“I've always been misrepresented. You know, I could dress in a clown costume and laugh with the happy people but they'd still say I'm a dark personality.” Tim Burton.
Academy Award-nominated film director Tim Burton, who is known for his off-beat and quirky style, has created some of the most exceptional dark, strange, stylistic visual and gothic-themed films, notably Beetle Juice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005). Next, Burton will direct the feature adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's hit Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd, which will star Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.
The filmmaker, whose life-long idol and inspiration is Vincent Price, frequently casts Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter, and frequently uses composer Danny Elfman. In 1997, he was a member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival. He was one of Entertainment Weekly’s “Greatest Director of all Time” and Tropopkin's “Top 25 Most Intriguing People” (Issue #100).
On a personal front, the 5' 11½" tall director had been engaged to actress Lisa Marie (appeared as Vampira in Burton's Ed Wood, an alien in Mars Attacks! and in Sleepy Hollow and Planet of the Apes) from 1992 to 2001. In October 2001, he began dating his current fiancée, actress Helena Bonham Carter, and has one son with her.
"I had never really done something that was more of a horror film, and it's funny, because those are the kind of movies that I like probably more than any other genre. The script had images in it that I liked." Tim Burton.
Childhood and Family:
"I remember when I was younger, I had these two windows in my room, nice windows that looked out onto the lawn, and for some reason my parents walled them up and gave me this little slit window that I had to climb up on a desk to see out of. To this day I never asked them why; I should ask them." Tim Burton.
In Burbank, California, Timothy William Burton was born on August 25, 1958. The first son to Bill Burton (a Burbanks parks official) and Jean Erickson (once owned a cat accessory store), Tim has one younger brother, Daniel Burton, who is also an artist. At age 12, Tim decided to move in with his grandmother.
Young Tim attended Providencia Elementary School in Burbank, California. After graduating from high school in 1976, Tim won a scholarship for the California Institute of the Arts, a college founded by Walt Disney, and later was hired as an apprentice animator at Disney.
On February 24, 1989, Tim married Lena Gieseke, but they divorced on December 31, 1991. Since October 2001, Tim has become engaged to Oscar-nominated English actress Helena Bonham Carter (born May 26, 1966). They have one son together, Billy Raymond Burton, born on October 4, 2003 in London.
“Our little boy is starting to develop a funny little English accent, which is amazing. Very cute. And weird. Really weird. I think it's the weirdest thing that's going on right now – I hear his little voice and it's like, 'Whoa'. He's got lots of 'Nightmare...' toys scattered around the house. Halloween every day in our house.” Tim Burton.
"There was one moment, and it happened in school. I had a big final exam--we were supposed to write a 20-page report on this book about Houdini. I probably would have loved reading it, but I didn't, so I just decided to make a little super-8 movie based on it. I tied myself to the railroad tracks and all that. I mean, this is kid stuff, but it impressed the teacher, and I got an A. And that was maybe my first turning point, when I said, 'Yeah, I wouldn't mind being a filmmaker.'" Tim Burton.
A very contemplative and quiet boy, Tim Burton spent most of his childhood as a recluse, drawing cartoons and watching old movies. When he was in the ninth grade he showed his artistic talent by winning a local garbage company’s anti-litter poster competition. A huge fan of renowned actor Vincent Price, Burton adored monster movies so much and was never afraid of them. He would go to his local cinema watching Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Destroy all Monsters.
As a young boy, Burton began making movies with Super 8 camera, one of which called The Island of Doctor Agor. The short film, Burton's own take on the H.G. Wells’ 1896 sci-fi novel "The Island of Doctor Moreau," was shot when he was only 13 years old. Burton also starred in the titular role.
Graduating from high school, Burton won a scholarship for the Disney-founded California Institute of the Arts and went to work as an apprentice animator at the Walt Disney Studios. After studying animation for three years, in 1979, he began working as an animator on the studio's 1981 project, The Fox and the Hound, which prompted him to say, "I was just not Disney material. I could not draw cute foxes for the life of me. I couldn't do it." He later added, “I felt they were saying, 'Okay, this is Disney--this is supposed to be the most incredible gathering of artists in the world.' At the same time they were saying, 'Just do it this way; shut up and become like a zombie factory worker.' After a while I was thinking, Is my restaurant job still available? I realized I'd rather be dead than work for five years on this movie."
Recognizing his rare and unusual talent, Disney allowed Burton to make his first animated short (stop-motion) film, Vincent, a 1982 tribute to his long-life idol and inspiration Vincent Price. Narrated by Price himself, the six-minute film was a critical success and won several festival awards, including one at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Burton’s first live-action film, Frankenweenie (1984), a 29-minute remake of the film Frankenstein by James Whale with the monster as a dog, was refused by Disney as they thought it was inappropriate for children. The film did not receive a proper release until 1992 when it eventually became available on video and on The Disney Channel. But actor/comedian Paul Reubens, who was in search for someone to direct a film about his alter-ego, Pee-Wee Herman, saw and was impressed by Frankenweenie (1984). He and subsequently landed 25-year-old Burton his first feature directing assignment in his first full-length feature film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). The comedy film, originally intended for limited release as a children’s picture, became one of Warner Bros.' biggest hits of the early '1980s. It was a hailed success and gave Burton a name in Hollywood. It also marked Burton’s first collaboration with music composer Danny Elfman.
Three years later, Warner Bros released Burton’s next project, Beetlejuice (1988). The surreal, wonderfully cartoon-like comedy movie features recently deceased couple (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), who seek the help of an obnoxious bio-exorcist (Michael Keaton) to remove a metropolitan family now occupy their old house. Burton later commented: "'Beetlejuice' was really the only movie I've done that gave me that feeling of, 'F*** everybody!'. I could just do what I wanted and that felt great. There's really no plot to it, but that's common in many of my movies!"
The success of Beetlejuice led Burton a job directing the 1989 big-budget version of Batman, starring Michael Keaton as the caped crusader and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. The darkly lavish film, based on the immensely popular comic characters character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, proved to be a huge hit. It was the most financially successful film of the year and has become Burton's biggest box-office hit to date and has secured him a place on the roster of A-list directors. It also garnered critical acclaim, winning an Academy Award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, making it the only Batman film to win an Oscar as yet. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe, two Grammys and several BAFTAs.
Talking about the Batman characters, Burton said: "These are some of the wildest characters in comics and yet, they seem the most real to me." And on working with Jack Nicholson, he described: "By the time Jack walks onto the set, he feels very clear and strong about the character. So when you're shooting its great, because that's when you toy around with the levels of how broad to go."
Burton’s next film, Edward Scissorhands (1990), about an uncommonly gentle young man (played by Johnny Depp) who happens to have scissors for hands and falls in love with a beautiful teenage girl (played by Winona Ryder), was one of Burton’s most emotional, esteemed and artistic films to date. Vincent Price also had his final feature role as the mad scientist. Edward Scissorhands received a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Make Up.
Burton then directed the second Batman film, Batman Returns (1992; featuring Danny De Vito as the Penguin). This darker and quirkier sequel proved to be a financial flop and somewhat disappointing. After the production of this film, both Keaton (who reprised his role as Batman) and Burton left the franchise.
While working on Batman Returns, Burton also wrote (story and characters) and produced the animated masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). The 72-minute stop motion animated musical film about the inhabitants of Halloween Town who take over Christmas, helmed by former fellow Disney Animator Henry Selick, was released by Touchstone Pictures, a film studio owned by the Walt Disney Company, after the main Walt Disney Pictures division balked at some of the darker content. The film was nominated an Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects. It also has become one of the most successful franchises ever in terms of selling merchandise, and much of the original merchandise has become highly collectible and rare. On October 20, 2006, the remastered 3-D version of the film was re-released by Walt Disney Pictures.
In 1994, Burton reunited with Johnny Depp in his next project, Ed Wood (1994), the long-awaited biopic about the cross-dressing cult filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr. The film, based in large part on Rudolph Grey's biography "Nightmare of Ecstasy," has emerged as one of the most affectionate film biographies ever made. And despite being a box office failure during its initial release, the film was critically hailed. It also won a 1994 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Martin Landau who astonishingly played an aged and impoverished Bela Lugosi. Rick Baker also won an Oscar for his makeup.
"Nobody had his (Ed Wood) style. That's something I try to do in my films. You have your own kind of cryptic messages in there - cryptic things that most people wouldn't understand but are important to you. Things that kind of keep you going through the process." Tim Burton.
After producing the 1995 Batman installment, Batman Forever, Burton produced Selick's stop-motion animated feature, a 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book, James and the Giant Peach. Later that year, he stumbled again at the US box office with Mars Attacks!, a sci-fi comedy based on the popular card series with the same name. The high-budget, special effects laden spoof/homage to 1950s horror movies had great fun using an all-star cast, including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan and Michael J. Fox. Although the film received mixed reviews from critics, it was considered a moderate box office success.
In 1999, Burton reteamed with Depp in the historical horror film based loosely around the Washington Irving famous story, Sleepy Hollow. The film, also starring Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken, was financially successful and praised for its art direction, receiving an Oscar for the category. Two years later, Burton sat on the director’s chair to helm Planet of the Apes (2001; starring Mark Wahlberg). The remake of the 1968 film of the same name, which was adapted from the novel "La planète des singes" by Pierre Boulle, was panned by many critics but was still financially successful. It also marked Burton’s first encounter with his current fiancée, Helena Bonham Carter.
2003 saw the release of Burton’s take on Daniel Wallace's novel, Big Fish, a life-affirming story about fathers and sons, starring Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor. The much less gothic film received a good deal of critical praise, being nominated four awards at the Golden Globes and one at the Academy Awards (for Danny Elfman's original score). Burton then recruited Depp again to star as the magical candymaker Willy Wonka in his remake of Roald Dahl's 1964 children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), which was nominated an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design. It is the second film adaptation of the book. The first was 1971's kids favorite Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, helmed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and Peter Ostrum as Charlie.
"They thought the Charlie character should be more proactive and that Wonka should be more of a father figure, and I'm sitting there thinking 'Willy Wonka is not a father figure! If that's your idea of a father figure, yikes. Willy Wonka's a weirdo.'" Tim Burton (on WB's lame suggestions).
Also in 2005, Burton directed the animated feature Corpse Bride, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The film, based loosely on a 19th century Russian-Jewish folktale version of an older Jewish story and set in a fictional Victorian era England, follows a young Victorian man whisked away to the underworld to wed a mysterious undead woman. Corpse Bride was nominated in the 78th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature.
As for his upcoming project, Burton is set to direct the feature adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's hit Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd. Johnny Depp will play the murderous barber Sweeney Todd, alongside Burton’s companion Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Scheduled to start shooting in February 2007, the film is expected for a release later that same year. Burton explained: “We start shooting early next year. I always wanted to do a horror musical so it's a good one for that. Just doing a musical in itself is a challenge but then you throw in a musical horror movie with blood about a serial killer and cannibalism and meat pies. It's a challenging combination there.”