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Burton On Burton (Revised Edition). Edited by Mark Salisbury

Burton On Burton Cover

Tim Burton has always had something of a schizophrenic career. On one hand he’s the eccentric visionary who works on the fringes of Hollywood with such films as the fabulous Edward Scissorhands and the commercially unsuccessful yet brilliantly twisted Mars Attacks. On the other hand he’s at the heart of the Hollywood machine, helming the merchandise monster that was Batman and the critically maligned yet financially lucrative ‘re-imagining’ of Planet of the Apes. Can Burton on Burton reveal just which is the real Tim Burton?

An answer forms in Mark Salibury’s introduction to this revised edition of his book. He states “(Burton) may use Hollywood’s money, he may make their summer blockbusters … but he makes them his way. And that’s what makes him so appealing and interesting.” As Burton opens up in a series of interviews through this revealing book, it seems that the director is happy having both sides to his personality. With his beginnings as an artist in the Disney studios (which saw him work on The Fox And The Hound and slowly go insane as he drowned in a sea of cute animals) to his ascension in the ranks to directing some of the biggest films in Tinseltown, Burton elucidates on his influences and reveals his production methods in a way that will captivate fans of the director and intrigue those who enjoy discovering the machinations of modern Hollywood.

The book reveals a man who’s not as removed from the real world as his reputation would sometimes suggest. Understanding the realties of the system in which he works – he pointedly mentions that, much like many people, he also enjoys receiving substantial amounts of money to do work – and knowing how to use this system to make the kind of films he wants, Burton is perhaps one of the smartest mainstream directors working today. There are also some intriguing facts (his first live action feature was a version of Hansel and Gretel with an all Japanese cast and Tom Cruise was considered for the lead in Scissorhands) and plenty of Burton’s storyboards. There are only a couple of situations when Burton – who professes a fondness for ‘doing’ over ‘talking about I’t – when you feel that the director is keeping his cards close to his chest. And he still doesn’t help me understand just what the hell was going on at the end of Planet Of The Apes.

A fine addition to Faber’s Director on Director series, my only criticism that it may be still a little to early in Burton’s career to dedicate a book to him. At a relatively youthful 48 years old, Burton clearly has many more movies left in him and Salisbury will have plenty more revised editions of this books in the future.

As Johnny Depp says in his Foreword to this book “I have never seen someone so obviously out of place fit right in,” This book is a tantalising glimpse into some of the reasons why.

PUBLISHER: Faber and Faber

ISBN: 0-571-22926-3
PRICE: £14.99