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June 10, 2011

Tim Burton on ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’: ‘I just wanted to see that movie’

Posted in: Movies

Tim Burton at the entrance to the LACMA exhibit devoted to his work. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Tim Burton exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on display in the museum’s Resnick Pavilion through Halloween, collects a number of props, costumes and other artifacts from the director’s film work — and even previews some maquettes from his upcoming stop-motion animated feature-length retelling of his 1984 short “Frankenweenie.” That film is just one of three projects that will bring Burton’s name back to the multiplex in 2012, though: He’s also directing a big-screen version of the vampire soap opera “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, and he’s producing the literary adaptation of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,”  author Seth Grahame-Smith’s alternative recounting of the life of our 16th president.

Burton said he immediately sparked to the idea for the film, which stars Benjamin Walker as Lincoln and posits that the president had supernatural motivations for many of his personal and political choices. “Something hit me inside that said, I just wanted to see that movie,” Burton said. “I don’t know why. I grew up on weird perverse movies and it just seemed like one of those kind of movies that just tapped into my subconscious. I remember going to the Cornell Theater in Burbank where they’d do like three movies for 50 cents and that would have been the kind of movie I would have seen there.”

His role as a producer, he said, has largely been to help preserve the project’s unique character to the greatest extent possible. The movie is being directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted“), who is also producing; the duo previously partnered as producers, along with Jim Lemley, on Shane Acker’s 2009 animated film “9.”

“For some reason I have an easier time with [standing up for the work of] other people than I do for myself,”  Burton said. “I wish I could do it more for myself sometimes.”

Despite his box-office hits — such as 2010′s “Alice in Wonderland,” which earned more than $1 billion worldwide — Burton said it’s always a battle to get films made the way he believes they should be. “I learned this quite early on,” he said. “I remember doing ‘Beetlejuice‘ and ‘Batman.’ I thought, ‘Now I can do whatever I want.’ It’s a mistake to think that. Every movie’s been difficult. After ‘Batman,’ ‘Edward Scissorhands‘ was the hardest movie to get made. Nobody wanted to do it. I think it’s just the nature of the film industry. It’s a struggle pretty much every time. I always feel bad for people who have a certain success and think, ‘Now I get to do anything.’”

–  Gina McIntyre


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