Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Image: Rufus Sewell as Adam in "Vampire Hunter"

Timur Bekmambetov posted this image of Rufus Sewell as Adam in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Click the above image to enlarge it.

New "Frankenweenie" Poster

Shock Till You Drop has posted a second poster for Frankenweenie. Click the image above to enlarge it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New "Vampire Hunter" International Poster has posted a new international poster for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Click the above image to enlarge it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Photo of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

A new image of Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is online. Click the photo above to enlarge it.

Four New Behind-the-Scenes "Dark Shadows" Photos

The Dark Shadows News Page has posted four new images from behind the scenes of Dark Shadows. Click the photos below to enlarge them:

Video: Seth Grahame-Smith on "Dark Shadows," "Vampire Hunter"

Writer Seth Grahame-Smith joined Harry Knowles for a discussion on movie vampires and making Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with Tim Burton. They discuss writing for different characters, researching and adapting the source material, and the ultimate showdown: Barnabas Collins vs. Honest Abe. Grahame-Smith appears at about three minutes in:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Q&A with "Dark Shadows" Costume Designer Colleen Atwood

Adam Tschorn of the Los Angeles Times conducted an interview with acclaimed Dark Shadows costume designer Colleen Atwood:

Between the original series, the vampire genre and the not-so-distant '70s, there was no shortage of source material, so where did you turn for inspiration?

Some of it was from reference materials and some of it I remember from growing up in the '70s. Then there was also a nod to the old show. I tried to pay homage to that with things like Johnny's little cape coat that he wears.

In costume on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, Depp looks like he's wearing a forest green cape. Is Barnabas Collins a vampire of a different color?

It's actually a very, very dark green wool, but that tends to actually [show up on screen] as black with a little bit of highlighting, which sometimes works better.

Was that made for him or was it a vintage find? It seems like there might be a lot of '70s stuff at vintage shops and flea markets.

We made it; about 75% of the principals' costumes were made. For the day players and the crowd scenes, it was mostly rental stock that came from the U.S. because it's an American story and the clothes had a different feeling from the British stuff.

Was this a fun movie to costume?

It's a period that when you look back on it, you can't kind of believe that people really did it. Most of us could remember what it was like, so we had a good laugh when people came to set.

Where did you source the fabrics — the paisleys, the velvets, the laces — for the pieces that were made?

There's a great textile fair in London called the Hammersmith Textile Fair that takes place once a month or so, and I was a regular visitor to that on my Sundays because they had some great stuff.

What was the inspiration for some of the principal characters' costumes?

For Johnny's character, we wanted to keep him really simple and singular but also have a nod to the period. I had fun with finding all the potential things that crossed over from the 18th century to 1972 — there ended up being a lot of emphasis on the collar.

One standout piece Barnabas Collins wears is a silk smoking jacket covered in a wavy pattern that looks almost like feathers or flower petals. What's the story behind that?

I loved that because it was so Tim [Burton]. It's a weird swirly pattern that from far away I suppose could be feathers, but when you see it close up it's more like those weird bull's-eye things Tim likes. It's actually an original piece — probably from the '40s — that I found at a flea market.

What about for Eva Green, who plays a witch named Angelique Bouchard?

A line in the script described Eva's character as looking like she'd stepped out of a Virginia Slims ad, so we went with a sleek, businessy look when we introduced her into the story. She's a totally modern woman, so we didn't want the sort of witchy look you would expect.

The most eye-catching piece Angelique wears is a floor-length, bosom-baring, body-hugging, blood-red dress covered in sparkling paillettes. Was that a vintage find?

Oh, no, that was made. You don't find a dress like that that fits the way it does on the rack, honey.

And Michelle Pfeiffer's family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard? Was there a kind of Karen Carpenter vibe going on there?

She was a marriage of a few different influences, including a David Bailey book called "Birth of the Cool" that has all these ultra-glamorous girls with that big hair and that look. It was a combination that fit Michelle to a T.

Judging by the assortment of macramé owl earrings she wears — and a secret that's revealed in the movie — are we to assume the family matriarch has a '70s-appropriate appreciation of the fiber arts?

I had these girls on my team who took great joy in making them for Michelle — they were very crafty. Michelle got really into the macramé too. She would ask if we could make some in a certain color or with eyes or sitting on a branch. She became part of the process.

She also favors a lot of very large and very ornate necklaces. Where did those come from?

The necklaces were these weird copper and enamel crafts people made back then. I remember these jewelry classes — I was way too little to take them, but my mom did — that taught everybody how to make this kind of wire and enamel pieces. We figured that if [her character] was into macramé, she probably would have branched out into making metal pieces as well. The pieces she's wearing are actually vintage ones I found on Portobello Road in London.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Videos: Eight New Interviews with "Dark Shadows" Cast & Crew

The heyuguysblog YouTube channel has posted eight new interviews with cast and crew members of Dark Shadows:

Tim Burton:

Producer Richard D. Zanuck:

Helena Bonham Carter:

Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Moretz:

Jackie Earle Haley:

Jonny Lee Miller:

Gully McGrath:

Eva Green and Bella Heathcoate:

New Behind-the-Scenes Photo from "Vampire Hunter"

Benjamin Walker between takes in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Paul Reubens on New "Pee-wee" Movie, Elfman's Music

Paul Reubens -- better known as "Pee-wee Herman" -- has revealed that his new Pee-wee movie is ready to begin casting. The new film will be produced by Judd Apatow (The Forty-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up).

“We just did a very, very quick lean and mean rewrite of it and we have a meeting with Judd Apatow this coming week, five days from now [as of Saturday],” Reubens said. “I’m hoping we’re going into production soon after that. We’ve been sort of toying with talking a little bit about casting already so I’m excited to just be able to make a couple phone calls and ask people if they’d be in it.”

“It’s a character I’ve always loved so I can’t wait to put the shoes back on and get that suit back on very soon and do this movie that I love,” Reubens said. “It has such a funny script and such a weird twist to it all. There’s some really good detail to it.”

Reubens also expressed interest in having Danny Elfman compose the score, as he did for Tim Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure and its follow-up movie, Big Top Pee-wee. Elfman also composed some music for the acclaimed television series, Pee-wee's Playhouse.

“I shouldn’t say this because I haven’t talked to him about it. We talked recently but we haven’t talked about that for a long time. Also I’ve never made a movie with Judd so I don't know what Judd music-wise how he would feel, although I can’t imagine that Judd would be, ‘Danny? No.’ But Danny, I feel like we have an unspoken sort like ‘I’m I’m making a Pee Wee movie, you’re doing the music. Don’t make me point out that I started your career, okay?’ [Joking] That kind of thing. The answer is yes. I love Danny. Both scores that he’s done for me I think are incredibly overlooked. He should have been nominated for the first one I think although as you probably know it’s Nino Rota’s score to 8 ½ really. Most people don’t know that.”

No release date is set for the new film yet.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New Photo: Erin Wasson as Vadoma in "Vampire Hunter"

Director Timur Bekmambetov posted this new image of Erin Wasson as Vadoma the vampire in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Click the above image to enlarge it.

Burton Talks "Frankenweenie," Childhood, Disney

Entertainment Weekly spoke with Tim Burton recently. Even after releasing Dark Shadows, the filmmaker has plenty on his plate for 2012, including another feature that he has directed, Frankenweenie. In the interview, Burton discussed returning to this personal source material, why he is adapting his original live-action short into animation, his childhood and how that has informed the new film, and working again with Disney:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is it about stop-motion animation that appeals so much to you?

TIM BURTON: It goes back to Ray Harryhausen. You look at his stuff, and you see the fur move! As a child, I recognized this artist. And there was something about stop-motion that felt more like a personal medium, especially because there were so few people doing it. Also, you go back to those kinds of stories, like Frankenstein or Pinocchio, about bringing an inanimate object to life. So here you have a process that does just that! It takes an inanimate object and you bring it to life. As hard of a medium as it is, there’s something so beautiful about that and the fact that it goes back to the beginning of film. The technique hasn’t changed — it’s still animating one frame at a time for 24 frames [to create a single second of film].

Is there anything that stop-motion allowed you to do this time around that you couldn’t have done back in 1984?

Actually, no. On Corpse Bride, our puppets were so sophisticated that people thought they were [animated] in the computer. It sort of undermined the beauty of the stop-motion technique. So, with Frankenweenie, we have a smaller budget and decided that the puppets are going to have to be a bit cruder. But that’s okay, because that’s part of the charm of stop-motion. I wouldn’t go back to the original King Kong and smooth down the fur.

But what has stop-motion allowed you to do with Frankenweenie that you couldn’t have done in live-action?

With my background in animation, I wanted to make the characters look more like my original drawings. There’s just more of a weird kind of energy in those drawings, and there are certain acting things that you can’t do with a real dog, you know? We wanted real dog emotions, and it’s a little easier to try to get that in animation.

In the original, you had the young actor Barret Oliver and all these normal-looking kids. But in this animated Frankenweenie, I was happy to see that many of the kids now look a little… off.

Well, I remember the school politics, and not only how weird you felt as a kid, but how weird everybody else was, too. It was easy to link those memories to old horror movies. I mean, there was a kid back in school that would remind me of Boris Karloff. And there was a weird girl.

Even though he brings a dog back to life, your main character, Victor, seems like the most normal kid around.

That’s how I felt as a kid. I felt very weird, isolated, and lonely, but at the same time I didn’t feel that way as a person. I didn’t feel like a weirdo. So you’re kind of in between a rock and a hard place — you’re treated one way, and yet you don’t really feel that way at all.

How much of Victor is a representation of your childhood? There’s a scene in the movie in which Victor’s dad encourages him to play baseball, and I know your dad was a minor-league player.

My dad was a sports guy, but he was never like one of those Great Santini dads where you either play sports or you’re going to go to hell and burn. I played sports, but I also liked making my little super-8 films, and I liked experimenting. I tried to capture that with Victor. He’s part of the quiet loner category. We weren’t overly demonstrative; we were just kind of like the quiet rebels.

When you finished the original short, Disney didn’t like it initially.

I don’t know if they didn’t like it, but they didn’t know what to do about it.

But they didn’t ask you to return to work afterward.
Yeah, yeah.

So do you get some sort of satisfaction out of the fact that, nearly 30 years later, here you are making Frankenweenie for Disney?

Sure, why not? But I’ve been back and forth to Disney a few times, so it’s kind of an open revolving-door policy. I’ve been around enough to know how absurd everything is. Any project that gets made is a miracle, and I’m grateful to each one, and each one is surreal. So I’m used to it. It’s okay. [Laughs]

Well, of course you’re part of a great group of people, including Brad Bird and John Lasseter, who were let go by Disney, only to return years later.

Those guys could have been making Pixar movies 10 years earlier! They had the talent. It was there!

Production Designer Rick Heinrichs on "Frankenweenie"

Collider recently caught up with Rick Heinrichs, production designer on Frankenweenie. The production designer has worked with Burton on numerous films in different capacities: Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Dark Shadows, and their first black and white, stop-motion animated film, the short Vincent (back in 1982), as well as the original live-action Frankenweenie short in 1984, to name a few. Heinrichs discussed his role on the new black and white, stop-motion animated film which will be released in theaters on October 5th, as well as his working relationship and friendship with Tim Burton, which dates back to over thirty years ago when they were film students:

Question: How did you get involved with this project?

RICK HEINRICHS: Let’s see, 30 years ago, we did the live-action Frankenweenie, and it was a fruition of a certain period of development that Tim [Burton] and I had gone through from CalArts to Disney. That was the last thing we did at Disney, at that time. In fact, we did Frankenweenie after we developing another little TV show that we were trying to sell, called The Nightmare Before Christmas, and that ended up happening later, as well. I was actually surprised to find out that a stop-motion version of Frankenweenie was going to happen, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “What a great idea!” I loved the live action version, and there was something great about doing all of the design sets on stage, in addition to the location and the interiors, and it got my own wheels turning about doing live-action films, in the future, which I have continued to do. But then the idea of looking at this again, as much as I love it, there’s things that I wish we could have fixed about it. How often do you get to redo things like that? Doing it as a stop-motion animated film is appealing because that’s my passion. And, Tim and I did Vincent together, many years ago, as a kick-off for those. I think when you see the film, you can see how sophisticated it’s become. What I love about it is that it still feels handmade. You can still see the hand of the animator in there, and all of the passion that they’re putting into the character. You don’t necessarily think about it when you’re watching it, which is great. It does feel like the actors are really acting. Those animators are just amazing, the way they act through these puppets. In terms of design, it’s amazing to see it in black and white again, and really play with the tonal values in a much more controlled way, this time. When you’re doing a live-action film, you’re dealing with a lot more people and, as much as you want to control the sets and control the lighting, it’s like wearing boxing gloves to try to do something delicate. With stop-motion animation, the cinematographer is lighting the set, and the set decorators and the model makers and the animators are all people you’re talking directly to. You can fix things. It’s on a scale where it’s all fixable, and you can continue to manipulate things until it shoots. It’s a longer process of prep and production as well, so you can really bring more, continuity to bear, on the whole process.

What’s the most complex set in the film?

HEINRICHS: Well, the town is probably our most complex set. For any number of reasons of efficiencies, we really tried to restrict how that was going to get shot and be reasonable and, at the same time, give the sense of the character of the town, as a background of the people. Whenever we prepare for these things, we always design much more than we end up doing, so we have lots and lots of stores that we designed. It lives in this pseudo-Burbank world, which is where Tim grew up, coincidentally, but not exactly. It’s post-war Southwestern America. It shares a little bit of design similarity to Edward Scissorhands, in the scene of a neighborhood or a flat sense of normal with this one aberration, sticking up in the background, which is very much of a signature motif for Tim. A lot of what he tries to do is to establish a sense of what’s normal and show how that can be somewhat monstrous, in its own way. The idea of bringing your dog back to life is a nominally horrific idea, but it gets played out in this lovely way, and it ends up being a love story, really.

Did you use photo reference for it?

HEINRICHS: Yeah, we did what I would normally do on any film that’s live-action or animation. We did a lot of research. We pulled together a lot of that mid-century modern look of suburbia, that’s not really high-end stuff. It’s really more of the tract housing of the post-war era. It created its own rhythm and feel to it, and now I think it’s beautiful. It’s so flat and says so much about the people who live there. And then, the black and white just looks beautiful.

How did the New Holland idea come up?

HEINRICHS: New Holland occurred with Tim and John August, at the story stage. It was all about having Dutch day, and also about how American communities really take these Old World elements and they turn it into this flat, suburban thing. They knock down all the maple trees and they call it Maple Street. It’s this absconding of things out in the world, and making it your own thing. There was something characteristically American and charming about that, like Solvang. To be honest with you, I really think that it establishes a purpose for the windmill. Since we’re not making it part of a miniature golf course, as we did in the live-action film, we had to find another reason for it to be. But, that’s just my assumption.

Was there a reason why you made the sets were in color and the characters in black and white?

HEINRICHS: Yes, because the grass came that way. The reason why they’re in color is partly because we were replacing skies and set extending and using backgrounds, so there is a lot of digital work going on in the background. What I love is the fact that you don’t really think about that. All the stuff in the foreground is appropriately handmade and hand-animated. The look and feel of that, from the excellent visual effects people who did all the work on it, it’s part of their job to make it all work as one world, to make sure what they do is not photo realistically, which would be their normal bent. They’re actually matching a look and feel that’s already there. We were chromocene, so there were green screens behind elements. And, all of the black and white gets timed and sweetened in post-production. But, all the dailies were shown in black and white. As far as everybody was concerned, they were living in a black and white world. This is a much smaller range of graphic elements. We’re dealing with tone and shape and form and light, instead of color, and all the other stuff that comes with color. It’s out of that, that we’re trying to feeling and support the story. I think it looks beautiful. I think it does evoke a certain period of horror/science fiction films. It works in a dual way, and I know that Tim loves that stuff, as well.

Is that more liberating for you, or more challenging?

HEINRICHS: It’s both liberating and challenging. The challenge is that you have to pay much more attention to that specific stuff because you don’t have the other stuff to make it look great. Once you learn that and figure that out, then you realize that you are really dealing with elements. The tool kit is then atmospheric perspective, one foreground shape against another, lighting, texture and form. Originally, I was a sculptor, so that’s appealing to me, as well.

What was the process of taking Tim’s original drawings and translating them into these three-dimensional figures and creating a whole world from his sketches like?

HEINRICHS: I would have to go back to our early days of Disney when they were regenerating the studio. We were all working on The Fox and the Hound. It was initially exciting to be working on a Disney film, but then it just sagged in the middle, a little bit, although my kids like it. It’s a good movie. You’ve got to imagine this place with all these young animators, all of whom have been told that they’re special and are going to be amazing someday, and realize what it’s like to do the work of a big, corporate animated film. And, we would just do stuff on the outside. We’d make Super 8 movies, and do anything we could to keep our blood going. I’d always been a fan of Tim’s own work. I’m sure you’ve seen his sketches. What was appealing about them was the sense of character and beautiful line. I wanted to make it three-dimensional because I thought that his work was very three-dimensional, even though a lot of people at Disney thought it was very linear. Apparently, the hallmark of a Disney film is that they look very three-dimensional, back in those days. So, I just took it upon myself to make sculptures of his work, and there was just something different that happened. It was his intent and his look, but it was in light with form. It was just a very natural progression, to try to do those in a stop-motion animated film.

Has your job changed with like the advent of higher grade visuals and 3D?

HEINRICHS: Yes, it’s much harder to do our job because you see every pore. I think that it is an incredibly appropriate use of digital technology. It was amazing to see all of the improvements and progressions that had happened, by the time we did Nightmare in the early ‘90s with motion control, but that was with old film technology. Now, with digital cameras, which are much smaller, the ability to completely restructure the entire process using computers, you still end up with a very believably handmade product, but you’ve just helped yourself enormously with all the other things that happened. So, I’m a fan of technology. I’m not a Luddite. My problem has been with purely digital films. I feel the danger there is that the kind of short-cuts you end up having to take are the ones that are most telling in the main characters. I don’t feel that that’s the case with what we’ve been doing on Frankenweenie.

What were the discussions like, to differentiate the look of this film from everything else that Tim’s done?

HEINRICHS: There wasn’t a conscious effort to differentiate it. My feeling is that, if you do your due process and go back to the well, grab the original inspiration and just develop it from the ground up, it is just, by its own nature, going to be different. It wasn’t really intentional. With Tim, all of his films live in a Burton world, and there are different parts of that world that look a bit different. The point is never to intentionally make it not look like something else. The intent is always to go back to the source and figure out how that is informing this project.

Tim made the original Frankenweenie when he was a 25-year-old kid. Is it surreal to be revisiting it, this many years later, and to what degree are you trying to recreate what you did before?

HEINRICHS: You gain wisdom and you don’t make the same mistakes. When you’re that age, there’s a kind of energy to what you do. Because you don’t know enough not to make mistakes, there is something that is very infectious about the work. In the original Frankenweenie, there are a couple of things that are cringe worthy for me, like how we engineered the burning of the windmill. That’s always been a problem for me. But, it was a live-action film, and you’re on that rock, rolling down the hill. I do think back to that time with a lot of fondness about the young guys who were doing that stuff. It is so surreal to be able to go back and re-work something in a different way and, really, in a new way. Yes, it’s the same story, but it really is different and it has a different feel to it, as well.

What made you and Tim hit it off, all those, all those years ago, and how has your personal chemistry been, through all these films that you’ve done together?

HEINRICHS: It started because his talents and mine intermeshed, rather than competed. Probably a lot of it is that I just really dug what he was doing and wanted to see it develop. And, with any relationship over years, it evolves. We’ve gone our separate ways and done different things. I’ve worked with Tim for the last two and a half or three years, pretty consistently, and it feels great to be able to pick that up again. There’s a friendship there, and there’s been an evolution over the years, as well.

Did you meet working at Disney, or at CalArts?

HEINRICHS: Well, actually, he was at CalArts. I’d already gone through four years of art school, and I was the oldest guy in the first year there because I wanted to do animation. All these guys, who were years younger than me, including, you know, John Lasseter and Brad Bird, and other people like that, were in a grade level above me, so we didn’t actually start really working together until the studio.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Burton, Zanuck Forge a Movie Family

Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about the relationship director Tim Burton and producer Richard D. Zanuck have forged in the past decade they have worked together. Here is the article in its entirety:

With “Dark Shadows,” the tandem of director Tim Burton and producer Richard D. Zanuck has delivered its sixth movie, this one starring Johnny Depp as a confused and heartsick vampire who spends two centuries trapped underground before emerging with two urgent instincts: Drink blood. Find family.

Both those impulses stay with the fanged Barnabas Collins for the remainder of the Warner Bros. film, which arrives in theaters Friday, as he dedicates himself to restoring the fortunes of his cursed bloodline. It’s not the first time that the legacies of fractured families and a yearning for reconnection pulsed at the heart of a Burton-Zanuck film.

In “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” for instance, the film’s emotional payoff arrives with the doorstep reunion of candy-maker Willy Wonka (again, Depp, deep in the pale) and his estranged father (Christopher Lee). It’s a scene and subplot you won’t find anywhere in Roald Dahl’s book or the original 1971 film adaptation, but Burton viewed it as an essential addition.

“You want a little bit of the flavor of why Wonka is the way he is,” Burton explained in an interview just before the film’s 2005 release. “Otherwise, what is he? He’s just a weird guy.”

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. (Peter Mountain / Warner Bros. Pictures)

Recognizing the complicated circuitry that runs between fathers and sons is also a way to frame the Burton-Zanuck partnership, which seems unlike any other major director-producer team today. At the very least, they are clearly unique among Hollywood’s “billion-dollar club” (their 2010 film “Alice in Wonderland,” is one of just 11 releases to go into 10-digit territory with its worldwide box-office tally).

Zanuck is 77 and seems immune to the passing decades — forever tanned, trim and tireless, a lifelong athlete who still enjoying ski slopes with his pal Clint Eastwood. Burton, at 53, is one of the most distinctive filmmakers of this or any other generation, with 15 feature films that usually glow in Halloween colors.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the two met in a private dining room for a joint interview that quickly relaxed into warm conversation about the personal rhythm of their partnership in a business that rarely hums along with sentimental tunes.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton during the filming of the movie “Dark Shadows.” (Peter Mountain / Warner Bros.)

“We’re in our own weird family situation — that’s what we like,” Burton said, referring to Zanuck, key crew members and a core group of recurring cast members with whom he regularly works. “Mars Attacks!” in 1996 was the last time Burton made a movie that didn’t feature either Depp and/or Burton’s current romantic partner, Helena Bonham Carter.

Burton and Bonham Carter met during the filming of “Planet of the Apes” and have two children together, Billy and Nell. The godparents for both are Zanuck and his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, also a producer. Last year, on the “Dark Shadows” set in London, Bonham Carter said the Zanucks are “part of our life in a special way.”

She added that the heritage of the name Zanuck made the producer an instantly compelling figure for her and Burton, both students of Hollywood history. “The stories are magnificent,” she said, “I never tire of hearing another.” The producer is the only son of Darryl F. Zanuck, the cigar-chomping Hollywood titan who founded 20th Century Films in 1935 and then two years later bought out Fox and added its name to the company.

The younger Zanuck carved out his own history, becoming Fox’s head of production at age 28 and saved the studio by putting all his chips on “The Sound of Music,” which still stands as the third-biggest film in history (behind “Gone With the Wind” and “Star Wars”) in terms of number of tickets sold.

The producer would love to add another hit to his career list with “Dark Shadows,” a movie that (unlike Barnabas) is hard to put in a box. Part comedy, part romance and part light-horror, the film is based on the namesake gothic soap opera (1966-71) that was beloved by Burton and Depp and as well by costar Michelle Pfeiffer. The old series was never a comedy (at least not intentionally), but the new movie, which has garnered early mixed reviews, sinks its teeth into the fish-out-of-water possibilities of an 18th century vampire encountering hippies, lava lamps and Alice Cooper in 1972.

Zanuck and Burton first sat across from each other in the spring of 1999 when “Planet of the Apes” brought them together. Zanuck says the conversation was stilted (Burton is especially shy, which is why he cloaks himself in black sunglasses) because “neither of us liked the script we had, but neither of us wanted to say it.”

That would change as the two keyed their partnership on candor.

“Richard always gives it to me straight, even if it’s something I don’t want to hear,” Burton said. “He has always based everything on the story and the best thing for the film… that’s not how everybody approaches it,” Burton said. “That’s something you can see if you look at his whole career as a producer. For me, there’s a lot of trust.”

The early turning point for the two men came one morning while scouting locations for “Apes.” Burton was ready to leave the hotel when word came that he needed to take an urgent call. As long minutes ticked by, Zanuck had a sense of dread and returned to the lobby, where he learned that Bill Burton, the filmmaker’s father, had died.

Burton and Zanuck collaborate on the set of “Alice in Wonderland.” (Disney)

“He was shattered, as anyone would be,” Zanuck said quietly as Burton nodded in silence.

Burton grew up in Burbank, and he’s said numerous times that he felt oddly removed from his parents and that he knew relatively little about them considering they all lived under the same roof. His father had been a minor league ballplayer and worked for the city’s parks department; his mother ran a cat-themed gift shop, and the boy felt like a stranger in his own life.

Despite that — or maybe because of it — the death of his father sent the director reeling. Zanuck was there to share his story. He and his father feuded and clashed for years. (“His father fired him when he was at Fox,” Burton said with a grin, retrieving a famous bit of Zanuck lore.) The legendary mogul died at his low-desert home just before Christmas 1979.

“I didn’t come out for three days. They had to sneak food in,” Zanuck said. “I was just a mess. The pangs of that are difficult. When it is a bumpy father-son relationship, it even makes it more of a tragedy when it hits. My father had dementia, but I had resolved things pretty well before that. The end was hard. I would go to Palm Springs and see him just sitting there all day watching cartoons. I thought, ‘My God…’ Can you imagine? Him, watching cartoons all day?”

Director Tim Burton chats with Richard D. Zanuck on the set of “Big Fish” in 2003. (Zade Rosenthal / Columbia Pictures)

The “Apes” production that followed was wrenching as Burton fought his way past the studio, the material and the effects challenges. Bonham Carter was there at his side, however, and Zanuck protected him throughout. The director had lost a father and found a family.

“It’s true — we’ve become very close,” Zanuck said. “I think part of it is the connection we have because of our fathers and what we went through when they died.”

The next Burton film was “Big Fish,” a marked departure from Burton’s storytelling and stylistic trademarks, a “wild card” in the deck, as Zanuck once described it. The story is about William Bloom (Billy Crudup), who returns home after years of estrangement and discovers his slippery father (Albert Finney) is dying of cancer. He rushes to try to learn some sort of truth — any kind of truth — about this stranger.

“It’s a movie that was very much about that time in my life,” Burton said. “I was in a certain place. Definitely, that’s where it came from.”

It was by far the lowest-grossing of the Burton-Zanuck films and (along with “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”) among their proudest moments. Zanuck shook his head thinking about it. “If I watched it again right now,” he said, “I know I’d cry at the end.”

– Geoff Boucher

Friday, May 11, 2012

New "Vampire Hunter" Image of Young Lincoln

With Dark Shadows now in most theaters around the globe, here's an image from the next Tim Burton film (produced by him) to whet your appetite: a new still of Benjamin Walker as a young Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

"Dark Shadows" Now in Theaters

Dark Shadows, the fifteenth feature film directed by Tim Burton, is now in US theaters. Here are the release dates for other countries:

Belgium 9 May 2012
France 9 May 2012
Australia 10 May 2012
Croatia 10 May 2012
Denmark 10 May 2012
Georgia 10 May 2012
Germany 10 May 2012
Hong Kong 10 May 2012
Hungary 10 May 2012
Malaysia 10 May 2012
Netherlands 10 May 2012
New Zealand 10 May 2012
Philippines 10 May 2012
Portugal 10 May 2012
Russia 10 May 2012
Serbia 10 May 2012
Singapore 10 May 2012
Slovenia 10 May 2012
Canada 11 May 2012
Estonia 11 May 2012
Finland 11 May 2012
Iceland 11 May 2012
Indonesia 11 May 2012
Ireland 11 May 2012
Italy 11 May 2012
Lithuania 11 May 2012
Norway 11 May 2012
Spain 11 May 2012
Sweden 11 May 2012
Taiwan 11 May 2012
UK 11 May 2012
USA 11 May 2012
Vietnam 11 May 2012
Greece 17 May 2012
Kuwait 17 May 2012
Poland 18 May 2012
Romania 18 May 2012
Japan 19 May 2012
Chile 14 June 2012
Turkey 15 June 2012
Argentina 21 June 2012
Brazil 22 June 2012
Colombia 22 June 2012
Mexico 22 June 2012

"Vampire Hunter" UK Release Bumped Up

Good news for people awaiting Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in the UK and Ireland: the release date for the film will be June 20th, instead of August 2nd. This is the same release date as the US.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

New "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" Still

A new still from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has appeared online. This image shows Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) looking on as Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) shows what he can do when given an axe.

Video: Depp Doesn't Dance

While appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dark Shadows cast mates Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Moretz entered the stage like most guests of the day-time talk show: by dancing. Johnny Depp, however, did not.

"I fear it more than anything," Depp said of dancing. “When I’m doing the film and it’s choreographed and you’re in character, it’s alright. But in life, I’d rather swallow a bag of hair,” he said of his decision.

The three actors did talk about their new film, Dark Shadows, of course, as well as Pfeiffer's role as Catwoman in Batman Returns, and not just dancing and eating hair. See the video clip below:

Elfman on "Dark Shadows," "Batman," "Nightmare Before Christmas"

Composer Danny Elfman sat down for an interview with the AV Club. Elfman discussed his long working relationship with Tim Burton and his career at large, including Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and his latest project, Dark Shadows:

The A.V. Club: Your collaboration with Tim Burton stretches back to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. How did the two of you first come to work together?

Danny Elfman: Well, it really was out of the blue on Pee-wee. I got a call from the manager of [Oingo Boingo] saying, “This young animator is doing a film,” and then he asked me if I knew who Pee-wee Herman was. I said, “Yeah, I used to go see Paul Reubens at the Groundlings.” So I already knew of him. He said, “Well, they’re doing a movie with Pee-wee.” I just assumed when I met with him that it was going to be about a song or songs, you know, because I was in a band, and when it became about a score, I was pretty shocked. I said, “Why me?” [Laughs.] But it was just one of those random pieces of luck. Tim seemed to think, “I think you can kind of do a score,” and I’m like, “Hmmm…I don’t know.” But I saw the movie, and I went home and conjured up the first piece of music that came to my head, and I did it on my eight-track player, a little funky demo, and put it on a cassette and sent it out to him and didn’t expect to hear back. And a week or two later, I got a call saying, “You got the job.” And I almost turned it down.

AVC: Why?

DE: Well, my reasoning to my manager was, “You know, that was fun doing the meeting, and it was fun doing the demo, but I’m just gonna fuck up their movie. I don’t know how to do a score. And they’re really nice guys.” But he says, “Yeah, you know what? You call ’em and tell ’em you’re not gonna do it, ’cause I’ve been working on this deal for two weeks!” [Laughs.] And he gave me a phone number, and I looked at it and looked at it and thought about it overnight… and I just never made the call.

AVC: You’d seen Paul Reubens when he was with the Groundlings, but did you actually know Tim Burton prior to that initial meeting?

DE: No, amazingly, though it’s possible we crossed paths. And it’s possible that Paul and I could’ve potentially crossed paths without knowing it—and John Lasseter, too—because we were all at Cal Arts at the same time.

AVC: So how did your name come into the mix, then? Were they just Oingo Boingo fans?

DE: Tim was an Oingo Boingo fan, and Paul knew me through the Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo, which came before Oingo Boingo and did a score for my brother’s cult film, Forbidden Zone. So Paul was a fan of Forbidden Zone and Tim was a fan of Oingo Boingo, so my name came up for both of them, but from two different incarnations.
AVC: Having done the score for Forbidden Zone, how did you approach doing the one for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure?

DE: Well, it was hard, because nothing had prepared me for that. Forbidden Zone was just a thing with the 12 pieces that I played with every day, just writing out some music for them, so writing an orchestral score… I didn’t really know how to begin. And I just tried to look to the music that I loved, and I said, “I’ll just do what I think would be fun to do.” And I really did expect it all to get thrown out, because it didn’t feel like the kind of stuff that goes into contemporary comedies. I didn’t expect any of it to survive.

AVC: And how much of it did?

DE: All of it. It was just one of those weird things, though, because even as I was writing it, I was thinking, “Yeah, Tim’s fun to work with, but the studio’s gonna hear it, and they’re gonna toss it and get a real composer.” [Laughs.]

AVC: When you’re composing the score to a film that’s based on an existing property, like Dark Shadows, do you go ever back and listen to the music from the original in search of inspiration?

DE: Well, interestingly, this is the first time we have done that. Because on Planet Of The Apes and Charlie [And The Chocolate Factory] and Batman, we made a conscious decision to make no references—ever—to the originals, that they should be their own thing and that we shouldn’t even listen to it. But here, this was different. Tim really did like the tone of the music to the TV show, and he got me listening to it. So half the score is kind of big, melodramatic orchestra, and… We didn’t really know how to approach it at first, but it finally kind of evolved into this clear design where, when we’re in the big part of the love story in the past and how Barnabas became a vampire and his battle with Angelique, we’re using the orchestra in a more or less traditional way. But whenever he’s with the family in the house, we’re going to use an ensemble that’s very much like the ensemble might have been in 1970. A very, very small orchestra, mostly just three solo instruments: a bass clarinet, bass flute, and vibes. And the vibes and the flute very much are taken and inspired from the original TV music. Furthermore, there were these riffs that they did that I really liked, so I did pull some music from the TV show into the score, and Bob Cobert, the writer for that, is credited in the cue sheets for those moments where it kind of becomes a co-composition. So it really was unique. The only time in 75 films or whatever that I’ve ever paid attention to the music of the past was Mission: Impossible, because I knew I was going to use Lalo Schifrin’s song, and Dark Shadows. And it wasn’t a specific piece. It was just a tone, a sound, that we both really liked. So that did make it kind of more fun and special in that way.

AVC: Under more typical circumstances, what’s the composition process like for you? At least when you’re working with Tim, presumably you generally know well before filming begins that you’re going to be handling the score. Do you read the script and see where your mind takes you?

DE: Well, yeah, I read the script, but then I forget about it. Because wherever my mind takes me when I’m reading it is going to be the wrong direction with Tim. [Laughs.] I learned that years ago when I got started three weeks early on Beetlejuice and started writing all this music from the script, and then I saw the rough cut and realized that there wasn’t one note of what I’d written that had anything to do with the movie. So now when I go and I look at the footage with Tim for the first time, I try to actually do the opposite and blank out everything from my head. I want my brain to be pure static. But Tim brings me onto the set always about halfway into production, walks me around, and likes me to sit on the set, because he knows that I got the Batman theme actually from that first visit, and he’ll show me about 20 or 30 minutes of footage. So when I go home, now I’ve got a really good idea of what the movie actually is, and I will in fact start getting some early ideas from that and log them down. And then when I finally start the film usually a month or two or even three later, when the first rough cut of the film is together, it is what I’m expecting now. And then I just pick up where I left off.

AVC: How collaborative is your process with the filmmakers that you work with? Do you go track by track and say, “How’s this work for you?” Or do you wait until you’ve got a whole rough score together and submit it?

DE: Oh, no, no. It’s very collaborative, cue by cue. In fact, tomorrow morning we’re meeting and I have three more cues for Frankenweenie to play [for Burton]. Very often… I’ll drive him crazy. [Laughs.] It’s a little bit maddening, because early on, I go through lots of ideas, and I’m putting, like, “Here’s six things to listen to, here’s four ideas,” and he’ll go, “Oh my God, I can’t focus on that much.” And I go, “C’mon, c’mon, you can do it.” And going through all of those ideas, that’s how we’ll home in on what the score is. Because in the beginning, I really just tried all kinds of stuff. There’s never, ever a single clear idea that this is what it’s going to be.

AVC: Does that connection with him make it easier to work him versus other filmmakers?

DE: Well, it’s not necessarily easier or harder. Every filmmaker is their own unique kind of psychological entity, and some are just very, very picky or fussy and… They’re just more difficult than others. Others are a little bit more removed and just kind of, like, get the feel of it and move on. Tim is kind of neither extreme. He definitely doesn’t think things out. It’s visceral. He has to listen and respond. He won’t talk about music, and when we spot a movie, for example, Tim’s famous for the shortest spotting sessions. [A spotting session is when a director and composer decide where in a film music will occur, usually before the score is written. —ed.] I’ve been on movies where the spotting took two days. If his movie’s an hour-45, I’ll be surprised if our spotting will take more than two hours and 15 minutes. [Laughs.] He doesn’t want to talk about it. He’ll just say, “We’ll start music here, we’ll end music here. We’ll start here, it should end here.” And occasionally he’ll tell me how he feels about a scene. “The scene makes me feel this way or that way.”

So in that sense, it’s kind of perfect, because really, any more information is not really useful anyhow. So with Tim, it’s all about, “Don’t talk about it, don’t analyze it for sure, just do it,” and then he’ll see what he gets a visceral response to. And as he gets a visceral response, it’s my job to home in on that and try to fine-tune it and make it work for him. So it’s never easy. But it’s always exciting, and it’s always a challenge. There’s no coasting with Tim. Ever. Some people think that it’s like, “Oh, you know him so well you can write the score without even meeting with him.” That’s so not true. I actually spent more time on Big Fish than any film I’ve ever worked on with him. Finding what it is can be a real interesting and sometimes winding path before we actually arrive there. It’s a journey. And it’s an interesting journey, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a piece of cake.

AVC: Is there any particular score that you look back on and think, “I still can’t believe I got out of that alive”?

DE: Well, the most difficult score of all my however many scores—I said 75 earlier, but I really don’t know exactly how many it is—was Batman. For sure. But that wasn’t because the score itself was so hard to write, even though I’d never written a drama, I’d never written anything serious or melodramatic or dramatic. I’d only written comedy. But mainly because the studio and the producer didn’t want me on the film. [Laughs.] So I was struggling, and Tim was struggling to keep me on. So there was, like, a strong movement and desire to not have me there, to have somebody more experienced, somebody who knew what they were doing, and so I really, really had to fight for that one. I felt like it was just uphill all the way, clinging on by my fingernails, until finally I crossed this threshold with [producer] Jon Peters. I played him this cue… I was with Tim, and he said, “Play him such and such,” and I played him a piece that ended up becoming the main titles. And that was just one of dozens. I didn’t know how to present stuff well at that point. And suddenly Jon leapt up out of his chair and he started conducting with his hands. [Laughs.] And Tim gave me a look, and it was, like, “That’s it. We’re in.”

AVC: Many of the cues you’ve written have resonated with listeners on an emotional level. Have you ever been in mid-composition and just gotten caught up in your own work, where you were, like, “Wow, if this is moving me, I must really be onto something here”?
DE: No. I mean, I’ll never get so impressed with a piece of music I’ve written that I’ll go, “Wow, that’s the shit!” [Laughs.] I’m just not wired that way. I’ll sometimes get emotional when I’m scoring a scene because the scene will get to me. But it’s not because I’ve written such a killer piece of music and I’m going, “I am so the motherfucker here.” One area that I think Tim and I are very similar is that the highest compliment I’ve ever heard him pay his own work is, “I think it came out interesting.” And that’s pretty much how I feel about my music: “I hope it’s okay. I think it came out interesting.” And maybe in a year or two I’ll actually think I did a good job.

AVC: In addition to your film work, you’ve also done several TV themes over the years, but the one that’s probably been heard by the most ears is The Simpsons.

DE: Well, it was a lucky break, you know? I’ve written, what, about 15 themes? And that one was the one that I thought nobody would ever hear. I wrote it in a day. It was one day’s work. I had it in my head in the car on the way home, and by the time I got home from meeting Matt Groening, I’d already written it, and I basically just walked in, made a demo, sent it out to him, and got a message back saying, “Great, fine.” [Laughs.] It was about as simple as it gets.

AVC: On a different TV-related topic, there’s a clip of The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo on The Gong Show that’s made the rounds on YouTube. What, if anything, do you remember about that experience?

DE: Well, we were literally passing the hat on the streets in those days, so I remember we got the gig, and we thought it’d be funny, but… We were trying to get gonged. And we didn’t. What you don’t realize was that my brother had the rocket ship with a fire extinguisher, and he was purposely ready to blast the judges. But we never got to do it! So not only did we not expect to win, we expected to get gonged and we were looking forward to it! [Laughs.] So it was kind of a disappointment when it was over.

AVC: You mentioned Forbidden Zone earlier, the Mystic Knights’ film. How was it to work on that, given your limited motion picture experience at that point?

DE: Well, at that point, I wasn’t trying to make the music sound like a motion-picture score. It was really kind of like doing what we did onstage, but doing it for pictures. So it actually was really easy and fun. It was just a minor adjustment, the fact that we weren’t doing it for a stage show but for pictures, but it was the same kind of music, the same type of thing, the songs were in the genre that we were doing. It was really just being the Mystic Knights.

AVC: What about the aspect of being in front of the camera?

DE: Well, it was like shooting a rock video. I’m only comfortable in front of the camera if I’m lip-synching. The few times I’ve had to speak lines in front of a camera were just the most miserable experiences of my life. If you’d asked me as a teenager what I wanted to do, I would’ve said film. And if you’d asked me what, I would’ve said, “Anything but acting and composing.” [Laughs.] I thought I was going to be involved in the visual side. It never occurred to me to do music, but I knew from the beginning that I never could be an actor.

AVC: So did anyone have to twist your arm to get you to provide the singing voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas? Not that you were onscreen, but it was still acting.

DE: No, you know, when I was doing Jack… I was doing all the demos. I was writing a song probably every three days. It was so quick. Tim would come over, he’d tell me part of the story, and so I did all the songs. I even had to do Sally’s song. So I did all the pieces, and then we went in the studio and did, like, more finished demos of everything. So I literally did virtually every voice… Except for Sally, where I did bring in a singer to help me out. [Laughs.] It was just a little too silly singing Sally in falsetto. So by the time we were way down the line, there was a certain point where there was a feeling that was like, “Oh my God, no one else can sing these songs, because they really are me. They’re my stories, almost.” I felt such a kinship to the character. His story was reflecting how I felt with my band and everything else with that period of time. I wanted to leave my band, but I couldn’t, and I wanted something else, but I didn’t know what. So Jack Skellington’s whole journey to Christmastown was really my journey out of Oingo Boingo. That was my Halloweenland, my wanting something else. I so related to him on so many levels.

AVC: It’s strange to think that there’s an entire generation—more than one, probably, at this point—that has no idea that this guy who does the music for Tim Burton’s movies even used to be in a band.

DE: [Laughs.] Yeah, probably.

AVC: Do you ever miss the days of being in Oingo Boingo?

DE: No. You know, when I stopped doing The Mystic Knights—because you’ve got to remember that I did The Mystic Knights for eight years before Oingo Boingo. So when I started the band, I never missed doing The Mystic Knights, and when I started doing composing, I did both for 10 years, and that was hard. But I wanted to move on. And I think I was, weirdly, always more comfortable as a writer than a performer. Although I admit that I did love getting up there, especially when we were in the clubs. I found it more stressful when we started moving into the bigger arenas. And I don’t know if I was ever as much of a natural. I don’t think I was cut out to be that. I don’t know how bands stay together for all those years and keep doing the same songs. It would drive me insane. And I couldn’t tour more than three months, because even six weeks would drive me insane. I’d reached a point where I was like, “If I have to do this song one more time, I’m gonna blow my brains out.”

I think there is kind of a wiring you have to have, both to be in a band or to be in theater, where you’re gonna do the same show every single night. And in a band, even though you’re going to do new material, you’ve still got to perform the old stuff that they want to hear, and I would just quickly reach this point where I was like, “I can’t bear it. I just can’t bear it any longer.” I can’t do a concert without doing any older material, but I can’t stand going up there and doing songs that I know.
I think people who do that love it. There’s a reason why U2 and The Rolling Stones and these bands can get up there and keep doing it. They must love doing those songs regardless of how many times they’ve done them, in the same way that someone goes up and does a stage play or Broadway every night. I don’t know how they do it. I could never do it. So I just think it’s kind of an internal wiring, and I think I just wasn’t meant to have my career in that. The fact that I lasted so many years was more than enough than I needed for a lifetime. Sometimes I miss just using my voice more, the singing, but I don’t miss the pressure of going onstage and having to learn a shitload of songs.

AVC: Is there a definitive Oingo Boingo album to your mind? Is there any one that captures the band’s sound perfectly?

DE: No, I don’t think we ever caught the sound perfectly. I don’t know. If you asked the fans, most of them would probably go with Dead Man’s Party, but for me, I was never happy with the sound on any of the albums, and every album I did, I always wanted to figure out, “Why doesn’t that sound the way I wanted it to sound, or the way I thought it would sound?” I never was able to get that part of it together. I was never able to get that sound that was in my head.

AVC: How do you look back on your solo album from that era, So-Lo?

DE: I don’t. I had extra tunes, and I just kind of wanted to try that. And I did it, and I said, “All right, that was that.”

By the way, I don’t mean to cast disparaging remarks when I say I don’t miss being in Oingo Boingo, because that could be taken the wrong way by Oingo Boingo fans. I did enjoy doing those shows, but I just don’t think it was my destiny to be a stage performer forever. I was happier writing and recording songs than I was in recording them, except in those few moments when it was just really fantastic. You know, there were these great moments at the Universal Amphitheater and at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater that will always be really precious to me.

AVC: Did you feel that the band lost anything when it shifted from being The Mystic Knights to just being Oingo Boingo?

DE: Well, no, because we became a different thing. The Mystic Knights was totally non-electric. It was all acoustic and brass. I played trombone, acoustic guitar, and percussion. In Oingo Boingo, I picked up an electric guitar. We just stole the name, really. [Laughs.] It was really nothing else that we took from The Mystic Knights. The whole idea was to do something that had no sets, no costumes, no makeup, none of the stuff we were burdened by for all those years, that we could just plug in amps and do a show.

AVC: So less an evolution than a brand-new entity.

DE: Oh yeah. It was just like, “That’s it, Mystic Knights are gone, let’s start something new.” I literally woke up one morning, I heard a ska tune from The Specials, then I got into Madness, The Specials, The Selecter, and that was it. It was all over. I just wanted to be in a ska band. So that’s what I did. End of one story, beginning of another story. Now, the next 16 years were pretty convoluted as far as where that ska band went and trying to figure out what we were. [Laughs.] And I definitely had some great, great moments that I treasure. But I think my destiny was to be someone who scribbles in dark rooms, not somebody who goes out there performing their material every night.

Grahame-Smith on Challenges of Adapting "Dark Shadows"

Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith talked about the difficulties of adapting the original television soap opera Dark Shadows with over 1,200 episodes into a single feature-length film:

"When I came into it, there had been materials that were given to me, DVDs of compilations that actual Dark Shadows experts had put together, like, these are the seminal moments. I was given book of characters and plot lines and just studied them. And then, I remember we had our first meeting — Tim [Burton] and Johnny [Depp] and I — [and] just sat around a table and started talking about the things that they loved about the show and talking about moments that would be fun to explore."

Grahame-Smith also said that Depp already had a certain style in mind for his performance of the vampire Barnabas Collins:

"I remember, that first meeting, Johnny was already getting up from the table, sort of pantomiming the rigidity of Barnabas and Tim was already talking about, 'Well what if your fingers were a joint longer,' and Johnny started to then mime touching things... So a lot actually was born in those early meetings early on and what I needed to know about the tone I relied on them because they were there watching the show as kids and loving the show and they still had that knowledge of it and that love for it."

Burton on Personal "Frankweenie" Project

Collider spoke with Tim Burton for an in-depth discussion on his latest passion project, the stop-motion feature, Frankenweenie. The filmmaker discussed why he's working with some of his old collaborators on this project after many years (and why Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter aren't lending their voices), where the film is now in its production, dogs from his own childhood, why he is directing this animated film solo, and much more:

Question: Going from your original idea, when did you decide to turn your Frankenstein movie into a monster movie?

Tim Burton: Probably way back ‘cause I would always do little added things that went into a folder or file. When we did the short, we thought, “Without much trouble, this could go more into a feature.” It took a few years to do the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein mix-up, which is something that pretty much came up, probably right after the short. The core was always that, and I wanted to keep the core. That’s the through-line of the story. We just tried to weave in the other stuff, as naturally as possible. One of the things that I was also interested about was going back to a bit more of the classroom and the kids, and the kids’ politics and the rivalry with kids and the experiments of kids. That world seemed like it worked with this House of Frankenstein motif. But, we tried to fold that in naturally, so that didn’t feel like two different stories. The original boy with his dog story is the root of it.

What is your personal relationship to this storyline, and where did this original idea come from?

Burton: I recalled that first relationship with a pet, where it’s that unconditional love. You walk out the door and when you walk back in, it’s like you’ve been gone for three years. And then, because animals usually don’t live that long, it’s also the first pure relationship and then first death that I experienced. That was a very powerful combination of the two. That’s where the story came from. It was the idea of never forgetting the emotional trauma of losing that kind of relationship, but easily relating it to the Frankenstein story, which is another love. It was easy to marry the two things without it seeming like a stretch.

Was there a specific dog that you were referring to?

Burton: Yeah, I had a dog.

How old were you?

Burton: It was around the time of about five to nine. That area. It wasn’t like having a goldfish. If I had been in love with my goldfish, then I might need some help. At least a dog is slightly different and has more going on, you hope.

In the past decade, you’ve worked a lot with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but they’re not involved with this film. However, you do have Martin Landau, Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara doing voices, and you’ve worked with them before, but not for a while. Was that purposeful?

Burton: Yeah, there was a little something to that. This is such a personal thing that I wanted to do whatever I could to keep it personal. Always, the voices have to be right. With Martin [Short] and Catherine [O’Hara], they’re so good. That’s why I had them do three voices each. To me, there’s a great energy with that. And Winona [Ryder], I hadn’t seen for many years. Same with Martin [Landau]. Anything like that just makes it that much more personal.

Would you say that this is the most personal film you’ve ever done?

Burton: It’s probably close. It’s got all the elements stuffed in there. It’s probably close-ish. I don’t know.

You produced The Nightmare Before Christmas, you co-directed Corpse Bride, and now you’re all over Frankenweenie. How has this medium changed for you?

Burton: It hasn’t really changed, since the beginning of film. That’s the great thing about it. There’s a few little tools that help, but the great thing about this medium is that it really doesn’t change. For the people who like doing it, that’s the thing that they like about it. Technology has a few things to make it slightly easier to gauge and monitor, but for the most part, it doesn’t change.

Was it different to be a solo director this time?

Burton: No. We were always trying to do these things for a budget. I think, in the case of this, the whole goal was to just rein it in a little bit and not hire too many designers. We wanted to keep it more in-house, and as personal and handmade as we could.

Is it creatively invigorating for you to work on something wholly your own, instead of working from existing material?

Burton: Yes and no. With anything, you make it your own. Even if you’re doing something that the studio sends you, or something that’s based on a book or story, at the end of it all, you try to make whatever it is your own. This is based on my love of horror movies. Everything is based on something, in some way.

Are you hoping that younger audiences will want to explore the monsters that you’re paying tribute to in the film?

Burton: Yeah, I think so. It is interesting. With my own kids, because the world changes and there’s video games and things are so much faster, I wonder how kids think about these old movies, like Frankenstein, that are very slow. It’s very much not a rhythm of contemporary life. My kid is a product of the fast computer lifestyle, but if you put something like Frankenstein on, they still are into it because it’s like a weird dream. It’s quite fascinating to see how kids respond to anything, but especially with these old horror movies.

Was it fun to infuse the film with so many different references?

Burton: I always think that you should never do references just to do them. I just always try to have them, but if you don’t know them, it goes by and the story is the thing. It shouldn’t be a thing where you have to know what it is.

You could make a movie that looks like this in a computer, but it wouldn’t have that handmade quality and feel. Is there a degree of striving for imperfection, in that sense?

Burton: It is a good point. It’s an interesting point because technology can blur the lines. We had such good puppets on Corpse Bride that a lot of people thought Corpse Bride was computer done, which it is and it isn’t. Once you start blurring the lines, it gets into a problem. Each form has its great elements. There’s great computer animation, great drawn animation, and great every kind of animation. What you hope for is that, what you like about a certain form, you don’t lose that. We tried to let our budget limitations work for us. We had to shoot a lot of stuff on twos and a lot of it is kind of rough, but that’s what we love about it. You just go with it.

Would you like to make a more traditional animated film?

Burton: Well, to me, this is the most traditional you could possibly do.

Well, as far as hand-drawn, or something for Pixar?

Burton: No. Some things are best computer, some things are best [stop-motion], some things are best drawn. I think you just try to pick whatever the right project is. I always want to keep a hand in this ‘cause I love it as a medium, but you wouldn’t do any project with this. Some are more appropriate than others, I think.

What was it like to take your original drawings, which you hadn’t even necessarily intended for other people to ever see, and work with collaborators to make this film?

Burton: Well, with just the nature of stop motion, things change. You can do a drawing, but then, when they start to make the puppet, that drawing doesn’t work. There’s a constant back-and-forth, in terms of what it comes out to be. That’s just a normal collaboration. It doesn’t feel that different from anything else, in a weird way. It just becomes a part of what it is and what the final outcome is.

Sparky bears a resemblance to the dog from Family Dog. Was that intentional, or was Family Dog based on original drawings you had done for Sparky?

Burton: No, it was probably based on the fact that all my drawings look the same. That’s probably true. That probably has more to do with it than anything. It’s like someone asking the guy who draws Charlie Brown, “Can you draw it differently? We like the character, but does his head have to be so round?”

The kids in the classroom all look and sound so vastly different. Do you intentionally work on them to make sure they look so different from each other?

Burton: Yeah. It’s always based on a sketch or drawing, so there’s a certain amount of things that are similarly in the design. The design is usually organic. It’s not like this was based on a book and we’re going to lovingly recreate every illustration. It starts that way, from the beginning.

How is directing stop-motion different from directing live-action, in terms of your own man hours? Are you there, all the time?

Burton: No, you wouldn’t want to be, and they wouldn’t want me there. That’s the thing. You get a few seconds a week. The great thing about it, for me, is that I can be working on a live-action film and be working on the crossover with this. I find it really stimulating and good. The good thing about animation is that you can affect it. If something is not working, then you just fix it. You usually can fix it before you even get there because you’ve got things more planned out and everything is there, so you know what you’re getting. The only other element you get, and usually it’s a good surprise, is when the animator animates it well. Usually it’s at least okay. Usually it’s good, but sometimes it’s not. It’s just like anything else.

Do you really have to put a lot of trust in the people you’re working with on the film?

Burton: Yeah, but no more than anything else. Live-action is different because it’s a quicker animal. With the stop-motion, you plan it. The element of surprise is not as much in there, as it is with live-action.

What was it like to direct this, nearly 30 years after the original short?

Burton: I’m not one of those people who is like, “Now the effects are better, so now we’re going to go back and update all of the effects.” I was grateful that the short was live-action because, if it had been animation, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into live-action. It was a very lucky break, in a way. Now, the animated version makes sense. And, I think there are enough new elements, and the stop-motion medium is a different medium. Even though it feels like something that’s personal, it definitely felt like something new. It didn’t feel like I was treading over old territory. It was a way to explore it in a different way.

What was it like to post-convert this to 3D?

Burton: Whether you shoot it [in 3D] or it’s a conversion, you need time. You can see bad 3D or a bad conversion, or good both. It’s just a question of spending the time with it. The great thing about something like this, and it was the same on Nightmare, is that it doesn’t get any clearer than this, in terms of what the sets were and the position and the distance. All the information is there to make the conversion the way it needs to be.

At any point in the casting, did you reach out to Daniel Stern or Shelley Duvall?

Burton: No, I didn’t, and not for any reason ‘cause they were great. There were certain elements that I thought were appropriate to do, as was, and then there were certain other elements that made it personal for other reasons, like working with Catherine [O’Hara], Martin [Short] and Winona [Ryder]. They weren’t on the original project, but it’s a similar thing in a different way.

This is a very busy time for you, with two movies coming out this year that you directed (Dark Shadows and Frankenweenie) and one that you produced (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Have you started to look forward yet?

Burton: No. I think I should [take a break].

Was doing Frankenweenie any kind of a reaction to how difficult it was to doing the huge production for Alice in Wonderland?

Burton: Yeah. Well, first of all, I wouldn’t plan it where they all come out like this. That, I definitely wouldn’t plan. Frankenweenie has been in the works for a long, long period of time. The joy about that, though, is that it is smaller. You look at the shots and what you see is what you get, which is really nice. That’s what’s great about this medium. I can see why animators, as hard as it is, can get energized by it. They’re moving something, and then you see it come to life. It is kind of cool to have that energy.

How much more work do you still have on this?

Burton: I have editing, music and sound.

Did you always plan on directing this by yourself?

Burton: All by myself. I’m a big boy, now. No training wheels, nothing. No, these things happen quite organically. Each project is different. In the case of this, we wanted to make it a little bit more handmade, so we scaled back on everything. Another project would be different. Each one has its own energy. This one just felt right to make it like this. Less is more.

Video: Elfman's 90 Minute "Dark Shadows" Q&A

Danny Elfman sat down for a 90-minute-long Q&A session in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Elfman comes on stage at about 16 minutes in. The composer was greeted by many fans, and discussed Dark Shadows and more, including how Johnny Depp used to steal guitar picks from him, the falling-out he and Tim Burton had that nearly destroyed their relationship, movie genres that he can't stand to compose for, the easiest and most difficult scores he has composed for Burton, the forthcoming Frankenweenie, among numerous other topics:

Video: Depp: Wonka = "Stoned George Bush"

Johnny Depp was on the daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show to promote Dark Shadows. Host DeGeneres asked Depp about what sort of inspirations he used to create some of his memorable characters. Depp said, “Certain ingredients you add to these characters — Willy Wonka, for example, I imagined what George Bush would be like…incredibly stoned,” he said, as the crowd began laughing at the mere mention of Bush, and even harder at the idea of the former president being stoned. ”Anywhere that you can find a moment of irreverence or absurdity, I’ll stick it right in there — sometimes to the dismay of the director.”

He also said that his performance as Edward Scissorhands was inspired by a combination of a newborn seeing the world for the first time and a beloved dog.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Live Video Q&A with Danny Elfman Tonight! will be hosting a live Q&A with composer Danny Elfman tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time / 6:00 PM Pacific Time. Elfman will be discussing several projects, including Dark Shadows. Click this link to tune in tonight!

Videos: Coverage of "Dark Shadows" World Premiere

(Matt Sayles / Associated Press / May 7, 2012)

Dark Shadows had its world premiere in Hollywood on Monday evening. The Los Angeles Times has some coverage of the event, including interviews and comments from the cast and crew.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp appeared on the black carpet. Cast members remarked on just how in sync the duo were on set.

"You can kind of tell that they seem to have a shorthand," Depp's costar Jackie Earle Haley said. "It's fun watching them clown around late at night when they kind of get tired and a little bit giddy. They start cracking up and telling stupid little jokes, and pretty soon the entire crew is doing it."

So what does one of the most famous men in the business find funny? Fart jokes, apparently.

"[Johnny and Tim] are like best schoolyard chums in a way. They bring out this very excitable, boyish quality in each other," explained Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay for the film, based on the 1960s soap opera of the same name. "They become 10-year-old boys and laugh and make fart jokes."

Famed rock musician Alice Cooper was also on the black carpet. Cooper has a cameo in the film, playing himself in 1972.

"They decided that they were going to do a computerized thing where they make me [look like I'm from] 1972," the musician said. "And I said, 'Well, don't make me look younger. In '72, I was a mess. I looked 20 years older in '72 than I do now.'"

Burton, Depp on "Dark Shadows"

Collider recently spoke with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. In this interview, the two discussed numerous topics relating to Dark Shadows, including how they decided to make this project, Depp's role as a producer, whether or not they might do a sequel, playing a vampire and Depp's influences in taking the part, and much more:

Question: Tim, can you talk about Johnny Depp bringing this to your attention and getting this project going?

TIM BURTON: We’ve talked about it for many years, but this was the first project that I ever remember Johnny saying that he’d wanted to play this ever since he was a little boy.

JOHNNY DEPP: Just a wee tike.

BURTON: He knew Barnabas Collins before he knew his own father.

DEPP: Pretty much.

BURTON: It was one of those things where the show had a lot of impact for some of us. Johnny, Michelle [Pfeiffer] and I were there at the time it came out, and we just recall it being a very strong, interesting property. This was something that Johnny had had for a long time.

Johnny, as a producer, what did you want to make sure you got across with this film?

DEPP: It’s impossible to consider myself a producer. I can barely produce an English muffin, in the morning. That’s the producer [in me]. But, just as a fan of the show, our initial conversation about the thing was during Sweeney Todd, where I just blurted out, in mid-conversation, “God, we should do a vampire movie together, where you have a vampire that looks like a vampire.” Dark Shadows was looming on the periphery, and then Tim and I started talking about it. When we got together, Tim and I started figuring out how it should be shaped. And then, (screenwriter) Seth [Grahame-Smith] came on board and the three of us just riffed. One thing led to another, and it basically dictated to us what it wanted to be, in a sense, certainly with Tim at the forefront, leading the troops.

What were the key elements from the original series that you wanted to carry over to this film?

BURTON: It’s a tricky tone and we all recognize that. When we talked about Dark Shadows, part of its appeal was the weird nature of all the elements that went into it. It was very serious, but it was on in the afternoon, on a daily basis. There were certain reasons why we loved the show, but you couldn’t necessarily adopt to a film. It was the weirdest challenge to get the acting tone and the soap opera nature of the tone. That’s a weird thing to go for in a Hollywood movie. It’s not like you can go to a studio and go, “We want to do weird soap opera acting.” They go, “Oh, great! Whatever that means.” That’s why I was so grateful to all of the cast. Even the ones that didn’t know the show, got into the spirit of it. What made it Dark Shadows was trying to capture the spirit of what the show was.

Johnny, what was the key to playing Barnabas Collins?

DEPP: There is some kind of thread throughout all these characters. The idea of this very elegant, upper-echelon, well-schooled gentleman, who was cursed in the 18th Century and is brought back to the most surreal era of our time – the 1970s, with 1972 – and how he would react to things and how radically different things were, not just with regard to technology and automobiles, but actual items of enjoyment for people, like pet rocks, fake flowers, plastic fruit, troll dolls, lava lamps and macrame owls. Those were my favorite.

What do you think people find so tempting about vampires?

DEPP: It’s a strange thing because, as a child, I certainly had a fascination with monsters and vampires, as did Tim. There’s this darkness, this mystery, this intrigue. And then, as you get older, you recognize the erotic nature of the vampire and the idea of the undead. What was most interesting, in terms of Barnabas, was the combination. It was a real challenge, probably more for Tim than me, to make that vampire, who is clearly a vampire, fit back into this odd society and this dysfunctional family, and I think he did it rather seamlessly.

Tim, what was it like to re-team with Michelle Pfeiffer, for the first time in 20 years, since Batman Returns?

BURTON: It was weird because it reminded me how much I loved working with Michelle. It was a long time ago, but it just flooded back. I never really watch the movies again, but how impressed I remember being with Michelle just flooded back. She learned how to use a whip and jump around on roofs in high-heeled shoes, let live birds fly out of her mouth, and let cats eat her. It was very impressive stuff. So, it was a real joy to get a call from Michelle [before there was even a script] and find out that she was a closet Dark Shadows fan. I knew she was weird, but that confirmed the whole situation. It was great. Michelle and Johnny and I, we were the only ones of the cast that knew Dark Shadows. You can’t really show Dark Shadows to anybody else that doesn’t know it ‘cause they’d probably run screaming out of the room. It was nice that Michelle, playing the head of the family, was a fan. It just made me realize how much I enjoyed working with her. But, she did have trouble walking down the stairs in this movie. Some people’s powers diminish, at some point.

Johnny, what was it like, the first time you had to bite someone in the film?

BURTON: Yeah, how was your bite on that big construction worker? Did you enjoy that?

DEPP: Well, going back to the erotic nature of vampires, I felt as though I was biting one of the Village People.

BURTON: And then, he went on to the biker and the cowboy.

DEPP: And the cop. No. When I had the fangs in, I wanted to be a little bit careful that I didn’t actually pierce the jugular. It was kind of like my experience shaving Alan Rickman (in Sweeney Todd), which, by the way, neither of us want to do again, especially Alan.

Johnny, actor Chris Sarandon said that he felt sorry for you for having to wear the vampire nails because he had such a hard time with it when he did Fright Night. How was it for you to have to wear them?

DEPP: There are many more reasons to feel sorry for me. We can go through them now, or we can just cuddle after. We can have a big group cuddle, and all get greasy and weird. In every film that I’ve been lucky enough to do with Tim, there’s always some form of torture. The nails were Tim’s idea. They were the length of the fingers. But, it was okay because I had a troupe of people who would help me go to the bathroom. They had to have treatment afterwards, but they’re okay now. That is true.

How much of your physicality for Barnabas came from watching Jonathan Frid, and was there also some Nosferatu influence?

DEPP: Approaching Barnabas, even in the early days of trying to explore the possibilities of the character, no matter where you went in your head, if you tried to veer away from the original Jonathan Frid character, it was apparent to both Tim and myself that it had to be rooted in Jonathan Frid’s character of Barnabas. It just had to be. It was so classic, in the classic monster, Fangoria magazine way. In terms of that, when Jonathan was playing Barnabas, there was a rigidity to him, like he had a pole of the back and this elegance that was always there. Tim and I talked early on that a vampire should look like a vampire. It was a rebellion against vampires that look like underwear models. There was a bit of Nosferatu in there, too.

What was it like to use a cane for this character?

DEPP: The cane was one of the left-over things from the series. It’s pretty much the same design. It’s slightly altered. It’s not a silver-tipped cane because my hand would have burst into flame.

How was it to have the original cast on the set?

DEPP: Well, it was great! It was great of Tim to bring them into the fold. It was our way of saluting them, and Jonathan was terrific. He had written me a letter, a couple of years before, and signed a photograph to me, passing the baton to Barnabas, which I thought was very sweet. He had his original Barnabas cane with him and I wasn’t sure, when he actually saw me, if he was going to attack me with it, but he didn’t.

BURTON: It’s like having the Pope come visit. For us, part of the reason we were there was because those people inspired us, so it was nice to see them back in their early ‘70s clothing.

Tim, with such a big cast, what deleted scenes might be on the DVD?

BURTON: There’s stuff that we cut out. Each actor will have all of their best scenes that I’ve cut out of the film in there. No. I think there will be some stuff on it because, with the nature of it being a soap opera, we cut out stuff, but all the actors were great, so I think I’m going to look at having scenes that aren’t in the film. Because the actors did such a great job and because of the soap opera nature of it, we’ll probably have some stuff on there.

Johnny, after working on Dark Shadows, was the influence of Dan Curtis what led you to want to do The Night Stalker?

DEPP: From Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker appeared, and it was a show that I really loved. Again, there’s this weird tone to it. This reporter becomes a detective in these really odd situations. Yeah, Dan Curtis was a great, great influence.

Since this is not material that current movie audiences are familiar with, did you worry about whether the interest would be there?

BURTON: Going into this movie, you don’t go into it going, “Oh, Dark Shadows, what an easy peasy idea.” It’s not like you go into it thinking that. It’s actually a much more strange challenge.

There’s always a lot of pressure for summer movies to perform. Do you hope this film reaches beyond its specific niche audience and is seen by a larger group of people?

BURTON: There are Dark Shadows fans, and then there’s everybody else. You can’t really make it with projecting what you think it’s going to be. First of all, we made a movie that we wanted to see, and then you just hope for the best.

The ending of this lends itself to a possible sequel. Did you always think that this could be a possible start to a franchise?

BURTON: No. Because of the nature of it being like a soap opera, that was the structure. It wasn’t a conscious decision. First of all, it’s a bit presumptuous to think that. If something works out, that’s one thing, but you can’t ever predict that. That had more to do with the soap opera structure of it.

Johnny, people have said that you’re in this Marlon Brando phase of your career, making these very eccentric characters come to life. Having directed and worked with Marlon Brando, do you see that as a valid comparison?

DEPP: I couldn’t imagine my name and Marlon’s in the same sentence, in terms of the work. He was a great friend of mine, and certainly a great inspiration and a great mentor. I don’t know.

If you had to stay one of your characters for the rest of your life, who would it be?

DEPP: Probably the Earl of Rochester (from The Libertine).