back to helm the Alice in Wonderland sequel (which Woolverton is writing), but it has long been anticipated that Depp will continue his $uccessful working relationship with Walt Disney Pictures and make an appearance in the film. Sure enough, reports are now in that the actor has entered final discussions to reprise as the Mad Hatter, well before any other cast members (new or returning) have been reported as being in negotiations.
Six weeks ago, we heard that Depp would be meeting with the Alice in Wonderland sequel's potential director, James Bobin - who helmed The Muppets in addition to next year's sequel Muppets Most Wanted (both for the Mouse House) - but it hasn't been confirmed (yet) that a deal was reached with Bobin; though, chances are good that one has been. Regardless, a new Deadline exclusive does assert that Depp is working out the final details of his return for the Alice followup, as part of a multi-year first look deal with Disney that allows Depp to develop projects he can produce there (presumably, through his Infinitum Nihil banner?).
Deadline's insiders are claiming that Depp's first-look deal was signed, sealed and delivered back in March, but has only just been announced in order to keep up his public appearance (and refute the claims made by some that Depp is no longer an in-demand star). In all fairness, there could be truth to that, when you consider the number of articles that've been published over the past week, focused on how Depp's reputation as a likable, and bankable, actor is starting to crumble (following the disappointing turnout for Dark Shadows last year and The Lone Ranger last week).
Depp's last two films were, in this writer's humble opinion, at least interesting revisionist takes on older properties (if also misguided and over-ambitious with their approach), while the actor himself gave solid performances in each movie, when judged on their own merits. Similarly, Depp has interesting projects on the horizon - like Wally Pfister's sci-fi feature Transcendence and the stage musical adaptation Into the Woods next year - for those of us who aren't really looking forward to his return as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 5 in 2015. So the claims that his career is doomed or damaged beyond repair seem like an over-reaction (to yours truly, anyway).
Having said that, Burton's Alice in Wonderland - the debate about its strengths and flaws aside - was a pretty self-contained tale, and didn't really suggest that there was unfulfilled potential for more stories (featuring either the film's version of Alice or Depp as the Mad Hatter). Hence, until more information is provided about the story that Woolverton is putting together for the sequel, it might be for the best to keep your expectations low for this one.
Let us know what you think about Johnny Depp returning as the Mad Hatter for the Alice in Wonderland sequel (and your feelings about the project in general), in the comments section.
Expect more updates on the Alice in Wonderland sequel over the forthcoming months.