Tim Burton is one of the most successful and iconic filmmakers today. What sets Burton apart from many other successful filmmakers is that he has his own unique style. You know a Tim Burton film when you see it, whether it’s a stop motion like The Nightmare Before Christmas, or a live action like Beetlejuice.
Burton was raised in Burbank, California and like many of his dark characters, he is known to be reclusive. When he was a kid, he would make his own (very basic) stop motion films in his backyard using an 8mm camera. The earliest known film of Burton’s is The Island of Dr. Agor, which he made when he was 13 years old. It was based on H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau.
The young Burton was also obsessed with Vincent Price, an actor who was known for his comic performances in horror films. Burton would ultimately go on to work with Price twice. The first time was in a six minute black and white stop motion film, where he plays the narrator. The movie is about a boy who wants to be Vincent Price. Price also played The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands.
Before striking out on his own, Burton worked on several Disney productions, including The Fox and The Hound, The Black Cauldron and Tron. Burton and Disney had creative differences, but things clearly worked out for him when he departed. Burton’s ability to create worlds and characters are unlike any other director. Here are 10 of his most memorable characters.
10. Kim (Edward Scissorhands)
The character of Kim in Edward Scissorhands (1990) played brilliantly by Winona Ryder, is one of the most memorable Tim Burton characters because she’s not like the rest of his creations. She sticks out. But, in a really positive, beautiful way. Kim is the typical pretty popular high school cheerleader, who doesn’t have the dark, sad quality that most of Burton’s characters have. She even wears white in her most iconic scene in the movie. Kim is important because her gentle, graceful ways make Edward Scissorhands feel almost like a fairy tale. Luckily, they didn’t cast Drew Barrymore, who was originally considered for the role.
9. Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice)
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Betelgeuse is one of the most memorable and funniest characters that Tim Burton ever created. While it was a live action movie, Betelgeuse was so colorful, he was practically a cartoon come alive from his black and white striped suit, to his clown-like makeup and crazy hair. Perfectly played by Michael Keaton, he has said it was the most favorite role he ever played. The funny thing about the titular character is that he doesn’t have that much screen time in the movie, only 17.5 of 92 minutes running time.
8. Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)
Edward Scissorhands, the titular character in the 1990 film, was an iconic role for Johnny Depp, who played the sad dark, and somewhat mythical character with scissors for hands. Edward’s dangerous hands contrasted the gentle nature of the character that Depp and Burton made truly come to life. An interesting fact about Depp’s character is that in spite of his incredible screen presence and being the titular character, he only says a mere 160 words throughout the entire film. It’s Edward’s look and how he changes the world of the family that makes this character so memorable. Strangely, Depp wasn’t originally considered for the role, but of all people, Michael Jackson was.
7. Ed Wood (Ed Wood)
After Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton saw the brilliance of Johnny Depp and brought him back for another project, as the titular character in his 1994 classic Ed Wood. It was also Burton’s first R-rated project. Depp has said the character he created had “the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan, the enthusiasm of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz and Casey Kasem.” That’s an interesting take on playing a real life person. Depp was so good as Ed Wood, even Wood’s widow, Kathy was impressed and after watching them shoot, she told the cast and crew, “That’s my Eddie.”
6. Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Tim Burton’s 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas became a truly classic film with Jack Skellington being the most memorable character. Skellington is a darkly adorable skeleton (who does look just a little bit like another character on this list, Betelgeuse), was voiced by two different people. Chris Sarandon was Skellington’s speaking voice. But, Danny Elfman did all of Skellington’s singing. Burton decided this made more sense because Elfman scored the film, in addition to many more Burton classics. Skellington is so memorable because despite his scary appearance, he provides many comic moments throughout the film.
5. The White Queen (Alice in Wonderland)
Anne Hathaway’s White Queen in Burton’s 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, is simply unforgettable. While the character might look a little like pop star like Lady Gaga, with her makeup, white hair and stark look, she was actually based on famed British chef, Nigella Lawson. Burton told the LA Times “I quietly had [Nigella Lawson] as my image for this character. She’s really beautiful and she does all this cooking, but then there’s this glint in her eye and when you see it you go, ‘Oh, whoa, she’s like really … nuts.’ I mean in a good way. Well, maybe. I don’t know.” Anne Hathaway was originally offered the role of Alice, but turned it down. Instead, she was thrilled to have this unforgettable supporting role.
4. Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Tim Burton’s 2007 film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was based on the Stephen Sondheim’s Tony winning musical of the same name. It is a horror/musical tale about a barber who kills his clients with a straight edge razor and his wife, Mrs. Lovett, who makes meat pies of his victims. In the film, Mrs. Lovett is played to perfection by Burton’s now ex-partner, Helena Bonham Carter. Filming was especially a challenge for her because she was pregnant with their second child. It’s an interesting fact to know that her breasts changed size throughout the movie because it was shot out of sequence.
3. Veruca Salt (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory)
2005’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory was Burton’s re-make of the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The tale of a poor boy Charlie, who wins a golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the movie showed that not everything in life is as it appears. One of the most memorable characters was Veruca Salt played by Julia Winter. She is a spoiled, rich brat who only cares about herself. Salt’s most memorable scene is her musical number “I Want It Now,” when she sings about all of the things she wants, but gets none of it when she falls into a garbage shoot, expelling her from the chocolate factory.
2. Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)
Lydia Deetz was a typical goth, angst-filled teen, who isn’t thrilled to be uprooted to her family’s new house. The role was what kicked Ryder’s career into high gear. But, Ryder wasn’t the only person that the casting crew considered for this role, in fact, she was the last choice. Juliette Lewis auditioned for the part but wasn’t cast. Then Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Justine Bateman, Jennifer Connelly and Molly Ringwald were all offered the role, but turned it down.
1. The Joker (Batman)
Who could forget Jack Nicholson as The Joker in 1989’s Batman? Most people don’t even remember the movie was directed by Tim Burton because it just isn’t a typical Tim Burton film. Nicholson has said of iconic character, “The thing I like about The Joker is that his sense of humor is completely tasteless.” But, one thing that wasn’t tasteless was the cash Nicholson made from the film- $60 million because of a back-end deal with Warner Bros. The film ended up being the highest grossing film of 1989. You might not have known that another actor was also considered for the role- Robin Williams.