Tim Burton, back at Comic-Con after more than three decades
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Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre sat down with director Tim Burton Friday afternoon in San Diego to talk about the very busy schedule the filmmaker is keeping these days. He’s just produced the dark, PG-13 rated animated fantasy ‘9,’ due out Sept. 9; he’s in post-production on his elaborate adaptation of the works of Lewis Carroll, ‘Alice in Wonderland’; and he’s looking to bring vampire Barnabas Collins to the screen with a ‘Dark Shadows’ movie starring Johnny Depp. Part one of the conversation follows...
G.M.: What’s your Comic-Con experience been like so far?
T.B.: I haven’t been here in many years. I came here as a student in the ‘70s and haven’t been back since. It’s quite amazing how big it’s gotten. It’s shocking really. It’s such a positive energy, there’s a lot of passionate people, so it’s a bit daunting to show something but that’s why you make movies. That’s what’s great about the environment here. People are very passionate about the environment here and that’s again why you make movies so it’s exciting to be around that energy. I love seeing people dressed up. It’s surreal and amazing and beautiful. I just remember last time I was there, it was some booths and stuff, but the builds that they have, it’s incredible.
G.M.: You mentioned during the Focus Features’ panel on ‘9’ that you felt you shared a certain sensibility with the film’s director, Shane Acker. I can’t imagine that’s something you experience too often.
T.B.: I don’t. Also, too it was different enough from mine, but I felt a connection to it. Having gone through this process myself trying to get films made and done and how much of a problem it is to have that happen, I thought I could help him with that, I thought I could help protect him from the forces of evil and let him focus on making his film.
G.M.: What specifically did you do to help him get the film made?
T.B.: I suggested the screenwriter who I’d worked with before. What I tried to do, I’ve been an animator, it’s a very strange job. It requires a lot of focus and sometimes you can just get so focused on something, so I felt very lucky to not be in there every day and just be able to look at things and have a fresh perspective. Animation takes so long it’s hard to have a fresh view of it especially when it’s so in your head. It was luck for me and for [producer] Timur [Bekmembetov] that we could [provide] more of an overview, look at things from a fresh perspective and just kind of help that way. I didn’t want to be one of those guys, I liked what he did, so there was no wanting to put my own stamp of approval on it. He could use us however he wanted, and he’s very open, which is great. There was no weird ego kind of thing going on. I always felt that real artists don’t have that kind of insecurity when it comes to taking suggestions or listening to somebody else’s point of view. He was very open to it. That made it very easy to be involved. It was always for the benefit of the film. He took the notes he felt good with. But that’s the way you want it. Otherwise, you shouldn’t get involved with something if you’re going to have to put your own stamp on to it.
G.M.: Did you know Timur before this?
T.B.: No. I’d seen his films. It’s great to meet somebody like that. It just brought a whole other perspective too. It was a real international film in the sense. We were first looking to do it in Luxembourg and ended up in Toronto, Paris, London, all over the world.
G.M.: You’ve said that we’re at an interesting creative point in animation right now. Does a project like this still need a name like yours behind it to help get it made?
T.B.: I don’t think so. The technology has gotten to the point where people can actually do this, they don’t need a studio to get involved. It also helps doing it for a budget where there’s not that pressure that you get when you have a bigger budget film. The fact is the studio was fine on this. The kinds of fights I’ve had in the past on things didn’t really manifest themselves on this. I think it helps that we did it and then went to a studio as well, so it was a different situation. I’ve been through it, Timur’s made films, Jim Lemley, the other producer... I think it allowed Shane to just focus on the film, which I think is a benefit.
G.M. Do you still have to have those kinds of arguments?
T.B.: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. At this point, I expected it to go away, but you’d be surprised. There’s not a film that goes by where some major issue [doesn’t arise]. I like to be a confrontational person. The movie industry it’s a very negative aspect of it. They’ll only listen if you go completely ballistic, and you just [want to say], ‘Can’t we not get to that place where you’ve got to go nuts?’ Some are better than others, but you still have these issues because there’s so much involved in making the film. It’s not going to go easy. If there were no problems, just making the film is enough of a deal.
-- Gina McIntyre
READ PART TWO: Tim Burton on ‘Alice in Wonderlad’
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