The Director's Chair Interviews

Tim Burton (Ed Wood)
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Folha: Why did you chose Ed Wood as a character? Tim

Burton: The first film by him that I saw was ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1958). It had images I never forgot. Later he was elected ‘worst director of all time’. How can someone be elected as the worst? There are so many bad filmmakers. I started reading about his life and about the bizarre characters that surrounded him, like Bela Lugosi. Wood was always positive, even in the worst circumstances. When you read his letters, you realize he thought he was making great films, he thought he was making ‘Citizen Kane’. In a letter from his final days, Wood wrote that he led a great life and made great pictures and in fact, he was abandoned and dying of alcoholism. That’s what fascinates me about that character. He was very weird. I think it would be easy to copy an image by Alfred Hitchcock, not with his mastery, but it is possible to imitate it. But copying an image by Ed Wood is so hard. His images were very weird. You don’t know how he did them. Wood was something more special than just bad (laughs).

Folha: How decisive was the character of Bela Lugosi, since you had already celebrated another horror myth before, Vincent Price.

Burton: Vincent was fundamental to my decision of making films. There was a resemblance between them, but the differences are striking. Vincent had a much more positive end. Bela got old taking morphine and drinking formaldehyde. Vincent was much less bitter about Hollywood.

Folha: The film would initially be in color. Why did it turn out to be black and white?

Burton: When we began doing the makeup tests with Martin Landau, me and makeup artist Rick Baker asked ourselves: what was the color of Bela Lugosi’s eyes? I never saw him and no one’s ever seen color images of Lugosi. Him, Vampira, Thor Johnson are black and white icons. It was such a simple decision, without any aesthetic pretension. It just seemed right.

Folha: Filming in black and white doesn’t bring difficulties in Hollywood today?

Burton: It is difficult, even if you’re fortunate and successful. It’s difficult to put up any project. I always thought it would become easier. I was wrong.

Folha: Where does this gothic obsession from your films comes from?

Burton: I think partly it comes from the environment where I was born. The south of California is very colorful and shining, and I had do compensate that. I try to do things not too dark because I like the combination of dark and light, humor and sadness. I never feel on of them alone, they always come together.

Folha: How is your documentary on Vincent Price doing?

Burton: I produced and directed ‘Conversations with Vincent’. I have his last statements on film. I’m having trouble with the copyright of the film clips.

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