Tim Burton

Tim Burton

*Tim Burton
(58 years old)

25 August 1958
Burbank, California, USA
5' 11½" (1,82 m)

Although he found that the mainstream Disney films he worked on (Tod y Toby (1981)) were far removed from his own sensibility, Disney let him have the freedom to work on his own personal projects, the six-minute animated black-and-white Gothic Vincent Price tribute Vincent (1982), and the 27-minute live-action Frankenweenie (1984), which was judged unsuitable for children and never released. However, Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) saw it and decided that Burton, still only in his mid-twenties, would be the ideal person to direct his feature debut, La gran aventura de Pee-wee (1985). An enormous (and surprise) box-office hit, it led to the supernatural comedy Bitelchús (1988), which in turn led to Burton being entrusted with the reins on the hugely expensive Batman (1989). Although his least personal film, it was one of the most successful films of all time, and gave him unprecedented power in Hollywood considering the originality and adventurousness of his work thus far. Eduardo Manostijeras (1990), another hit, saw him at the peak of his creative powers and established a fruitful working relationship with actor Johnny Depp. Batman vuelve (1992) was a far darker and quirkier film than the original, a reflection of how much creative freedom Burton had won (though Warner Bros were reputedly unhappy with the final result). And although Ed Wood (1994), his loving tribute to the life and work of the legendary Worst Director of All Time, Edward D. Wood Jr., was a box-office disaster, it garnered some of the best reviews of Burton's career, and suggests that he'll continue dazzling audiences for many years to come. - IMDb Mini Biography By: Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Tim Burton was raised in Burbank, California. He spent most of his childhood as a recluse, drawing cartoons and watching old movies (he was especially fond of films with Vincent Price). When he was in the ninth grade, his artistic talent was recognized by a local garbage company when he won a prize for an anti-litter poster he designed. The company placed this poster on all of their garbage trucks for a year. After graduation from high school, he attended California Institute of the Arts. Like so many others who graduated from that school, Burton's first job was as an animator for Disney. He worked on such films as Tod y Toby (1981) and Taron y el caldero mágico (1985), but had some creative differences from that of his colleagues. Nevertheless, Disney recognized his talent, and gave him the green light to make Vincent (1982), an animated short about a boy who wanted to be just like Vincent Price. Narrated by Price himself, the short was a critical success and won several awards. Burton made a few other short films, including his first live-action film, Frankenweenie (1984). A half-hour long twist on the tale of Frankenstein, it was deemed inappropriate for children and wasn't released. But actor Paul Reubens(aka Pee-Wee Herman) saw Frankenweenie (1984), and believed that Burton would be the right man to direct him in his first full-length feature film, La gran aventura de Pee-wee (1985). The film was a surprise success, and Burton instantly became popular. However, many of the scripts that were offered to him after this were essentially just spin-offs of the film, and Burton wanted to do something new. For three years, he made no more films, until he was presented with the script for Bitelchús (1988). The script was wild and wasn't really about anything, but was filled with such artistic and quirky opportunities, Burton couldn't say no. Bitelchús (1988) was another big hit, and Burton's name in Hollywood was solidified. It was also his first film with actor Michael Keaton. Warner Bros. then entrusted him with Batman (1989), a film based on the immensely popular comic book series of the same name. Starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, the film was the most financially successful film of the year and Burton's biggest box-office hit to date. Due to the fantastic success of his first three films, he was given the green light to make his next film, any kind of film he wanted. That film was Eduardo Manostijeras (1990), one of his most emotional, esteemed and artistic films to date. Eduardo Manostijeras (1990) was also Burton's first film with actor Johnny Depp. Burton's next film was Batman vuelve (1992), and was darker and quirkier than the first one, and, while by no means a financial flop, many people felt somewhat disappointed by it. While working on Batman vuelve (1992), he also produced the popular Pesadilla antes de Navidad (1993), directed by former fellow Disney Animator Henry Selick. Burton reunited with Johnny Depp on the film Ed Wood (1994), a film showered with critical acclaim, Martin Landau won an academy award for his performance in it, and it is very popular now, but flopped during its initial release. Burton's subsequent film, Mars Attacks! (1996), had much more vibrant colors than his other films. Despite being directed by Burton and featuring all-star actors including Jack NicholsonGlenn ClosePierce Brosnan and Michael J. Fox, it received mediocre reviews and wasn't immensely popular at the box office, either. Burton returned to his darker and more artistic form with the film Sleepy Hollow(1999), starring Johnny DeppChristina Ricci and Casper Van Dien. The film was praised for its art direction and was financially successful, redeeming Burton of the disappointment many had felt by Mars Attacks! (1996). His next film was El planeta de los simios (2001), a remake of the classic of the same name. The film was panned by many critics but was still financially successful. While on the set of El planeta de los simios(2001), Burton met Helena Bonham Carter, to whom he is now currently engaged and has a son with. Afterwards, Burton directed the film Big Fish (2003) - a much more conventional film than most of his others, it received a good deal of critical praise, although it disappointed some of his long-time fans who preferred the quirkiness of his other, earlier films. Despite the fluctuations in his career, Burton proved himself to be one of the most popular directors of the late 20th century. And as of this writing, he is currently signed on to direct Johnny Depp once again, this time in Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005), a film that promises to be just as quirky as anything he's ever done. - IMDb Mini Biography By: Mr_Beale_11-14

Lena Gieseke (24 February 1989 - 31 December 1991) (divorced) 

Trade Mark*
Often does the beginning credits sequence with the camera going through something (Batman (1989), Bitelchús (1988), Eduardo Manostijeras (1990) or following something (Batman vuelve (1992), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005) and Sweeney Todd, el barbero diabólico de la calle Fleet (2007)).

His films often have a Gothic feel to them, often including Christmas and/or Halloween scenes.

Plot often focuses around a misunderstood outcast

Frequently uses composer Danny Elfman

Frequently casts Jeffrey Jones, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix, Michael Keaton, Lisa Marie, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gough, Deep Roy and Christopher Lee.

Frequently features dead or dismembered dogs

He often likes to open his films with a quiet nighttime snowfall

Many of his films feature townspeople who misunderstand and/or distrust the lead character

Obsession with horror actors: he makes movies about them (Vincent (1982), Ed Wood(1994)), or he actually casts them in his films (e.g. Vincent Price, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken).

Often shows scarecrows in his movies

His movies always opens with a personal version of the studio's logo

Usually includes fantasy elements in his films

Often looks into the main character's past through a series of flashbacks (i.e. Eduardo Manostijeras (1990), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005) and Sweeney Todd, el barbero diabólico de la calle Fleet (2007)).

Fathers are portrayed in a negative light in his films. Whether they be dead (Batman(1989)), purposely ditched their children (Batman vuelve (1992)), the main characters have remorse against them because of bad childhood memories (Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005), or weren't there while their child was growing up (Sweeney Todd, el barbero diabólico de la calle Fleet (2007)).

Stripes: characters often wear striped clothing, particularly black-and-white stripes (for example, Beetlejuice, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd", Katrina in "Sleepy Hollow", and Tweedledum and Tweedledee in "Alice in Wonderland").

Often shows factory assembly line sequences (e.g. Eduardo Manostijeras (1990), Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005), Número 9 (2009)).

Most his films tend to be either dark or colorful, and sometimes contain scenes of both.

Affectionate homages to the films of his childhood

Long unwashed hair, black clothing and large sunglasses

His characters are often friendly and optimistic despite their bleak surroundings

Effective use of musical interludes

Extremely dark Gothic atmosphere in buildings and set design

Many of his films prominently feature castles, churches or other old buildings

His stories are often set in non specific locations and incorporate elements from Britain and America

His antagonists are often coldly superior, brutal and thuggish but avoid getting noticed by other characters

His heroes are often neurotic, somewhat cowardly and bizarre yet also intelligent and highly moral


At the end of Bitelchús (1988), Beetlejuice metamorphoses into a bizarre creature with a merry-go-round on his head. On the top of this merry-go-round is a smiling skull which became Jack Skellington in Pesadilla antes de Navidad (1993). The latter movie had been a pet project of Burton's since his days as an animator at Disney.

He has an interest in clowns, and his films will often include them or make reference to them.

Credits his former fiancée, Lisa Marie, as his muse. She is often in his projects (Ed Wood(1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), The World of Stainboy (2000), El planeta de los simios (2001)) or is paid homage in them (she was the inspiration for Pesadilla antes de Navidad (1993)'s Sally).

Engaged to Lisa Marie from 1992-2001.

Used the song "It's Not Unusual", performed by Tom Jones, in Eduardo Manostijeras(1990) and then in Mars Attacks! (1996).

Lives in Ojai (California) and New York.

Is a "Bollywood" fan.

Nearly everywhere he goes, he carries a pocket-size sketchbook and a small watercolor kit.

Usually dresses in black, because he doesn't like spending too much time matching colors.

Younger brother Daniel Burton is also an artist.

Was voted the 49th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly, being the youngest director on this list of 50.

He was hired as the director of the failed Superman (1997) movie.

Among his cinematic influences are Mario Bava, Vincent Price, Roger Corman and Barbara Steele whom he homaged in Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Is a big fan of "nudie" director Russ Meyer.

He once said he never remembers his dreams, apart from five recurring dreams, one of them involving the girl he was in love with when he was a teenager and another involving his parents' bedroom.

Played water polo and swam for Burbank High School in California.

Has made eight films with Johnny Depp: Eduardo Manostijeras (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005), La novia cadáver (2005), Sweeney Todd, el barbero diabólico de la calle Fleet (2007), Alicia en el país de las maravillas (2010), and Sombras tenebrosas (2012).

Ranked #6 on Tropopkin's Top 25 Most Intriguing People [Issue #100].

Is a big fan of Italian director Mario Bava. He once said he would like to remake Bava's classic La máscara del demonio (1960) with his former partner Lisa Marie. He also appeared in two documentaries about Bava.

Member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.

Grew up in Burbank on Evergreen Street, and his family lived in the 2000 block, near Valhalla Cemetary. Attended Providencia Elementary School in Burbank, California.

Was working on a documentary about Vincent Price, called "Conversations with Vincent". After Price's death in 1993 he shelved the project and it has never been completed.

Was slated to direct La mosca (1986) with Michael Keaton in the lead role, but he backed out and David Cronenberg took over.

Was originally set to do a re-make of El gabinete del Dr. Caligari (1920) in the early 1980s.

Is scheduled to direct the Broadway musical version of his film Batman (1989).

Bought the rights to a Topps trading card series with the intention of turning it into a film, but couldn't decide between calling it "Dinosaurs Attack!" and "Mars Attacks!". Parque Jurásico (1993) then came out, and to avoid comparison, he made it as Mars Attacks!(1996) instead, but then it faced comparison to Independence Day (1996).

While at WDFA, he shared an office with Andreas Deja.

In October 2001, he began his current relationship with actress Helena Bonham Carter, whom he met while filming El planeta de los simios (2001), and she has appeared in all of his subsequent films. They live in adjoining houses with a hallway that connects the two homes, they have a son, Billy-Ray Burton, born on October 4, 2003, and a girl, Nell Burton, born on December 15, 2007.

Johnny Depp is a godfather of his son Billy Ray Burton.

After seeing his performance as 'Big Boy' Caprice in Dick Tracy (1990), he always kept Al Pacino in mind to cast as a villain in a future "Batman" installment. However, after Batman vuelve (1992), Burton moved on from the franchise.

Engaged to Helena Bonham Carter [2001-present] 2 children.

As of 2009, every feature film he has directed has been nominated for some sort of Academy Award, with the exceptions of La gran aventura de Pee-wee (1985), Mars Attacks! (1996) and El planeta de los simios (2001).

Has his look-alike puppet in the French show Les guignols de l'info (1988).

His favorite films are Drácula 73 (1972), El hombre de mimbre (1973), El viaje fantástico de Simbad (1973), La batalla de los simios gigantes (1966), and El último hombre... vivo(1971).

Has directed 2 actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Martin Landau (Best Supporting Actor, Ed Wood (1994)) and Johnny Depp (Best Actor, Sweeney Todd, el barbero diabólico de la calle Fleet (2007)). Landau won the Oscar for his performance.

He has a phobia of chimpanzees.

Was at one point going to direct the movie Jo, ¡qué noche! (1985), but then he graciously walked off the project after he was told by the producers that Martin Scorsese wanted to direct the film instead.

His childhood dream was to be in a monster costume wrecking Tokyo but since he couldn't be Godzilla he decided to be an animator.

Cornwall/Devon filming Alicia en el país de las maravillas (2010). [September 2008]

Received a lifelong ban from any and all Comic Con events after the release of his Batman(1989) film, due to it having some 'fundamental' deviations from the canon. He reveals this on a DVD commentary track for the film.

Was originally set to direct Spawn (1997).

Was attached to direct the now cancelled 'Superman Lives' film written by 'Kevin Smith'.

Was considered to direct X-Men (2000).

Was at one point attached to direct 'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events' (2004).

Was interested in directing Watchmen (2009).

Often works with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

Personal Quotes*

You don't know whether chimps are going to kill you or kiss you. They're very open on some levels and much more evil in a certain way.

[commenting on the demolition of the Landmark casino in Las Vegas for the film Mars Attacks! (1996)] "It was like watching something die."

[genres] "I had never really done something that was more of a horror film, and it's funny, because those are the kind of movies that I like probably more than any other genre. The script had images in it that I liked ."

[memories] "I remember when I was younger, I had these two windows in my room, nice windows that looked out onto the lawn, and for some reason my parents walled them up and gave me this little slit window that I had to climb up on a desk to see out of. To this day I never asked them why; I should ask them."

Anybody who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. And I certainly would never read anything written by Kevin Smith.

[suburbia] "I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don't even know what the word means, but it's stuck in my brain. It's weird. I don't know if it's specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there's a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you're living in."

[the approach you have to take in movies] " . . . you always have to feel like it's gonna be the greatest, even if it's a . . . you know . . . piece of crap."

[Talking about the Batman characters]: "These are some of the wildest characters in comics and yet, they seem the most real to me."

[About working with Jack Nicholson on Batman (1989)] "By the time Jack walks onto the set, he feels very clear and strong about the character. So when you're shooting it's great, because that's when you toy around with the levels of how broad to go."

I'll always remember this image of being in line to see Cuando los dinosaurios dominaban la Tierra (1970), and all the younger kids were like, 'Dinosaurs are so cool!' and all the older kids were like, 'Oh, man, I hear there's this really hot babe in this movie!'

[on WB's lame suggestions for Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate (2005)] "They thought the Charlie character should be more proactive and that Wonka should be more of a father figure, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'Willy Wonka is NOT a father figure! If that's your idea of a father figure, yikes. Willy Wonka's a weirdo.' "

[on the stress of delivering a summer movie in an era when release dates are often set by studios before a script is finished] It's like you're a runner and they beat the shit out of you and break your legs right before you're supposed to race, and then they say, 'Now go win the race.'

[on cult director Edward D. Wood Jr.] "Nobody had his style. That's something I try to do in my films. You have your own kind of cryptic messages in there - cryptic things that most people wouldn't understand but are important to you. Things that kind of keep you going through the process."

[on picking screenplays] I wouldn't know a good script if it bit me in the face.

[on style] I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn't a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer's Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, 'Goddamit, I don't care if I can't draw, I'm just gonna draw how I feel about it.' All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself. I've had very few experiences like that, and I'll never forget it.

In Hollywood, they think drawn animation doesn't work anymore, computers are the way. They forget that the reason computers are the way is that Pixar makes good movies. So everybody tries to copy Pixar. They're relying too much on the technology and not enough on the artists. The fact that Disney closed down its cel animation division is frightening to me. Someday soon, somebody will come along and do a drawn-animated film, and it'll be beautiful and connect with people, and they'll all go, 'Oh, we've got to do that!' It's ridiculous.

[Becoming a movie director] "There was one moment, and it happened in school. I had a big final exam--we were supposed to write a 20-page report on this book about Houdini [Harry Houdini]. I probably would have loved reading it, but I didn't, so I just decided to make a little super-8 movie based on it. I tied myself to the railroad tracks and all that. I mean, this is kid stuff, but it impressed the teacher, and I got an A. And that was maybe my first turning point, when I said, 'Yeah, I wouldn't mind being a filmmaker.' "

It is unfortunate that Disney closed down its drawn-animation unit. I find it quite upsetting, because they made a few drawn movies that weren't successful and they went, `Well, that is dead, so we have to go to computers.' They forget that the reason that they have been successful is because Pixar [whose films Disney distributes] makes good movies. Success is the real reason people try to copy things in Hollywood. Someday someone will do a beautiful cell- animation film that connects with people and then someone will say, `We have to go and do that again.' The number-one priority should be that the story and the medium are compatible.

I've always been misrepresented. You know, I could dress in a clown costume and laugh with the happy people but they'd still say I'm a dark personality.

I grew up watching things like El cerebro que no podía morir (1962) on Saturday afternoon television. There's a guy with his arm ripped off and blood smeared all over the wall. I never saw it as negative. I find that stuff, when it's not rooted in reality, to be cathartic.

I've always loved the idea of fairy tales, but somehow I never managed to completely connect with them. What interests me is taking those classic images and themes and trying to contemporize them a bit. I believe folk tales and fairy tales have some sort of psychological foundation that makes that possible.

I always liked strange characters.

[on Batman Begins (2005)] "I saw a tape of it. It was very touching. Very good."

If you've ever had that feeling of loneliness, of being an outsider, it never quite leaves you. You can be happy or successful or whatever, but that thing still stays within you.

All these kinds of stories, whether it be El mago de Oz (1939) or Alicia en el país de las maravillas (2010), are an internal journey. I think that's a fairly universal concept. These characters represent things inside the human psyche. I think that's what every child does. You try to work out problems as you go along. Same thing as an adult. Some people get therapy, some people get to make movies.

[on living in England] I love the weather more than in California. I am serious! You know, you can go for a walk in any kind of weather. In Los Angeles you immediately arouse suspicion when you're out without a car.

[on Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman in "Batman Returns"] I don't really go back and look at the movies but her performance in that was one of my favorite performances of anything by anyone in any movie that I've worked on. It was just the best. Really, I'll never forget her in that... I just have all these memories of her - letting a live bird fly out of her mouth and learning to use the whip and jumping around rooftop sets in high heels. The work and just the performance were very, very impressive.

[on Johnny Depp] Johnny's always wanting to sort of hide behind a character, become a character. I've always loved great character actors.

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