Invited to preside over the Feature Films Jury for the 63rd Festival de Cannes that opens today, Tim Burton will award the Palme d’Or to one of the films in the Competition on 23rd May.
An interview before he disappears for 12 days into the darkened theatres of the Palais…
What is your first film memory?
It was Jason and the Argonauts.
What made you want to make films?
Watching monster movies… In Jason and the Argonauts, watching Ray Harryhausen’s creations made me want to become both an animator and/or a filmmaker.
Is there a film you never get tired of watching?
There are several. Ones you watch anytime you want. It’s strange, there’s a weird one like Where Eagles Dare; it’s a movie that everytime it’s on TV, I watch it, because there’s a mood to it, in the snow, and you have the soundtrack and the quietness… Same thing with The Omega Man. There are certain films I would watch anytime, even if I had seen them the day before.
Which scene from a film gives you the greatest sense of emotion?
I can remember when I first saw King Kong falling off the Empire State Building… I got very emotional about that! And it’s kind of the same at the end of any monster movie when they die. I always get very sad and emotional at the end of almost every monster movie!
Do you have a cult line of dialogue?
I always laugh when Charlton Heston says to the Zombies in The Omega Man : “Are you fellas really with the Internal Revenue Service?” There’s something about that line that always made me laugh!
Which film would you like to live inside?
The movies kind of create a mood… I guess any Mario Bava film. I always liked the spirit, the look of those, so I guess I would like to live in one of his films.
Which film would you show to someone if you were trying to seduce them?
Well, I remember going on at a date in a drive-in, one of the first dates I ever had, and there was a double bill of Clockwork Orange and Deliverance… So I wouldn’t suggest that! It didn’t work very well!
In which other filmmaker’s skin would you like to spend a few hours?
I guess it would be people I never knew or met but whose films I liked, like I would have loved to have known Mario Bava, what he was like, because I like his films very much. So I guess I’ll never have the opportunity to meet somebody like that.
Which actor or actress would you have liked to direct?
In history? I’ve always had a real soft spot for Peter Lowry or Boris Karloff... But I’ve been lucky to be able to have people I admired, like Christopher Lee.
Which book would you like to adapt?
I think books are quite difficult to adapt. It has to be a book that you think is very good. I would be very leery of adapting a book that I liked. But even if I did like it, I wouldn’t want to adapt it.
Which film ending would you most like to change?
Maybe The Sound of Music, I would kill them all off at the end. The whole family!
In your opinion, which event or invention created a before and an after in the history of cinema?
Like sound and colour? Any time a new technology is invented, there’s a before and an after. But I don’t agree with things like saying 3D is a turning-point, because I don’t think it’s the only tool. Even when colour came in, I still like to do black and white. There are so many elements, so many tools, it’s great that they’re all there. It’s like animation: when computer animation came in, they stopped doing drawn animation. And luckily, even after computers, there are still drawers in animation. So it’s best to not think too much about before and afters in my opinion.
In your opinion, just how far can cinema go?
The great think is, it’s all about emotion and story... That was there at the beginning and that will be there at the end, no matter what the technology is. That’s the great thing about it: it’s always got a very simple, kind of human purity to it. That’s a good thing. It can constantly change and everything can happen, and yet the core thing about affecting somebody stays the same, which is beautiful.
Do you have any particular ritual or obsessive behaviour connected with the Cannes Festival?
It’s just like a weird dream. So let’s just the dream happen! I think it’s best not to plan too much. Don’t you think?
What do you most like doing when you are not making films?
I like having time where I’m not doing anything. That’s the time where you actually create the most, when you’re just looking out the window or looking at a tree. It’s at those times in life that you’re just like spacing out, which is rare. So I like to have as much of that time as you can have, because I think that’s the time where you are actually doing the most work, in a strange way.
Is there any question that you would really want to ask and to whom?
I guess the whole British government, like “What’s the hell is going on”? And I think the whole country wants to know what’s going on!
EB / VVE