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Why Bertha From Lawless Looks So Familiar

The 2012 crime drama Lawless is full of instantly recognizable stars. Shia LaBeouf (Fury), Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) are just a few of the talented names in the popular movie, so it's no real surprise that it's earned above average ratings, according to Rotten Tomatoes. It also features stars who you may not recognize at first glance, but have similarly impressive credits to their names.

Lawless is set in the Depression-era south, and centers on three bootlegging brothers — Jack (LaBeouf), Forrest (Hardy), and Howard Bondurant (Jason Clarke). The brothers have a lucrative moonshine business in their home of Franklin County, Virginia, but things take a turn when a new deputy arrives and demands a cut of their profits in exchange for protection. When Forrest refuses to cooperate, it kicks off a violent battle for money and power, as the sadistic deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) doesn't take no for an answer. Amid the suspense, romantic relationships also develop, and one of the paramours is Bertha Minnix, the daughter of the local preacher. 

If you thought Bertha looked familiar, you're not alone — the actress who plays her is Mia Wasikowska, and she's been in dozens of projects since the mid 2000s. Here's where you may have seen her before.

Mia Wasikowska's start in acting

Wasikowska grew up in Australia, and originally intended to be a professional ballet dancer. When an injury cut that dream short, she pivoted to acting, finding inspiration in films like The Piano and A Woman Under the Influence. In an interview with W Magazine, Wasikowska described her transition from dance to acting. "What I like about film is it explores imperfections," she said. "That was something that really attracted me."

Her first major role came in 2004, a short stint in the Australian soap All Saints. In 2006, she landed her first film role in the Australian dramedy Suburban Mayhem. Suburban Mayhem earned her a nomination for a Young Actor's AFI Award, and she was subsequently cast in a few short films after that success (via IMDb). In 2007, she appeared in the films September as Amelia and Rogue as Sherry. It was a strong run in her home market, but her career really kicked into overdrive when she moved to the United States.

Mia Wasikowska was In Treatment at HBO

When Wasikowska was 17, she landed her first U.S. role in the popular HBO drama In Treatment. She auditioned for the role by video tape since she was still living in Australia at the time, and she had to give up her schooling in Canberra to move to Los Angeles for the part. When ScreenWize asked about that difficult decision, Wasikowska said "I was really glad that my mum was able to come with me, and my brother and sister came in their holidays, so I felt like I had my family with me, but it was a big change."

Her role on In Treatment helped catapult her into the spotlight, especially due to her accurate American accent. In a 2008 Variety interview, Wasikowska attributed her skill at mimicking accents to her childhood tendency to imitate others. "I was probably a bit of a mimic when I was a kid, and I used to imitate people," she explained. "In Australia we have so many American films and TV shows, it's easier for an Australian to pick up an American accent."

Mia Wasikowska was one of the kids who were all right

Wasikowska was cast in Lisa Cholodenko's indie comedy The Kids Are All Right as Joni Allgood, the teenage daughter of the central lesbian couple. She was conceived due to the help of a sperm donor. Her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces Joni to get in touch with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo), a decision that ultimately turns the entire family's world upside down. The Kids Are All Right was a critical success, and is considered one of the first mainstream movies to feature a same-sex couple raising kids.

The role helped Wasikowska gain momentum in Hollywood, and it also allowed her to branch out and make decisions as an actor. In a conversation with the Orlando Sentinel, Wasikowska explained how she characterized Joni with some of her real-life traits. "I like characters who remind me of someone I know," she said. "There are friends I admire who are a part of her. She's very comfortable in her place, with who she is. So I pushed to have her, whenever she was at home, in her pajamas. That's comfortable! And that's something I do."

Wasikowska's career got curiouser and curiouser

In 2008, Wasikowska landed the lead role of Alice Kingsleigh in Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Burton's long search for the perfect Alice ended with Wasikowska, with Burton attributing the choice to Wasikowska being an old soul. 

"You're witnessing this whole thing through her eyes," Burton explained to ScreenWize, "it needed somebody who can subtly portray that."

Wasikowska felt similarly to Burton, describing their shared views on who Alice should be: "Tim and I had a very similar understanding of Alice – what she was going through and who she was. I feel she has a strong internal life. She is a deep thinker and an observer of the world, and I think I am the same – which is why I am an actor."

According to ForbesAlice in Wonderland was the second-highest earning movie of 2010, making an impressive $1.03 billion for the House of Mouse. Wasikowska's role as Alice earned her a Teen Choice Award, Australian Film Institute International Award, and a host of nominations. She went on to reprise her role in the 2016 sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass, and also provided her voice for the Alice in Wonderland video game. Wasikowska's success as Alice made her a star to watch, and she's since had a steady career working alongside some of Hollywood's biggest names.

Mia Wasikowska stepped into the world of Charlotte Brontë

Shortly after playing Alice, Wasikowska starred in True Detective auteur Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Jane Eyre, playing the title role. Wasikowska spoke to The Harvard Crimson about how she first heard of the part. "I hadn't actually read [Jane Eyre] until I picked it up in 2009," she confessed. "I was halfway through and thought it was incredible, so I got in touch with my agent and asked if there was a script around." She received a script two months later, and landed the role.

Wasikowska is no stranger to adapting classic stories for the big screen; Alice in Wonderland originated as a beloved children's story. Her penchant for starring in adaptations continued in 2014, when she starred in Sophia Barthes' adaptation of Madame Bovary as the titular character. She's also helped to bring other types of stories to life, including the 2011 drama Albert Nobbs (based on the 1927 Novella The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs by George Moore) and the 2020 film adaptation of the novel The Devil All the Time.

With such a long and diverse career already under her belt, we can't wait to see what other projects Wasikowska has in store. For now, you can get a glimpse of her in Lawless on Netflix.