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VIDEO: Johnny Depp Gets 'Mad As a Hatter' for Role

02/10/2010 at 05:35 PM EST

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

Don't expect just breathtaking special effects and an all-star cast when Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland opens on March 5. The visionary director has turned the Lewis Carroll classic into a psychological adventure, too.

A new Disney trailer reveals the 3-D epic fantasy's central character to be truly mad. With his shrill laugh, green eyes and flaming red hair, Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter may just rival Heath Ledger's sinister take on the Joker.

"He's a fascinating character," says Depp of the depraved dandy. "He's mad. He's unpredictable."

And while his feelings may run the gamut, the Hatter's affection for Alice, played by newcomer Mia Wasikowska, is steady. "They complete one another like a brother and sister do," says Deep. "He's very protective of her, and she's very protective of him."

Depp says tackling the fight scenes was particularly tough – even though he's performed his share of onscreen duels "The challenge was to find how the Hatter would sword fight," says the seven-time veteran of Burton films.

"To play the Mad Hatter and breathe life into Tim's vision is a dream come true," says Depp.

This trip down the rabbit hole has 19-year-old Alice returning to her wonderland to reunite with her childhood friends and features Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham-Carter and Crispin Glover.

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