Michael Cavna of the Washington Post went to Comic-Con and interviewed producer Tim Burton and Jennifer Connelly, who has lent her voice for one of the ragdoll warriors in 9.
Burton, and many other filmmakers, often have to bend their schedules to come to the immense convention (this is Burton's first time coming to the event as a filmmaker).
"I'm going back to work right after this," Burton laughed. "I just have so much to do," he continued. "It's weird -- you usually talk about stuff after you're done. But to talk about it while you're doing it -- you feel like somebody is strangling you. You think: 'Oh man, I shouldn't even be here.'"
Burton is even busy at the convention, promoting two highly anticipated features. Both he and Connelly were asked about director/creator Shane Acker's 9. After over 20 years of acting in films (during which she won an Oscar), this is Connelly's first time doing a voice-over for an animated feature.
So what attracted each of you to this plucky band of post apocalyptic stitchpunks?
Connelly: Shane has a really unique vision that I thought was really inspiring.
Burton: Same thing -- I saw the short. You could just feel his passion. My idea of getting involved with it was: You see a lot of personal films, but you don't see a lot of personal animated films.
Burton at the Alice in Wonderland panel at Comic-con with moderator Patton Oswalt (Photo Credit: John Shearer -- Getty Images)
So as the producer, did you run interference and help Shane [whose credits include visual effects for 2003's "Lord of the Rings"] fight the studio battles?
Burton: I used to have endless arguments with Disney, like [the studio would say], "Can you put some eyeballs [in]? There are these black sockets. How are you going to feel for a character that has no eyes?" And I was anticipating that. But fortunately, that didn't happen on this. The studio [Focus Features] has been great.
Can you both speak to what about the story -- specifically -- drew you to it? Heroic futuristic rag dolls fighting robots isn't your everyday fare.
Burton: We've all seen post-apocalyptic imagery, but the thing about this that's surprising is that it sneaks up on you -- the humanity. It's very touching. I just find it strangely emotional.
Actors typically rely so much on their bodies for performance. How did you feel as a voice actor, not getting to use your body?
Connelly: Oh, I did. You just didn't see it!
Burton: The animators appreciated it -- I can guarantee you that!... It's very important to an animator -- they get a lot from that.
And how did the process feel different, as a first-time voice actor?
Connelly: I'm used to meeting with everyone and having a long rehearsal time and you can sit around and chat about things and exchange ideas. This was pretty much over the phone with Shane -- his explaining his vision to me. It's a more disjointed process than I'm used to. Over a period of years, you come in months later. There was this one session with Elijah [Wood, who voices the character "9"] where we didn't even have any lines together, but . . . he sort of did his lines and I watched him. And he watched me do my lines.
Burton: It's kind of amazing that anything works out at all!
Connelly: You feel like you're invested in it, but it's a much more private, quiet way of working on something. . . . I was trying not to think about this character [named 7] as anything other than human. This little stitchpunk character.
You're both parents, of course. Will kids want to see this film, given its bleak setting?
Connelly: As a mom, my kids [Stellan and Kai], they loved the short, so [they'll like this film]. If I watched that short once, I watched it a hundred times. They wanted to watch it over and over.
So what about your upcoming projects? Tim, you've got "Alice."
Burton: I'm going back to work on it right after this!
What about you, Jennifer?
Connelly: I did a film called "Creation" with my husband [Paul Bettany] in which he plays Charles Darwin and I play Emma Darwin.
Is this your first time acting opposite each other in a feature film? I don't recall you sharing any scenes in "A Beautiful Mind."
Connelly: We had only one scene together, but I wasn't supposed to be able to hear him.
Burton (alluding to actress/partner Helena Bonham Carter): And they're still speaking to each other!... You know, it's harder than people think.