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‘Come Away’ Director Brenda Chapman Avoided Whitewashed Cast for Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Origin Story (Video)

Sundance 2020: David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie star in fairy tale and family film

Director Brenda Chapman’s latest family film “Come Away” is a fairy tale that imagines a new spin on classic fairytales–what if Peter Pan and Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” were brother and sister before they ventured off on their own journeys? But it also switches up a common trope about how we think these characters look.

“Come Away” stars David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie as parents to both Peter and Alice, both of whom are mixed race kids in the story from writer Marissa Kate Goodhill. Oyelowo and Jolie likewise have mixed race children and often have play dates together, but Chapman knew from the get go Oyelowo would be perfect for the part.

“When I originally read the script, I had just been in the same box when I read a period piece. It’s a white cast. Especially in England. But the reality is, that was whitewashed in film. That’s not how history was,” Chapman told TheWrap at Sundance. “Honestly it was the casting agent who handed me the possible casting, and David O. was on the list, and I stopped because I love him, and I would love to work with him, and I thought, that’s too bad, but then I went, wait a minute, I thought about the script, I thought about the story and I went, why not? He’s a lovely man, a lovely father figure. I could just picture him in the role, and I didn’t have to change a word in the script.”

“Come Away” shows Peter before he becomes Pan and Alice before she visits Wonderland as they live in an idyllic country home in England with their parents and older brother David. But when a tragedy befalls their older brother, Peter and Alice travel to London to sell a family heirloom and encounter a dangerous underworld of fantasy and darkness that spurs their imagination and helps them cope with the tragedy.

Chapman also went out of her comfort zone in another way on “Come Away,” making her first live-action feature after a storied career in animation. Chapman is the director of “The Prince of Egypt” and Pixar’s “Brave” and also wrote the story for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” But even though this story was presented to her as live action (with a pinch of animation), it scratched her itch for fantasy.

“There’s so much magic within it because of their imaginations, and there’s a tragedy in the film that sets them into their imaginations to cope with this family tragedy. In animation, I don’t get to explore that very deeply. We have deaths in animation all the time, but I don’t get to explore the adult side of that very often,” Chapman said. “I had never had any desire to do a live action film, but when I read the script, I thought, well if I’m going to do one, this is the one I would do. Because it has so many elements that are in my wheelhouse that I love.”

Check out TheWrap’s interview with Chapman above.