Tim Burton on Alice in Wonderland
By Gaynor Flynn
Like many of your characters Alice lives between two worlds. Was that part of the attraction of this story? Tim Burton
: Thats what I liked about Lewis Carrolls work, thats what he did. Somehow you bypass the brain right inside because those characters, even if you dont know the book, everybody knows, mad as a hatter, or grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Its just infiltrated the culture and thats whats so beautiful. People try to analyze his work and all and yet hes still remained kind of cryptic and thats whats so beautiful about it: that something thats so absurdist and so weird and yet still remained with us all.
Did you do a lot of research around the book? Tim Burton
: Yes and the great thing is, there are endless theories on all sorts of stuff with him. Thats whats great, youre just conscious of the subject. What I got from the research, which I love, which is that: you can analyze it but you still cant crack it. Its like the Da Vinci Code or something, you cant get quite in there. But thats whats beautiful about it.
What would you ask Lewis Carroll if you had the chance? Tim Burton
: What are you taking? (laughs) No. You know what? I dont know. I kind of liked the fact that he is like an enigma. There is something that you cant quite figure out. Because what I love about him is that he is not literal so asking a question would be a literal thing. It would kind of like: why did you? I wouldnt want to do that. I would just rather enjoy the mystery of what he did.
Was the work satisfying to you as the director, given youre working with new technology? Tim Burton
: It was frustrating. It was the first time I dealt with all that stuff in that large of an arena. I learned some things, just little tiny technical things I would do differently maybe. But the thing is each project is unique. What we did on this movie you wouldnt necessarily do on another movie, because I wanted these characters animated, and these other ones live action but with a big head, big eyes and small waist. There is a lot of just making it up in a way.
In what ways do you thing this film could change the industry? Tim Burton
: I see what happens now. I was lucky because when we were doing Alice the only 3-D projects were Avatar and a couple of other animated movies that were coming out. So now everybody is going: everything is 3-D. But what that means is, just like when sound came out: youll see good sound movies and bad sound movies. With colour: good colour, bad colour. 3-D: good 3-D, bad 3-D. It will be like anything else. I dont get all crazy. Also in Hollywood, they resist something for so long until it becomes a proven fact and then everybody jumps on the bandwagon. So I guarantee in the next several months youll see a lot of bad 3-D movies. But its a great tool and it will be around and not just for big movies like sci-fi epics or animated things but other kinds of projects. I think its an interesting tool but its a tool, its not the saviour or this or that in my opinion. But its good, its around and its going to stay.
You started out at Disneys did you make a concerted effort to forget the Disney version of Alice? Tim Burton
: There have been 20 odd versions of Alice and Disney cartoon being one of them. To me it was one of their least successful cartoons. And thats again the material... people when they try to be literal to the material it just ends up not really working. And of all their animated films its probably one of their least successful ones. So thats why I felt with the script setting a different context just made it for me more possible to make that material work a bit better.
How conscious of the fact were you that you making a childrens movie and therefore you could only go so far in terms of putting weird things in there? Tim Burton
: Thats exactly right. When I got involved I said: were doing Alice in Wonderland, Im not going to do anything weirder than whats in the book. Im not going to try to make it darker, I dont want to do that because the material is what it is. So we actually just tried to keep true to the spirit of it all. This book is weird, theres weird and dark stuff in it, theres strange politically incorrect stuff but thats what it is. And also I knew its a Disney movie and it was big budget so I said: this is it. Thats why with the script when I signed off with them I said Im not going to do anything more than whats here.
When did you discover the books? Tim Burton
: When I thought about it I realized: I cant remember. What I do remember and this is why I again I was drawn to it was: I knew the characters. I thought: why do I know these characters? I never read the books. And its just because I heard it in songs, saw other illustrators doing versions of it, writers that would incorporate it in different works. So those characters and those images were just so in the culture thats how I knew them to begin with and then I revisited the books later.
What did you think when you realised the books were written in 1865? Tim Burton
: I thought it was amazing, I thought: if this book had been written today it would still be mind-blowing.
You often work with the same people like Johnny Depp. Whats the appeal? Tim Burton
: Were friends, family, colleagues.
Does it make work easier? Tim Burton
: Yeah. Its great I like mixing it up like working with new people and people Ive worked with before. On this one it helped me because it was so few elements on the set. So it was in this particular case more meaningful to work with people that Ive worked with before because it was just so strange.
What did you seen in Mia Wasikowska that made you cast her? Tim Burton
: She just had that quality of somebody who is young but has an old persons soul. Kind of at that age where youre not young, youre not old, you dont feel like you fit in, a certain gravity to her that I felt like none of the other kind of Alices had. She has always been a bratty little, obnoxious child in every version. So I just liked she felt like the opposite of that, she seemed like a very internal and since the movie, too, was about somebodys internal struggle to kind of find themselves she just embodied that to me.
After this high tech experience would you like to do another old-fashioned movie again? Tim Burton
: You kind of take each thing as it comes. But yes, up until now the thing that was most passionate about, that I loved doing, was seeing actors on a set. Thats fun. This was a different experience, challenging. But so you take each project as it comes.
Do you already have a new project in mind? Tim Burton
: No, not yet. I might do a little stop-motion-movie again.
To what extent did you have to change the way you work because its in 3-D? Tim Burton
: The whole thing was different because there were all these techniques in there. Its almost like a backwards process of making a movie. Usually you shoot a shot and you see it the next day. Here I didnt get shots for months. I planned a shot, planned it all, and then months and months would go by until I would just get it. There was just material, its a lot of pieces, a very puzzling kind of process because we used all these different techniques. So there was very minimal... even when I have live actors they couldnt even necessarily be on the set together because for me and for Alice she was never a normal size. She was either big or small only a small portion was she regular size so it was tricky.
Alice in WonderlandCast
: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, Lindsay Duncan and Mia Wasikowska as AliceVoice Cast
: Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Barbara WindsorDirector
: Tim BurtonClassification
: PG - Fantasy violence and scary scenes.Running Time
: 108 Minutes
From Walt Disney Pictures and visionary director Tim Burton comes an epic 3D fantasy adventure ALICE IN WONDERLAND, a magical and imaginative twist on some of the most beloved stories of all time. JOHNNY DEPP stars as the Mad Hatter and MIA WASIKOWSKA as 19-year-old Alice, who returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and of course, the Mad Hatter.
Alice embarks on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen's reign of terror. The all-star cast also includes ANNE HATHAWAY, HELENA BONHAM CARTER and CRISPIN GLOVER. The screenplay is by Linda Woolverton.
Capturing the wonder of Lewis Carroll's beloved "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1865) and "Through the Looking-Glass" (1871) with stunning, avant-garde visuals and the most charismatic characters in literary history, ALICE IN WONDERLAND comes to the big screen in Disney Digital 3D™ on March 4, 2010.Release Date: 4 March 2010