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August 25, 2011

Tim Burton’s birthday finds him looking to his past

Posted in: Movies

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Tim Burton with Vincent Price on the set of "Edward Scissorhands" in 1990. As a child, Burton worshiped veteran character actor Price, whom he directed decades later in "Scissorhands." (Zade Rosenthal/Los Angeles Times)

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Tim Burton with Johnny Depp, who played the title character in "Edward Scissorhands." (Zade Rosenthal/Los Angeles Times)

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Tim Burton with Winona Ryder, who played Kim in "Edward Scissorhands." (Zade Rosenthal/Los Angeles Times)

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Tim Burton on the set of "Beetlejuice," which he directed in 1988. (The Geffen Film Company)

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Tim Borton, photographed in his Warner Studios office in 1990. (Jim Hudelson/Los Angeles Times)

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Tim Burton on the set of "Sleepy Hollow" in 1999. (Clive Coote/Paramount Pictures)

Tim Burton turns 53 today and this year also marks the 40th anniversary of his creepy film “The Island of Doctor Agor” — yes, Burton made the H.G. Wells-inspired short at the tender age of 13.

The past is moving front and center for Burton these days. A few weeks before Halloween 2012 he’ll be in theaters with “Frankenweenie,” a stop-motion, black-and-white, feature-length movie based on his breakthrough 1984 short film of the same title. The story is about a boy and his dog — the boy has considerable mad-science savvy and the dog happens to be dead, at least until his grieving owner hatches a plan to revive his beloved pet. Footage from the film, aired at Disney’s D23 Expo this month, showed Burton’s trademark blend of the whimsical and grotesque.

Right now Burton is at Pinewood Studios outside London working on “Dark Shadows,”  a Warner Bros. film that reunites the director with his pal Johnny Depp (as well as Helena Bonham-Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer)  and pays tribute to the vintage, gothic soap opera that Burton has called a key influence on his forming sensibilities back in the 1970s.

Burton’s got plenty more on his plate. He watched a museum exhibit collecting up his art create a sensation in New York and in Los Angeles and he’s also producing “Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” (based on the namesake  novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies“). In June, he told Hero Complex about his interest in the latter: “Something hit me inside that said, I just wanted to see that movie. 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.”

To celebrate the filmmaker’s birthday, we pulled a few photos from our archives; you’ll find them above and be sure to turn the CAPTIONS ON. Burton is in good company on the calendar, by the way, he shares his birthday with “James Bond” icon Sean Connery and Alexander Skarsgard, star of “True Blood” and one of the alien-fighting sailors in the upcoming “Battleship.”

– Noelene Clark

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