After bringing countless fantasy worlds to life over three decades, it’s the real world that often feels the strangest, goth cinema icon Tim Burton told The Daily Beast Sunday in Austin.
“Any story I read about anybody I know in the press, I always feel it’s a bizarre parallel,” Burton offered, moments after breezing into town to premiere Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children at Fantastic Fest, ominous storm clouds following in his wake. “I’ve had things written about me where I go, I’m living in Bizarro World.”
That goes doubly when his longtime muse and collaborator Johnny Depp finds himself in the media’s sights, as he did earlier this year when Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland star was publicly accused of domestic violence by his estranged wife Amber Heard.
“I always take it with a grain of salt and everything ends up working itself out,” Burton said, considering whether or not Depp gets a fair shake from the press. “But I love him. I love everyone.”
The Oscar-nominated Burton was all smiles as he world-premiered Miss Peregrine to sold-out crowds at the annual genre festival, where Robert Rodriguez heralded his arrival by declaring it “Keep Austin Peculiar Day” with the mayor’s blessing.
Burton’s 3D children’s fantasy adventure is, in many ways, a return to form after his last feature, the Amy Adams art biopic Big Eyes. Adapted from Ransom Riggs’ bestselling novel by X-Men: First Class and Kingsman scribe Jane Goldman, it tracks a misfit teenager’s (Asa Butterfield) introduction to a world of oddball children with extraordinary “peculiarities” whose protector (Eva Green) shields them from the monstrous enemies who hunt them through time.
Samuel L. Jackson vamps as Miss Peregrine’s sinister villain, a scientist and fellow “peculiar” who strikes a startling impression menacing the film’s cast of young actors with his shock of white hair, inhumanly white eyes, and pointy fangs.
“He’s somebody I always wanted to work with,” Burton told audiences after screening the film. “He’s one of those actors. To see him come in with the getup with the white eyes and everything, I thought, Okay, this is next year’s Halloween costume. I want to be that for Halloween!”
Burton was eager to work with Jackson, but admitted he’s generally less keen on working with children in spite of the fact that he keeps making movies with and for them. “I really don’t like kids very much,” he laughed.
“I have two kids and I like them… sometimes,” Burton explained. “But honestly, the weird thing is a lot of the kids in this film hadn’t worked before, some had done movies and some hadn’t. Sometimes you meet children and it’s like they’ve been in this life before, they had a past life. Like oh my god, how old are you? Are you 9 or are you 90?”
“You hear about nightmare children—and I’ve worked with some in the past,” he added. “They kind of freak me out.”
Burton gave an update of sorts on Beetlejuice 2, the long-gestating, long-awaited sequel to his 1988 ghoul-driven classic. “I would love to do it,” he emphasized, “but it’s a special thing. I love Michael [Keaton] and I love Winona [Ryder] and I love the characters. But I already pissed off enough people. I just want to do it right, if it’s right.”
“I’ve done films where I’ve planned it and it didn’t happen and it’s quite traumatic,” he said. “I just want to treat things as fluid as possible. So it’s something that I would like to do but I want to try to do it in a way that really doesn’t piss everyone off, destroy the first, or whatever.”
Burton welcomed other artists’ attempts to reinterpret his classics in other forms. Take the 1991 porn remake of his first film with Depp, Edward Scissorhands. “I watched both Edward Penishands movies,” he said, referring to the inspired XXX reimagining in which misfit Edward overcomes the challenge of having penises for hands to navigate life, love, and spaghetti.
“There’s an Edward Penishands 1 AND 2,” he clarified. (Actually, there are three.) If you’re keeping score at home, that means there are more Edward Penishands films in the annals of cinema than there are Edward Scissorhands movies. Burton grinned. “That’s where I feel like a success.”