When it comes to Johnny Depp, it seems Tim Burton just can’t win.
"With Johnny, people complain if I work with him, people complain if I don’t work with him…" he shrugs the shrug of a man, not worrying too much.
"I can see him every day, and not see him for a couple of years. Everyone is gypsy and nomadic in the film world, and they have to be right for the part, so nobody takes offence."
Tim Burton dug deep into his childhood for his latest film Frankenweenie
One of Burton's old friends fans will be pleased to see taking part in his new film, Frankenweenie, which opened London Film Festival last night, is Winona Ryder.
"You go down certain paths, time goes by so quickly, and you suddenly realise you haven’t seen this person," Burton reflects on the two decades since he last worked with the actress in 'Edward Scissorhands'.
"She still sounds like she’s ten years old.
"This project it was important for me to go back to people I've worked with in the past. People like Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short were so good at doing all the characters' different voices (three each), along Martin Landau's intensity and presence, but for this particular film, it was important for me to reconnect with people I love."
Frankenweenie taps into every child's love for their dog - in this case, Victor's for Sparky
'Frankenweenie' - a stop animation Disney feature (Burton's first since he unceremoniously given the boot by the studio - "different place, different time" he says diplomatically) - is the director's most openly personal film yet. Based on a short film Burton made nearly 30 years ago, it tells the story of a young boy Victor who loses his beloved pooch Sparky and, inspired by his science teacher, decides to bring him back to life.
Burton had his own dog Peppe from the age of three, but he's confident we can all relate to loving a pet that much...
"If you ever had a dog, you've experienced that unconditional love, that only dogs can bring out, that thing where it’s very powerful, it’s your first love, your first real relationship, and often your first experience with death... unless you have a tortoise who lives to 125.
"At some point children have to deal with it, it’s just when and how that’s different."
Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter were both honoured by the British Film Institute this week
The film, made in black and white 3D - "the best way of demonstrating the artistry of the work, even the stitching on the puppets looks better" - is also a proud homage to horror films and to Burton's own past...
"Part of the fun was filtering everything through a personal memory, so every person was based on one or a couple of different people - scary teachers, the ones who were inspiration, the weird girl... even the look of the classroom.
"What fascinates me about adults is that they forget things… that Disney movies, even among the colour, have moments that might make people uncomfortable, Lion King... Bambi... the topic of death is very present in those films, people forget that. But it’s more about the emotion, I'm not interested in showing a dead dog lying in the road."
Burton has long been one of those directors for whom fans feel a singular affinity, something that humbles and frightens him in equal measure...
"I’m quite a shy person, but the best thing is when you've done something that affects someone in a positive way. That's the most beautiful part of the whole thing, and scariest as well... like when someone has a tattoo of a character you've created."
Sparky will surely become one of Burton's most beloved characters
Burton, despite his success, seems the antithesis of a Hollywood director, which goes part-way to explaining his long-time residence in London, where he famously lives next door to his partner Helena Bonham Carter and their children.
"I always felt strange in Los Angeles, even before getting into Hollywood.
"There are no seasons, you don't know what time of year it is, if you walk anywhere, you get arrested.
"In restaurants, waiters hand you a script, there's no getting away from it. In London, there are other things going on, not just movies, it feels more like I how I feel... plus I like walking, even in the rain."
Both Burton and Bonham Carter were feted by the British Film Institute with fellowships last night, and there are rumblings of Awards talk for Frankenweenie - how does Burton view the prospect of gongs as well as creative glory?
He smiles another unflappable smile. "I got a Blue Peter badge yesterday, so I’m set for the year."
Frankenweenie is in UK cinemas from 17 October. Tim Burton's Dark Shadows is out on DVD on Monday 15 October. Watch the trailer for Frankenweenie below...
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