As Tim Burton takes the chair as president of the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, we present an easy-access guide to his movies.
The Dead: Death is no obstacle in the ghoulish world of Burton with a collection of reanimated frequently taking lead rolls. Prime examples are the alluring Corpse Bride and Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (which he co-wrote with Henry Selick). Then there’s Frankenweenie’s bull dog Sparky, the ghastly Beetlejuice and The Headless Horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The Women: Burton often casts his own leading ladies. His first wife Lisa Marie turns up as Vampira in Ed Wood, is a pneumatic Martian in Mars Attacks!, a lusty simian in Planet of the Apes and Ichabod Crane’s bewitching mother in Sleepy Hollow. His current partner Helena Bonham Carter appears as a cultured chimp in Planet Of The Apes, a misunderstood witch in Big Fish, Charlie Bucket’s mum in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, voiced the Corpse Bride, baked human pie with Sweeney Todd and made a wonderfully capricious Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland.
The Villains: Memorable bad guys in Burton’s universe include Michael Keaton’s delirious ghoul Beetlejuice, Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman, and Danny DeVito’s Penguin in Batman Returns, Miranda Richardson as a pair of twin-witches (one good, one bad) in Sleepy Hollow. Christopher Walken’s Headless Horseman (Sleepy Hollow) and Max Shrek in Batman Returns and Johnny Depp’s aria-belting, cut-throat demon barber in Sweeney Todd.
The Ensemble: Like many auteurs, Burton casts his favoured actors. Frequent collaborators include Johnny Depp (seven films), Helena Bonham Carter (six), Michael Gough (five), Christopher Lee, Lise Marie and Deep Roy (four each) and Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito (three apiece). Danny Elfman has supplied the music to 12 Burton films. You can expect more than a few of them to turn up in the forthcoming Dark Shadows.
The Dark Father: No Burton film is complete without a towering father figure, including the lonesome inventor (Vincent Price) who leaves behind an unfinished, blade-fingered creature, an obsessive dentist (Christopher Lee) who’s rebellious son becomes the world’s maddest chocolatier, and a dying Southern salesman with a tenuous grasp on reality (Albert Finney) who explains his absence from the family home to his perplexed son through a collection of gothic tall tales.
War of the Worlds: Perhaps influenced by Burton’s decision to leave the commercial universe of Disney while in his 20s, his films almost invariably feature a conflict between fantasy and reality – and no prizes for guessing which side Burton favours. Ichabod Crane is the man of science trying to explain the supernatural events in Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands leaves his gothic tower only to find more horror and isolation in suburban America and later on, Alice chooses adventure in Wonderland over the shackles of a dreary marriage. These worlds clash even more literally in films like Corpse Bride, Mars Attacks and Planet Of The Apes.
The Classics: Burton has a real taste for the classics, seen in his frequent homages to German Expressionist cinema, Universal’s creaky monster movies, Hammer Film’s Technicolor nightmares and 50s Schlock. Look for appearances from Vincent Price, Christopher Lee (of course), Michael Gough, Jack Palance as well as Béla Lugosi (Martin Landau) and Vampira in Ed Wood. His adaptation also lean towards the quirky classics with influences coming directly from Mary Shelley, Washington Irving, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Alan Moore.