Frankenweenie, from director Tim Burton and screenwriter John August, is a charming, macabre and heartwarming tale, about Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan), a young boy who, after unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life, but quickly faces unintended and sometimes monstrous consequences for his actions. The voice cast also includes Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder and Atticus Shaffer.
At the film’s press junket, actress Winona Ryder talked about what it was like to reunite with Tim Burton again (it’s been 22 years since Edward Scissorhands), how she found the experience of doing voice-over work, the messages that she connected to in the story, her impressions from the first time she worked with Burton on Beetlejuice, and why she’s always gravitated towards dark films and characters. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: What was it like to work with Tim Burton again?
WINONA RYDER: Oh, it’s always amazing! I’m trying to think of like new adjectives to use because it truly is just such a special experience, every time. He’s one of my favorite people, in the world, to be around, so it never really feels like work, in that way, even though it is very creative. But, working with him is very different than other directors. Tim is very unique and very expressive. We never finish a sentence with each other. Even if he’s not verbal, you always feel very safe.
If you feel like you want to talk about something, you can. You just don’t need to. It’s that telepathic thing that happens. With all of the darkness that’s associated with him, there’s so much heart, in all of his movies. With Ed Wood, I sobbed. With Frankenweenie, I was crying. With Edward Scissorhands, I always cry. There’s always an incredible amount of purity, even if they look a certain way. Elsa was based on Lydia from Beetlejuice, a little bit. The reason that Lydia could see the ghosts was because she was young and not caught up in everything the way her parents were. That’s why, when little kids come up and say, “Are you the girl from Beetlejuice?,” it’s such a wonderful, warm, amazing feeling for me. Being associated with those films makes me so happy.
How did you find the experience of doing voice-over work?
RYDER: For me, just to be asked to be a part of something that was so personal to him, and that I’d actually been hearing about for 25 years, was just a huge honor. He is also someone that I have just a deep love for. He’s someone that’s very special to me, and that I feel really gave me a career, in a big way. He’s maybe just one of my favorite people to be around. So, what was nice about doing the voice-work, which I haven’t done a lot of – just a couple episodes of The Simpsons and Dr. Katz.
If Tim was doing this film and I wasn’t in it, I would have been trying to be there anyway, just to hang out. It doesn’t feel like work, really. It does when you’re doing it, but it’s not that, “Oh, god, when are we going to wrap?,” kind of feeling. You can do it forever. And he’s the same guy who I met, 25 years ago. Obviously, life has happened and he has a family and we’ve all grown up, but he still directs the same. I got the same direction that I did on Beetlejuice. Elsa is sort of a younger Lydia, in a way, and I drew on that and on my feelings for Tim, for Elsa’s feelings for Victor. He has this shorthand with his actors, and you just get it. It’s magical. It’s telepathy.
What did you most closely connect with, in regard to this story?
RYDER: It made me think about how technology can be used for so much good and for exposing corruption, but then there’s this other weird side that’s more just opinions. The message with science is such a beautiful message. A lot of people have had these relationships with their animals. I did, and that loss is very deep. There’s that letting go.
What was it like to become a recording artist for this?
RYDER: I don’t know if I have a future in that.
What do you recall about your first impressions of working with Tim Burton, back on Beetlejuice?
RYDER: I vividly remember meeting him. I had black hair. I was talking to someone in the waiting room for awhile, just about movies and music. And then, after about 30 minutes, I was like, “Do you know when this Tim Burton guy is showing up, ‘cause I may be in the wrong building?,” and he was like, “Oh, that’s me.” I had no idea that a director could be so cool, in that way. I had only worked with more authoritative directors. On the set for Beetlejuice, it was before people would go watch on monitors, and directors would be next to the camera. Tim would be watching you, and it was very peripheral while you were trying to be in the moment. And then, the first monitor came and it was a little TV. I heard, “Wait, someone’s in the shot!,” and it was Tim. That’s the first time I’ve told that story.
You’ve often gravitated towards dark films and characters, and have never really tried to fill the Hollywood sex symbol role. Why is that?
RYDER: It’s interesting because, even with Beetlejuice, I was an awkward kid. I started at puberty, and went through it on film. Lydia was one of my favorite roles because I related to her a lot. That did lead to Heathers, but I had to really fight quite hard to be cast in Heathers because I wasn’t considered attractive enough to be a popular girl. But, I have just been really lucky that the directors that I’ve worked with don’t gravitate that way.
I was watching First Wives’ Club, and there’s this line where one of them is like, “There are three roles in Hollywood for women — babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy,” and I was like, “Oh, my god, that’s not funny!” What Tim has given me is the in between. I remember being offered the rookie cop on the trail of a serial killer, but I didn’t buy myself as a rookie cop. I did have a few opportunities to try to go that way, but it didn’t make sense for me. I just did what I found interesting. I was so lucky that I was able to do that, especially in the ‘90s. I was really able to have a life to go back to. The experience itself is the reward. It’s about being present, in that moment. I’ve been very, very blessed and very lucky.
Frankenweenie opens in theaters on October 5th.