Tim Burton has had a very big year in 2010: his highly expensive and ambitious Alice in Wonderland earned $1 billion at the global box office, but was a hugely stressful experience for the director. His art retrospective, which opened in November 2009 at MoMA, has also visited Melbourne and, this week, Toronto. He was the president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Several new projects have become attached to his name, and a stop-motion version of Frankenweenie is finally being made after 26 years that he came up with the idea and made the original live-action shot. MTV News had an interview with the filmmaker to discuss his 2010 of successes, surprises, difficulties, and the future:
MTV: Tim, every year here at MTV News, we select a few people we're most thankful for. And you've had quite a year with the phenomenal success of "Alice in Wonderland" and a retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Tim Burton: Wow. Well, that's quite an honor. Thank you.
MTV: Did it feel like this year was a special one?
Burton: Yeah, it was interesting. The MOMA show was very special, and then going to the Cannes film festival and "Alice" — it was a lot of stuff going on. It was a special year for me, definitely.
MTV: Were you a little more reflective than usual with the MOMA show?
Burton: Yeah, I think so. It kind of forced me to look at myself, which I don't do very often. I even avoid mirrors as I walk by them. It was a bit of a surprise in a good way. It did make me more reflective. You know, as you go on in life, there are less and less surprises — especially nice surprises, so it's really, really great to feel surprised in a good way.
MTV: We spoke a few times when you were working on "Alice," and frankly, you seemed stressed.
Burton: I was really stressed. We were doing music to no images. It was terrifying. In a weird way, it was quite exciting too, because you never know with a film what it's going to turn out to be. But this was just an extreme, extreme version of that.
MTV: How did you feel about the 3-D debate that came with the film? Some criticized the conversion to 3-D you used.
Burton: Right, yeah, but that was kind of a funny argument because the thing is, we'll shoot what? It's not like we were doing motion-capture or we had sets. There was nothing to shoot. We planned for it. It was kind of a created argument in a way. Everybody likes to have a celebrity death match. Who will win? Things have more shades to it than that.
MTV: Right, because a lot of it became about you and James Cameron's different approaches to 3-D.
Burton: Yeah. They're doing "Titanic" in 3-D. What, they're going to go back and shoot it in 3-D? No. They're going to do the same thing we did.
MTV: Is Disney putting the pressure on for a sequel for "Alice"?
Burton: No, they haven't, which was smart of them. They saw that it was kind of its own thing. They didn't push for it at all, which I thought was really amazing, and smart, and right.
MTV: And you are content to leave the story where it is? Because you do leave an opening at the end ...
Burton: Yeah, but that's what the material does to me, it leaves it open for you. It's kind of like dreams. It leaves it open, as it should, for interpretation. It's like I got a lot of pressure to do a sequel to "Nightmare [Before Christmas]," and I just didn't want to do that, because some movies should just be left alone. I think it keeps their kind of spirit intact in a way.
MTV: There's been talk about adapting "Alice" into a Broadway show. Are you involved in that?
Burton: I'm talking to them about that just because there was a seedling of an idea that I thought was interesting. I don't know how far it will go, but it's something. I've always kind of wanted to do something live onstage. I'm just going to explore it and see what happens.
MTV: It sounds like you'll be shooting "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp soon?
Burton: Yeah, I'm working on the script, and, you know, it's been kind of a long time coming, but I think I'm getting a script that I like. I don't really like talking, because I'm not really sure what's happening yet, but I'm excited about it. I think, yes, finally for me, it's getting to be the right tone.
MTV: Have you and Johnny talked specifically about his take on Barnabas Collins, the vampire at the center of the series?
Burton: Yeah, we've been talking about it. I mean, he's finishing up another movie, but we've had a couple of really good meetings. Yeah, you know, I'm excited.
MTV: Have you started shooting "Frankenweenie"?
Burton: We just started a couple of shots. It 's good. We've got a pretty low budget, but I'm excited about it. We've got a couple of shots that are done. Yeah, it's just starting. It's great.