Hero Complexcontributor Gina McIntyre sat down with director Tim Burton Friday afternoon in San Diego to talk about the very busy schedule the filmmaker is keeping these days. He’s just produced the dark, PG-13 rated animated fantasy “9,” due out Sept. 9; he’s in post-production on his elaborate adaptation of the works of Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland”; and he’s looking to bring vampire Barnabas Collins to the screen with a “Dark Shadows” movie starring Johnny Depp. Part two of the conversation follows…
White Rabbit and the March Hare and Red Queen, White Queen, that fit within the story that Linda wrote. Obviously there are a lot of characters that aren’t in it. It was more important to take that material and try to make it a movie. Every other version I’ve ever seen I’ve never really connected to because it’s always just a series of weird events. She’s passively wandering through, [meeting] this weird character, that weird character. It’s fine in the books, but the movies always felt like there wasn’t anything underneath them. That’s what we tried to do. Instead of the Hatter just being weird, is get some kind of underneath him, some kind of character underneath him. That’s the goal is to give the Alice material a little more weight to it.
G.M.: That notion of making her less passive is very interesting. Was that something that you talked about with actress Mia Wasikowska?
T.B.: What I liked about her is she’s not a big demonstrative actor. She’s got that old soul quality, somebody you can see has an internal life and intelligence and a gravity to her and kind of a slightly disturbed quality, which fits into the material. You’ve got to believe that she’s got an internal life. That’s what a lot of these stories are, characters kind of working out their issues or problems. You like to find somebody and they don’t have to say anything or do anything, but you look at them and you know there’s something going on, they have some kind of gravity.
G.M.: Was that a difficult quality to find in a young actress?
T.B.: I met lots of good actresses but [Mia] just had something different about her that I liked. She’s very quiet. It’s not even something that you can put into words. I like those kinds of things were you can’t necessarily identify it in a verbal or specific way. It’s more of a feeling.
G.M. How long is the post-production process, one year?
T.B.: Well, it comes out in March, so that’s when it will end. It will go all the way up to that. It’s the kind of project, most of these that use this kind of technology take probably a couple of years longer than we have. I don’t mean that as an excuse. In some ways there’s something kind of good about just having to do it, but in reality I wish there were more shots done than where we are at this moment. It’s been daunting. If you saw how much was missing, you’d be nervous, too. [laughs]
G.M.: Would you do something this technically complex again?
T.B.: Right now it’s hard for me to say. Usually you talk about a film, even at the end it’s hard, I don’t like it. But at this stage all I can think about is how much I’ve got to do. It’s hard to say. I don’t really know what the outcome’s going to be. Any film you do, you just kind of finish and you wish you could spend a little bit more time on this or that. I don’t yet know how much at the end of this I will have felt that I’ve compromised or not. It’s a hard call to know. I don’t even think I’m that much of a perfectionist, but it’s hard to let go of anything. It’s tricky. This one could be pretty rough way I don’t know.
G.M.: You’ve talked about doing “Dark Shadows” next. Is that still the plan?
T.B.: I think so, yes. That’s the plan. There was something very weird about that, it had the weirdest vibe to it. I’m sort of intrigued about that vibe. It’s early days on it, but I’m excited about it.
G.M. We seem to be in the midst of vampire-mania, what with “Twilight” and “True Blood” and other projects. What do you make of that?
T.B.: It happens. You look at the history of film and whether it’s vampires or witches or wizards or whatever, it’s like any great fable or fairytale, it’s got a power to it. I think that’s why people keep going back to it. There’s something symbolic about it that touches people in different ways. It’s symbolic for something, I’m sure with everybody it’s slightly different but it’s still powerful. All great stories, there are about five different variations. I grew up on monster movies and it wasn’t until later that I realized it’s all the same story basically, but the monsters are great and they’re all different and it makes it feel like it’s all different. The monsters have more personality than the actors around them a lot of times.
— Gina McIntyre
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Photo: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter; credit: Walt Disney Co.