Hey folks, Harry here... somedays a reader on AICN gets a call and is chosen to do something very out of the ordinary... Today, for the loyal Nordling.... he got the call to interview TIM BURTON. Nordling isn't on the AICN payroll, isn't a professional, isn't at all his thing, but today as a pure fan of film he got to sit down and have a phone conversation / interview sort of thing with TIM BURTON. And I love the results... give it a read...
Nordling here. There's days I thank God I found AICN, and this one's one of them. Last night, making dinner, I get the phone call from Quint - can you interview Tim Burton tomorrow morning? Now how could I say no to that? I had no speaker phone, no microrecorder, but I went out and grabbed these things to take care of business. This being the 10th Anniversary of AICN, I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute something like this.
I have to warn you - I feel like I James Lipton'd this interview. I'm a fan, and it's very, very difficult for me to put my geek stuff aside and concentrate on the stuff at hand. But I think I did my best, and hope you enjoy this interview.
Nordling: First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on the Oscar nomination for CORPSE BRIDE.
Tim Burton: Oh, thank you.
Nordling: It was a really wonderful film.
Tim Burton: That's nice, I'm happy for all the people that worked on it. It's like being in a dark room for 16 hours a day, moving little puppets, it seems kind of crazy, but they did a wonderful job.
Nordling: I was bummed that Danny Elfman didn't get recognized because I thought "Remains Of The Day" was an amazing song.
Tim Burton: They don't seem to like him very much.
Nordling: Yeah, I don't think that's right. I think he's really talented.
Tim Burton: It always seems like the same kind of thing with him.
Nordling: The score to the movie, we had it pretty much on repeat in the car, because my daughter loved the film.
Tim Burton: Oh that's nice. Well, you know, this stuff has a delayed reaction I've noticed over the years, it's like, people have funny opinions about it, and at the same time then years later his music really stays with people.
Nordling: I agree with that. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS I thought was amazing.
Tim Burton: Yeah, he didn't get very much good talk about that except years later when you talk to kids and stuff and it has a strong impact on them, so it's really nice.
Nordling: I wanted to get out of the way first, the rumor mill, basically, some of the projects you might be heading up, I know you probably can't talk too much about it, RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT...
Tim Burton: Yeah, it's something I'm really interested in. I used to go to Ripley's museums and remember the cartoon but I never really put it to a person. And it is incredible, this guy, he really was kind of an amazing story. So, yeah, I'm very interested in it, so it's a possibility.
Nordling: What's interesting to me was that his life was so wild, and it's up to the audience to determine what's true and what's not.
Tim Burton: Yeah, I know, and the weird thing is - and that's why BELIEVE IT OR NOT is such a good title because there's not that many biographies of him, there's a couple and there's some old New Yorker articles about him - he was that kind of strange juxtaposition of truth and sort of half-truth, but it's surprising how much of it seems to be pretty true, which is really amazing to me.
Nordling: One of the other things I've also heard on the rumor mill was a possible musical - SWEENEY TODD?
Tim Burton: It's something I really, really like and it's definitely something that... it's a musical that for me is my favorite in terms of all the elements, so it is something I would be interested in, yes.
Nordling: That's a great musical. I'd love to see another animated film come with you and Danny Elfman, another musical like CORPSE BRIDE or NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
Tim Burton: Sometime, I mean, with that medium, stop-motion, it's like part of the thing that's important for me is to make sure that the story and the medium go together. That's what I felt about NIGHTMARE and CORPSE BRIDE. It's just making sure that whatever that project is, if we ended up doing it in that technique, is right. But it is a form that I really do love.
Nordling: I was really happy to see with the Oscars, the three films that were nominated were traditionally animated and stop-motion.
Tim Burton: Yeah, it's great, because I think... I was very sad a few years ago when Disney said they were going to stop making cell-animated films, and I think there were a couple of other companies that said the same thing. It just seemed like such a mistake that they decided to sort of pin everything on one particular medium. There's something beautiful about drawn animation, there's something beautiful about stop-motion, and there's something beautiful about computers. But I'm glad that other forms are still being recognized, that's really nice.
Nordling: The thing to me is that for animated films, the meticulous nature of hand-drawn and stop-motion, brings more weight to what you're seeing, as opposed to computer animation which feels rushed for me.
Tim Burton: For those people, there is something special about the medium - you can actually walk on the set, and there's lighting, and there's dimensional characters there on the set, and for as painstaking as it is, it's also an amazing process to see, because it's something that's tangible. You can see it and touch it and there is something, maybe an audience doesn't really see that, but you know from being around it and all, it's an important part of the process, and it does give it a certain emotional quality. That was something that we were trying to do different in CORPSE BRIDE than other animated films, in the sense of treating it more like a movie, and having it slower, try to make it a bit more of an emotional pace to it. And so, that's where the medium helps that quality.
Nordling: I also think it's a lot of fun becuase it's like playing with toys and getting paid for it.
Tim Burton: Yeah, I know! It goes back to your old Super-8 days of just taking GI Joes and Barbies and moving them around. Absolutely.
Nordling: How do you feel CORPSE BRIDE is being received by the general public?
Tim Burton: It seemed pretty good to me, given that it wasn't that big of a budget, and overall, it did very well. For me, I always treat any movie, as long as it seems to do okay, I'm pretty happy about it. It's weird, because I remember NIGHTMARE, it did sort of okay, but then it's almost something that's done better over the years in some ways, so you can't really tell with a movie.
Nordling: One of the things I did want to tell you, in a personal nature, I thought BIG FISH was amazing. My father passed away with cancer when I was 17, and that whole process of the film for me really touched me deeply.
Tim Burton: Thank you.
Nordling: I was wondering, watching the film, was that sort of an exorcism for you of a personal nature, as in the relationship with your parents.
Tim Burton: Well, yeah. I think it's a fairly universal theme in that way. It certainly struck a chord with me, in terms of that very bizarre relationship you have with your parents. My father recently died as well, before I did that movie, so it was... it's funny, when that happens to you, you do enter a different zone and start thinking about things that you never started thinking about before. That movie really was cathartic that way for me, and I could certainly relate to the themes of it as well.
Nordling: Any plans with working on Johnny Depp again?
Tim Burton: I love working with him, since he's capable of doing almost anything, always keeping it open.
Nordling: One of the things I loved about CORPSE BRIDE... Christopher Lee's voice -
Tim Burton: I want him to do my phone machine! When I sometimes talk to him on the phone, I can't believe it. I was really lucky on that movie. Really, the whole cast was one of the best casts, really great voices and people, and that juxtaposition of all them I just thought was really great.
Nordling: My take on CORPSE BRIDE was it was like one of the old-school Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness crossed with Rankin-Bass.
Tim Burton: (laughs) Can't escape the Rankin and Bass, definitely.
Nordling: When you first began, with FRANKENWEENIE, and VINCENT, and PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, to me, it was such a great style, almost like throwing everything against the wall and see if it sticks. Do you feel any more pressure now, to conform, or do you still have that gung-ho feeling when you're making a film?
Tim Burton: I still have that feeling, there's no way to not have that feeling, even when it seems like a safer bet or unknown thing or whatever. It doesn't really change anything, which in some ways is very good, because for me, you would never get complacent, or feel like you know exactly what you were doing, all that unknown quality is part of what's fun about it for me. You got to have that going in, otherwise I don't think you can really deal with all this stuff. I definitely try to keep it all in the realm of the unknown.
Nordling: Have the scripts that you've been getting have gotten better over the years or is it more of a feeling of "This is what I can do for this?"
Tim Burton: Yeah, it's different for different projects. I wouldn't say they're getting better, but it's also too, as well as the scripts, is where you're at in your life and how you feel and what you you actually want to do, because sometimes you may read something that's just not connecting with you at that moment in your life. So it's a timing issue as well. I don't think they're getting better, it's more of a case of finding material that you can connect to. I've worked with different people, and I remember really liking the script to ED WOOD and feeling very strongly about that and they really didn't change anything much in that script. That was probably the one script that stayed the closest to the written word.
Nordling: ED WOOD's my personal favorite of yours.
Tim Burton: It was nice to have a script I really related to. Usually with the people I've worked with, and what I've learned you do some improv, and that's fun too, but that was the one we stayed as close to the script.
Nordling: How do you feel about the Oscar competition this year?
Tim Burton (laughs): They call it a "competition", but it's not like... it sounds funny, doesn't it? Like some kind of sporting event, or a lotto, pick your lucky number... how do I feel about it? Well, luckily, I don't really have any - I have no real experiences, I don't really have feelings I can place it against.
Nordling: To me, what I enjoy about your films, it's like they build over time. NIGHTMARE to me is a classic, ED WOOD is a certified classic.
Tim Burton: I remember very early on, after we did PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, it got some of the worst reviews of all time, really, really bad. Then I remember a couple of years later, all of a sudden, first one got all these revisions - people that said it was horrible all of a sudden were giving it a good review three or four years later. So I did sort of learn the fact that things sometimes change, and that people change. Same thing with BEETLEJUICE, I remember it getting really bad. So I was lucky to get really bad reviews that changed several years later, which I thought was really interesting.
Nordling: How do you feel about film vs. digital? Do you think you'd ever film digitally?
Tim Burton: Again, when you hear about these things, when people talk about them, they sort of categorize it, which I guess it's an easy way to do it, and some logic to it. But it's like what we were talking about with the different animation forms, or even digital vs. film, there's some benefits to it, but you would never just say, "I'm just going to shoot digitally," and just not think about it, it's always good to make sure that it's the project, I think what you're saying, it's letting the material be presented in the best way it can be presented. I'm always a protector of the film experience. That's one of the things that I don't- I'm very much against the way that the DVD seems to come out like a week after the theatrical. Everybody I talk to, myself included, everybody now goes "Why go see it because it's going to be out on DVD next week." I always try to protect the film, that's why when you see movies on a huge screen, the more of that the better.
Nordling: I'm really glad you brought that up. I agree. I'm a very big fan of going to the movies, because to me I think it's the last real American communal experience.
Tim Burton: Oh yeah.
Nordling: It used to be, and then we got commercials, and all this other stuff before the movies, and before to me it was like, everyone's discussing the film, and you come out of the theater and you're buzzing and talking about it, and now to me, it's almost like it's getting taken away by various things, like DVD...
Tim Burton: I think, no matter what technology comes over and takes over, I always feel like they should always remember that it's a movie, it's still the same primal experience that you feel like when you're a kid and you're going to the movies, or you see something on the big screen, the biggest screen that you can, with good sound, it's like that to me, they should be spending some time trying to make sure they develop.
Nordling: What's the first movie you saw that made you say, "I want to do that?"
Tim Burton: The first one that I really remember vividly in my mind, just because it was a full moviegoing experience, because it was in an amazing old theater, was JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, that's the one that I really recall. It had that big scale to it, I saw it at an old theater on Catalina Island, so it had this sort of weird, like being inside of a seashell. The old theater, that movie - that's one that I really have a strong memory of.
Nordling: What's the film that you've made that you're most proud of? I know that's kind of hard, like picking a favorite child...
Tim Burton: Yeah, it's hard. I don't know, I guess going back to SCISSORHANDS, that would be one of the earlier ones, so probably that.
Nordling: I so appreciate your time, I'm a big fan, and I can't wait to see your next project.
Tim Burton (laughs): Well, hopefully there'll be one, but it was good to talk to you.
I AM THE NORDLING... Shake mortal Shake!