Tim Burton Interview

Tim Burton Interview

Director Tim Burton’s films include classics like Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, but his latest project is an update on the classic Alice in Wonderland story. Burton was recently in London to speak about the film with stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and his partner, Helena Bonham Carter, and spoke about 3D, stop motion and inspiration – and how to get to Wonderland.

What attracted you to the project?
Tim Burton (TB): I think what really intrigued me was the opportunity to do 3D in Alice in Wonderland, because it seemed like a proper mix of the medium and the material. A few years ago, I don't know if I would have been as intrigued about it. It just seemed like the trippiness of that world, and the tool of 3D, seemed like a good mix. And also just going back, and looking at the fact that there's like 20-something versions, and I never really connected with any of them. But the characters and images and the iconic way they've sort of infiltrated culture are just so strong. So I just felt like there was a really interesting and great challenge.

What's the difference between Underland and Wonderland and how do we get there?
TB: Well, it's spelled different and that's about it. We're not trying to be literal to the story, we're trying to be true to what we felt was the spirit of the characters and the spirit of the place and what Lewis Carroll gave to each and every one of us. And as for how to go there, I don't know – ask your doctor or local physician or I don't know, just go there, man.

Is it true you asked Anne Hathaway to model the White Queen on Nigella Lawson?
TB: When it comes to inspirations, I never say to anybody 'Do this' or 'Do that'. They're the ones doing it because, you know, the joy for me is to see what these great actors do with the character. I may give a little few hints or something. I think I might have mentioned her [Nigella]. But it wasn't that important and I dropped it and I just let her – I didn't dwell on it or anything and we talked about lots of other different things. There's a certain look and certain other things but I think every good actor draws upon lots of different inspirations. Especially when these actors are just working in this vacuum. That was my only anchor, was just one actor on a set and a green screen, coming up with a character, you know? So I was very grateful that they all made something out of nothing, basically.

The film was so long-awaited, with a lot of speculation and hype. How does that pressure affect you during the process and is there a fear of disappointing anyone because it's such a well-known story?
TB: I didn't feel like there was a definitive version, you know? There's been over 20-something versions of it and, like we've all been talking about, it's so much a part of the culture. I mean, for me, I knew the world of Alice not through the books but through music and bands and other artists' interpretations. So to me it felt like it was open territory because it's in our culture. But also, thinking about it, I didn't have time to think about it – I only finished the movie last week and it just got more intense, because there's kind of this backwards process to making this movie. So it just got completely intense at the end so you didn't have time to worry about those kinds of things.

There's been a lot in the press about the row that Odeon had with Disney about showing the film. You must be glad that that's now all been resolved. What was your feeling about the whole situation?
TB: I’m just glad it’s resolved. We made a 3D film to be shown on 3D screens so I’m just very happy and grateful. I'm just happy now. It's good. I have nothing more except happiness.

Does your dalliance with CGI mean you've given up on stop motion and did you envision an Alice in stop motion?
TB: No. I remember the stop-motion version by Jan Svankmajer and that was probably one of the more interesting versions of it. But no, because you're using all these different elements, it just made sense to use these techniques. Stop motion's kind of the only one we didn't use in this, but no, I've got other stop motion projects, because I do love it. But you try to pick the medium and the material and with all the techniques it just made sense to do it this way.

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Content updated: 21/11/2019 16:58

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