Monday, June 22, 2009

Alice in Teaserland

Maybe "Tweedle Dee!" should be the new "Squeeeee!" for excited exclamations. You've probably seen the new images via USA Today and the info on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland? But I'd like to talk about the cast and the polish. One of the only pluses of mainstays like 'Wonderland' being retold each decade over original work is to see how the different eras and visual artists interpret them.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

Wonderland. If you click over to USA Today you can move
around in the gardens with your mouse. For what it's worth it looks like
Edward Scissorhands has been hired as Wonderland's landscape artist.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice (the oldest Alice since Meryl Streep?) and
Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedleydum

Helena & Anne Hathaway as Red & White Queens. Depp as Mad Hatter.
I love what My New Plaid Pants says about the latter: "
if Elijah Wood
and Carrot Top had a baby
" Ha!

The look is certainly eye-popping and I will be there on day one (March 5th, 2010 to be exact) but maybe the saturation (will it be garish onscreen?) and practically-an-animated-movie CGI smoothness is worrisome. Is Burton moving too far into George Lucas 'make it up on the computer later!' green screen terrain as a filmmaker? And given that we're seeing a batch of teasing photos a full 270 days before this is opening is this going to be one of those movies (like Terminator Salvation or Spider-Man 3) that shows and tells all prior to its release?

What, me? Worry???

I'm thinking about Burton's oeuvre today because i09 is remembering the game changing public mania that surrounded the release of Tim Burton's Batman 20 years ago tomorrow (June 23rd, 1989). Yes, long before Nolan made that crazy successful The Dark Knight, Burton was largely creating our current movie culture. Supermans I-IV beat him to the superhero game but their very rapidly diminishing returns didn't make the superhero franchise idea all that viable. It was Burton and that yellow and black symbol, plastered on everything, that did it.

Remarkably that particular Batman starred neither Johnny Depp (the star of literally 50% of Burton's filmography) nor Helena Bonham-Carter (who appears in 6 of Burton's 14 features). If the film were remade today they'd be your Batman Joker and Vicki Vale replacing Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger.

<-- You know they would!

I'm exaggerating a little since their absence was a given. Burton probably hadn't even met them. In 1989 Depp was still on 21 Jump Street and Helena Bonham Carter was that tiny corseted Merchant/Ivory dress-up doll.

Burton's Troupe O' Players

Johnny & Helena aren't the wild haired auteur's only favored thespians. He isn't quite Woody Allen or Scorsese in the steady faces game, but here's a list of his other pets. I personally think he's underused Sarah Jessica Parker who aced both of her Burton roles, totally understanding his peculiar comic tone.

6+ collaborations
Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter

5 collaborations

Lisa Marie (Burton's ex) - Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow and the short Stainboy

4 collaborations

Christopher Lee - Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice
Deep Roy -Planet, Big Fish, Charlie, Corpse Bride

3 collaborations
Danny DeVito -Batman Returns, Mars, Big Fish
Jeffrey Jones -Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Sleepy
Michael Keaton - Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns
Glenn Shadix - Beetlejuice, Planet plus Stainboy

2 collaborations
Albert Finney -Corpse Bride, Big Fish
O-Lan Jones -Edward Scissorhands, Mars
Martin Landau -Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow
Jack Nicholson -Batman, Mars

Sarah Jessica Parker -Ed Wood, Mars
Vincent Price -Edward Scissorhands and the short Vincent
Paul Reubens -Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Batman Returns
Alan Rickman -Sweeney, Alice
Winona Ryder -Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands
Timothy Spall -Sweeney Todd, Alice
Missi Pyle -Big Fish, Charlie
Sylvia Sidney -Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks!

Who are your favorite Burton players? Share in the comments. Do you think he should keep reusing people or move on like Paul Thomas Anderson when he left all his regulars behind for There Will Be Blood?

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previous post: "60 Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Meryl Streep Today"


Seeking Amy said...

This is exciting! Burton was probably my favorite director when I was a kid. Mars Attacks really scared me though, and i've yet to rewatch it. I do like Johnny and Helena being in his films but I wish he would reuse Christina Ricci! I could see her being like...some rabid version of Raggedy Anne in one of his films.

Derreck said...

I think i giggled like a little girl when i saw the Alice pics. It's exactly what i would expect from Burton. Colorful and delightfully weird. :) I can't wait to go in the rabbit hole whenever this comes out.

and my favorite players are of course, Bonham-Carter and Depp. His films made me love them. Especially when it comes to Depp. Depp has other great roles like Captain Jack and others, but always ends up on the top of his game when he's with Burton.

with Bonham-Carter, i honestly haven't seen much of her films outside of the Burton universe other than Fight Club and the Harry Potter series (side note: i think she was another example of flawless casting in the Harry Potter movies) which is indeed, a shame. But in all the Burton movies she's been in, she's always been a bright spot. My favorites with her have to be Sweeney Todd or Corpse Bride.

gah, all this Burton talk has me excited. i need to go and watch Mars Attacks again. i haven't seen that gem in years...

Derreck said...

and i wish i could use photoshop half as good as you, Nat. the Bonham-Carter/Depp Batman pics are totally spot on.

Depp would've made a good Joker...even though we all know that Ledger kicked ass.

Anonymous said...

He should keep using the same actors and actresses although, personally, i would have loved to see Christina Ricci playing Alice. I hope they collaborate in the future.

Chris Na Taraja said...

That new batman casting is really funny and probably true. He should use the actors that he likes to work with. It's proably the closest thing hollywood has to acting companies nowadays.

I love Sascha Baron Cohen as Pirelli in SWEENY TODD, and hope to see more of him in Burtons in crowd.

Also Ken Page as the Oogie Boogie Man in NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

And I have to say the entire cast of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS have a dear place in my heart, but especially Vincent Price. I went with a friend to see that, when it came out, and we were the only 2 people laughing. One of my favorites.

This Alice in Wonderland scares me though. It looks a little overblown. If your Tim Burton and your trying to hard, then I don't know what to say.

Cristhian said...

Since I'd love to see Winona back as a leading lady in a substantial role with a renowned director, yes, I would need for Tim Burton to give Noni a holler an say: Get off your pajamas and our pretentious reading and go back to work.
Also, I'd love to see the following people that could very well lend their thespian prowess(given they mayh have one) to Burton:
Marilyn Manson; Jennifer Saunders; Rose McGowan; Uma Thurman; Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Annie said...

I agree,Christina Ricci would be perfect in any out-there,over the top Tim Burton Movie
Burton,Depp and Carter share movie Chemistry,so if it ain't broken,I say don't fix it!

Mikey said...

Helena Bonham Carter is my favorite actress. Ever. She's extremely talented, and deserves so much more recognition than she gets (And because it needs to be said: robbed of the Oscar in 97'. That still gets me riled up.) Needless to say, I love her the most out of Burton's thespians, but I think Johnny Depp is fantastic as well.

I'm extremely excited to see this.

vince said...

Is it just me, or does Helena's hair and makeup for the film make her look like a drag queen's interpretation of Bette Davis?


vince now that you've said it... it's not just you ;)

derreck omg. get thee to THE WINGS OF THE DOVE post haste. She's flat out brilliant in it -- easily one of the best performances of the 90s to lose the Oscar (grrrrr)

Iggy said...

They aren't regulars, but I'd love to see Pfeiffer and McGregor in more Burton movies.

I don't want to see Sarah Jessica Parker in more Burton movies. I have nothing against her, but I think she just doesn't fit into Burton's world.

Also, I think Bonham Carter should have a Burton break for her own good, so that she could be in more varied projects.

And finally, I want to see Martin Landau all the time.

Cort said...

Vincent, true she looks like an over the top version of Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex


Iggy -- really? I loved her in ed wood and I think she gives my favorite performance in mars attacks!

Liz said...

Speaking of great colloborations, Buffy lovers will enjoy this. Twilight admirers...not so much.

Its downright hilarious! Makes me want to rewatch season all over again.

Iggy said...

Hmm, I don't know maybe I should rewatch them.

Don' get me wrong, I liked her in both, but I don't know if it's the instant linking Parker/Bradshaw in my mind or that later on Bonham Carter has proven (for me) to be more fit (which makes me think she could've been better than Parker). Either way, I feel there's something missing. I do realize, though, that this is one of those completely subjective things that have not rational/objective grounds.

That said, I'd love to see more of Parker in more challenging movies, because I guess that getting her in that TV version of Women on the Verge would be too obvious. :)


Liz... great minds think a like. I JUST posted that. ha ha

Wayne B. said...

Nathaniel - Jeffrey Jones was in Sleepy Hollow as well so that makes 3 collaborations between him and Burton. "Their heads were not found at all."

I'm going to reiterate what Seeking Amy and Fenix already said by hoping that Burton works with El Ricci again. That may just be my own Riccimania though. Miranda Richardson would be great to see again in one of his too. Although I wouldn't mind seeing him inject some fresh blood. What about Crispin Glover, Judy Greer or Amy Adams?

Jim T said...

These pix from Alice in Weirdland, I mean Wonderland, make me more hungry than Charlie's chocolate factory!

Anonymous said...

To me, Johnny Depp looks strangely like Madonna in that picture!

DJ said...

Do we know how big Bonham Carter and Hathaway's roles will be in this?

Anonymous said...

If he had been working with Helena Bonham Carter back when he made "Batman" she would've played Alice, or whatever the Joker's deformed girlfriend was called (the one Jerry Hall played... btw, didn't Mick Jagger cheat on her with France's first lady Carla Bruni like, a million years ago?).

I love Tim Burton and I'm pretty sure I always will, but for the last decade it's like he's been just phoning it in. His only film that doesn't feel (for me, at least) formulaic and lifeless is "Corpse Bride".

re: his regular actors, I agree Christina Ricci and Winona Ryder should get more roles, and that Sarah Jessica Parker was perfect in both her roles.


DJ I had heard that hathaway's role is small... but at this point who knows. all "exclusive info" should be regarded with huge blocks of salt... at least until we're closer to release.

wayne thanks for catching my jeffrey jones error. fixed.

anon 7:26 i would agree they're not what they used to be... but i maintain hope that he has something special in there still. i think there were shades of it in sweeney todd (which was a slight shake up being a serious effort and a musical) but i think a huge step out of comfort zone would be really good for Burton at this point.

Anonymous said...

Wow this looks awful...

Andrew David said...

I no longer like either Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter, and it's probably Tim Burton's fault that I'm starting to resent them. I find them both really one-note, and I'm getting sick of them being guaranteed a role in every new Tim Burton film. Sweeney Todd was probably the clinching factor in this opinion.

I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton anyway. I only love Ed Wood, and to a lesser extent Big Fish and Edward Scissorhands.

matteo said...

I love how Alice is just the story of a so-called candid girl who's in search of her G-spot.

Glenn said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing Mia Wasikowska (for future reference, it's pronounced Vashikovska). She really has the potential to be absolutely mindblowing.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Oh, how I love Winona and Christopher Lee! I wish he would use her again (Winona, not Christopher). I truly do miss her being great, but then I remember that, having never seen Heathers, it's mostly *been* Burton films that convinced me of her greatness. So, really, *she* should be the White Queen. Or *somebody*, dammit!

Pfangirl said...

I adore Burton's work. It's heavily flawed a lot of the time, but really I'll forgive him anything (except Planet of the Apes)...

Also, I believe you could technically bump Christopher Lee up to 5 collaborations. If I remember he actually had a role in Sweeney Todd as well, as a narrator, although his scenes were cut or not even filmed.

Anonymous said...

Meryl Streep and Tim Burton would = awesomeness!

Urey said...

Love the photos. Can't wait to see the finished film!

Unknown said...

More than his actor collaborations what about the people he's worked with that have given his films thier look - that is the troupe that makes it dark and yet colorful, macabre yet wonderous:
Danny Elfman - 10 films
costume designer:
Colleen Atwood - 7 films
makeup artist/designer:
Ve Neill - 6 films
Rick Baker, Paul Gooch & Steven LaPorte - 2 each
Stefan Czapsky & Phillipe Rousselot - 3 each
Production designers/Art directors:
Tom Duffield - 4
Les Tomkins,Rick Heinrichs & Bo Welsh - 3 each
These are the ones that have shaped what we come to think of as Burton's look and if you IMDB them you can see how the different phases Burton's career has moved through was shaped by the designers and cinemitographers he was working with at each time.


Tiffini -- you're so right.

i almost included them but the discussion was about actors.

a separate post will be in order at some point!

Bailey said...

WINONA!!! Lydia Deetz and Kim Boggs were both amazing characters. Winona may not have been the best actress, but she sure has that special something. I have always been said they never worked together more.

And I'm probably alone here, but I am so. fucking. tired. of Johnny Depp. Tim Burton really needs to stop it, I don't even want to see his movies anymore because of it. (Helena Bonham Carter is a bit better, but still not really all that captivating - he only uses her because they're together, like the boring Lisa Marie). How much do you wanna bet Depp's Mad Hatter will be suspiciously similar to Willy Wonka? Ugh. So over it.

Zach said...

The collaboration section forgot to include Michael Gough! Batman, Batman Returns, and Sleepy Hollow.