But the 21-year-old's star has risen rapidly in Hollywood, and she has caught the eye of directors and critics since her career-turning performance in the HBO series "In Treatment" only a few years ago.
That led her to smaller film roles in the award-winning 2010 movies "Alice" and "The Kids Are All Right." In fact, Wasikowska earned a surprising tie for second with "Alice" co-star Johnny Depp in a Forbes ranking of actors who produced the highest-grossing movie receipts in 2010.
Now she plays the perennial female heroine in another movie adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel "Jane Eyre," opposite Michael Fassbender and Judi Dench, released on Friday in the United States. The Australian actress talked to Reuters about her meteoric rise and how her paycheck doesn't matter.
Q: You are noted for accents, from various American styles to, now, northern England in "Jane Eyre"? Did you practice as a child growing up in Canberra?
A: I even remember playing dolls in an American accent 'cause for us that was make-believe.... I think it would be almost scarier for me to do my own accent.
Q: Not so long ago you were in a small soap opera. Now, in "Jane Eyre," you are acting alongside the likes of Judi Dench.
A: It helps not to think of it as too bizarre. It could be easy to get overwhelmed by it. It also helps that I have worked with great people, but they are also really grounded.
Q: Do you remember being daunted at any stage?
A: I am not going to pretend that I have never been daunted by anyone, because for sure when Johnny Depp walks into a room he is like the face of, I don't know, but I also felt really comfortable talking to him as the Mad Hatter... at the beginning, for sure, but I have never worked with anyone where it stayed.
Q: Did you always feel such inner confidence?
A: I have my moments of doubt when I feel insecure, I am sure. I wasn't raised to be idolizing people in a way that I think some people have a sense of, when they are brought up. At the end of the day everyone is human, everyone is a person.
But I was always had a drive to do stuff and always felt like I wasn't doing enough. You know, I felt over the hill at 14 and that drove me; I was very quietly dramatic.
Q: Jane Eyre also has an inner confidence and determination. Why does this character keep resonating?
A: It's a really important character for women particularly, because she has an innate sense of self-respect, which a lot of people don't have. And she has no one to have got that from—it's not like she had a loving upbringing or something. But she is born with something inside of her that says, "I am worth having a good life. I am worth being respected, I am worth having a good relationship. And I am worth being treated well." And all those things speak to people, no matter what time it is.
Q: You chose this, a relatively small film, after "Alice." Would you do a blockbuster, say an "Iron Man"?
A: I don't think so. It really depends what it is. But "Alice" was exposure on such a level that I have never experienced before.... I want to keep doing roles that are interesting, and I think the blockbuster things don't provide that at the moment, or it's more rare to find.
Q: Do you feel the weight of your talent?
A: I don't know how people perceive me. I want to keep doing things that are very different.
Q: Very modest of you. How do you handle the red carpets?
A: I feel a little bit less secure in those situations. I would prefer to be on the set a thousand times.
Q: Do you care how much you get paid?
A: I would rather do things that have creative integrity and that I think are fulfilling.
Q: What is your life really like now? Ever get lonely?
A: Yeah for sure. We meet so many people and at the same time it is very solitary, which is fine right now. It can only last so long where you are fine with that. There is such a contrast between the times. You are on set with 150 people and everybody is in your face fixing things and discussing and then you go home and it's the complete opposite.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
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