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Filmmaker Tim Burton Discusses His "Corpse Bride"

Tim Burton on "Corpse Bride," Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter


Filmmaker Tim Burton Discusses His

Tim Burton on the set of "Corpse Bride"

© Warner Bros. Pictures
Tim Burton on the Appeal of the Dead: Burton’s been dealing with the subject of dead people (and animals) since his 1984 short, “Frankenweenie.” Why is the subject so fascinating to the filmmaker? Burton says, “Well, I think dealing with the undead comes from growing up in Burbank, sort of a suburban kind of feeling of like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ during the day with the bright sunlight. No, I don't know. I just always liked monster movies. I was always sort of fascinated by [them].

Growing up in a culture where death is looked upon as a dark subject and then, you know, living so close to Mexico where you see the Day of the Dead, where the skeletons and it's all humor and, you know, music and dancing and a celebration of life in a way. And that just sort of always felt more [like a] positive approach to things, you know? So I think I always responded much more to that than this dark unspoken cloud in the kind of environment I grew up in.”

Tim Burton Shares His Views on the Afterlife: “You know, I have no idea what happens. But like I said, I do respond to other cultures that treat life with a much more positive approach. I think this other form teaches, especially when you are a child, it teaches you almost to be afraid of everything and feel like something bad is always going to happen. Whereas that other way seems like a much more spiritual and positive approach. That's as far as I go because I really have no idea what will happen.”

Tim Burton on the Differences Between Directing “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas:” “The difference on that was that one I had designed completely. It was a very completed package in my mind. I felt like it was there. I felt more comfortable with it. With this, it was a bit more organic. It was based on an old folk tale. We kept kind of changing it but, you know, I had a great co-director with Mike Johnson. I feel like we complemented each other quite well. It was just a different movie, a different process.”

On Casting His Partner, Helena Bonham Carter, in “Corpse Bride:” Carter said Burton made her wait two weeks after she auditioned before letting her know she had the part. Burton said, “Oh, I think she's an actress so she is making it much more dramatic. There was probably a slight little bit of torture there, but it's a two way street. I don't think it was a dramatic as that.

I think maybe, because I am with her, I probably was a bit harder on her. Nobody else had to audition, that's true (laughing). She's cool. Long before I met her she'd done many movies and she’s very secure of what she has done. There’s never been any problems yet. It’s been great.”

Will he dare not cast Helena in another one of his films? “Of course, yeah. I wouldn't just cast her to cast her the same way I wouldn't cast Johnny or anybody that I love working with just to have them in the movie. You always want it to be the right thing, the right role, and I think she understands that. Most of the people I work with understand that,” explained Burton.

Tim Burton on His Relationship with Johnny Depp: “It was weird because we were doing both at the same time. He was Willy Wonka by day and Victor by night so it might have been a little schizophrenic for him. But he’s great. It's the first animated movie he's done and he's always into a challenge. We just treat it like fun and a creative process. Again, that’s the joy of working with him. He's kind of up for anything.

He just always adds something to it. The amazing thing is all the actors never worked [together]. They were never in a room together, so they were all doing their voices, except for Albert [Finney] and Joanna [Lumley] did a few scenes together, everybody else was separate. They were all kind of working in a vacuum, which was interesting. That’s the thing that I felt ended up so beautifully, that their performances really meshed together. So he was very canny, as they all were, about trying to find the right tone and making it work while not being in the same room with each other.”

Johnny Depp Said He Scrambled His Character Together in 15 Minutes: “Oh yeah, yeah. We were shooting ‘Charlie’ one day and I said, ‘Let’s go over to the recording booth and let’s do some recording.’ I think as he was walking over he was like saying to himself, ‘S**t, I don't know what am I doing. What is this character? I have no idea.’ Great thing is he likes to work spontaneously, too, and really in that one session he got it. I think he might have been a bit worried to begin with, but I think he kind of likes that.”

Page 2: Tim Burton on His Cast, Ray Harryhausen, and Why He Became a Director

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