Tim Burton

Big Fish

Interviewed by Jamie Russell

“If I had a choice about going to a meeting at a studio or changing a nappy, I'd choose the nappy ”

How does Tim Burton survive in Hollywood? A quirky, one-off original, he's a filmmaker whose bizarre, surreal, and occasionally poetic vision of life is quite unlike anything that Tinseltown would usually put up with. From Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood to Sleepy Hollow, Burton's world is one of Grimm (and sometimes grim) fairy tales. In Big Fish, he teams up Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor in a film about giants, werewolves, and storytelling...

Of all the films you've made, do you now regard Big Fish as the most personal you've tackled?

My father had died before I got the film, and I was thinking a lot about those issues and how abstract that relationship is and how hard it is to communicate those feelings in that parent-child relationship. So when I got the script, I felt that this speaks to that directly. It was an amazing way to explore and have that catharsis, and it was a semi-cheap form of therapy for me as well to be able to go through it!

And you're now continuing the cycle by becoming a dad yourself. Congratulations!

Well, congratulations to me maybe, but he might be in for some trouble! It's exciting. You go through your whole life and people call you weird and all that, and then you go through this and you realise that this is the weirdest thing that could happen to anybody. It's an incredible experience. If I had a choice about going to a meeting at a studio or changing a nappy, I'd choose the nappy.

What was the process you went through to cast Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney as the same character?

It was looking at a picture of Albert from around the time of Tom Jones [his 1963 movie] and then looking at a picture of Ewan. It's not like there's so much of a physical resemblance but there's this weird spiritual - I don't know how to describe it - kind of... connection.

How did you connect with Ewan's Scottish sense of humour?

He's one of the few actors that can do this sort of heightened reality humour, give it some emotional qualities, and still make it believable all at the same time. I find those kind of actors exciting because they're able to juggle all those things in one package.

Did you need to return to a smaller kind of movie after Planet Of The Apes?

Oh yeah. It was nice. I haven't had this experience in a long time where a studio wants to do a film that you can't describe in two sentences, isn't a well-known property, doesn't have one star driving it. It was a fairly unique experience, and I was appreciative of that.