Tim Burton : Retrospective on a memorable masterclass at the Festival Lumière !

The 7th day of the Festival Lumière in Lyon was held on October 21st. The film festival was an opportunity for us to attend Tim Burton’s masterclass in the magnificent Célestins theatre.

The masterclass started smoothly with a humourus vibe as Tim speaks about his dream of playing Godzilla and getting in the costume of that monster. In that sense he explained cinema came to him and he didn’t really seek to be a director. He just loved the art of creating things, whatever that may have been and can’t highlight a specific journey towards filmmaking. Read some of the questions and answers below !

  • Were you a normal cinema lover ?

Tim : I was normal which means I was completely abnormal. I grew up watching monster and horror movies basically.

  • Does the journey of a cinema lover who’s born in Burbank automatically lead to Hollywood ?

Tim : It was really a middle class suburban town, the weather was always the same so I always retreated in the dark of a movie theater. Like most people who love the cinema, it feeds your dreams, your creativity, it speaks to you psychologically. Movies were my form of therapy, exploration and my form of belonging/connecting to something.

  • For someone like you whose born at the end of the 50’s, has the new Hollywood been something to you?

Tim : In the 70’s, there was a lot more experimentation and freedom. It became much more focused on business. When I did Batman, I never had heard of the word “franchise”. It became something else.

  • In doing Batman, you reinvented superheros, as if Michael Keaton was the father of the Marvel superheroes today.

Tim : It did feel very exciting to be at the beginning of all that. It’s amazing how it hasn’t really changed in the sense of tortured superheroes, weird costumes… at the time it was very exciting, it felt new. Everytime the studio would tell me “it’s too dark” but now it looks lighthearted compared to [new movies].

  • Being a succesfull filmmaker gives us the feeling that everything has always been easy.

Tim : Even though I had success, at the beginning they let me do it but they didn’t really understand me. They didn’t know what to say and then I start doing it and become more of a thing. They start to pick at you. I’ve had a few projects not happen. I wanted to do a musical version of House of Blacks with Michael Jackson and they said no, can you believe that ?

  • At what moment did you feel Johnny Depp would become some sort of alter ego ? Cinema’s history has been made with couples of director/actor.

Tim : I connected with him when I met him for Scissorhands. We were two kinds of suburban white trash, we connected on some kind of level. It wasn’t even a verbal understanding, I could feel he liked to do characters and was interested in acting for the art of it, not so much for the business of it. I felt like he was somebody who’d play Edward Scissorhands or do Ed Wood or do all those different things. That’s always exciting to see somebody play different things from one film to another.

  • I’d like to speak about how two french comedians found themselves in Tim Burton’s universe, Marion Cotillard and Eva Green.

Tim : I worked with Marion on Big Fish and she was amazing. I didn’t really know her work very well but just as a person/artist, she was amazing. Eva, I love. They’re movie stars, there’s a mystery to them. It reminds me of old fashioned movie stars.

  • A little word on your “Wednesday” series for Netflix ?

Tim : I really like the character of Wednesday. It’s a character I identify with and share a world view of school and family. I like the very direct nature of the character. It was sort of an experiment for me, I got to go to Romania for a year woo hoo !

“For me it was a strange unexpected journey but no matter what you do in music, art, film… you have to start with something very simple and that’s passion. The belief and an idea of what you’re trying to feel or trying to get out, express. That’s the key element. You can’t think intellectually about it, you have to go right from the heart, no matter what it is. Then you hope for the best because that’s the only way you’re gonna connect with somebody.”

Tim Burton received the Prix Lumière 2022 on that same night. At the closing ceremony, feeling emotional, he said his audience is the reason behind his motivation to create more and he hopes to make many more beautiful things in the future.