The filmmaker directs the British funnyman in the fantasy flick, a sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland. It was new territory for both men as James took over from Tim Burton at the helm and Sacha joined the franchise as Time, who is set on destroying the Underworld which Alice (Mia Wasikowska) previously discovered.
Having worked together on several occasions before this collaboration, James knew he was in for a treat teaming up with Sacha again.
"I’ve worked with him, as you know, for many years," James told Den of Geek. "This is like going back to the last century, we worked together on The Ali G Show and The Eleven O’Clock Show in the 1990s. And one of the things I’m always aware of, with him... he’s very good at playing... like, Borat does some really terrible things, and says some terrible things, but he’s a very likeable person. You really feel for him. And you often feel sorry for him.
"I think that’s a great trait that Sacha has, and I was very keen to bring that out in Time. I didn’t want him to be this one note comedy bad guy. That wouldn’t work. You have to have a character that has dimension. And therefore I wanted to make him lonely."
James adds that their working relationship hasn't changed since they first joined forces, and that they've developed a firm trust between one another. The director can always rely on Sacha to bring heaps of energy to set as well as countless ideas, but the actor always trusts James to pick which ones will work.
There are a few of Sacha's own gags in the finished piece, with James sharing one of his favourite moments.
"He’s very good at falling over," he grinned of the actor. "He’s a very physical comedian and he’s very good at falling over, so I knew that thing in the corridor would work very well. Also, with that introduction straight away, you know this guy. It’s set up as though he’s this terrible, powerful guy and then he just falls over. And you go ‘Okay, I get it.’"