Capone talks to Tim Burton and Jennifer Connelly about 9, and more!!
Published at: Sept. 7, 2009, 4:29 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
With my second of three interviews with the creative team that brought the animated film 9 from an award-winning short to feature film. As director and creator of the original short Shane Acker told me in our interview, Tim Burton was on board as a producer the minute he saw the original short, but once you see the film, you immediately see how it fits right in with the kind of animated work Burton has been involved with over the years, from his own short VINCENT to producing THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS to directing CORPSE BRIDE to his STAINBOY shorts. 9 is dark, scary, and absolutely not geared toward young children. This interview took place at Comic-Con in July shortly after the 9 panel, which was held the day after the Disney 3-D panel that featured footage from Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Since I was unable to attend the Disney panel, I held off asking Burton any substantive questions about the highly anticipated film (for some misguided reason on my part, I also thought one of the other AICN guys had talked to him the day before about it, but I was mistaken on that point).
I was fortunate enough to have Burton paired with one of the voice actors from 9, a fresh-on-the-scene young starlet named Jennifer Connelly, who plays 7, the real action star of the film. Perhaps you've heard of her.
She has an Oscar, and I would love one day to have a longer, proper interview with her about her career, because I'd be real curious to talk to her about the range of roles she's had since childhood--ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA; LABYRINTH; THE HOT SPOT; THE ROCKETEER; DARK CITY; REQUIEM FOR A DREAM; POLLOCK; A BEAUTIFUL MIND (the would be that Oscar I mentioned); HULK; HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG; LITTLE CHILDREN; BLOOD DIAMOND; and the list goes on. And she's staggeringly gorgeous. I deliberately didn't tell my photographer everyone I was interviewing during our time at Comic-Con; I enjoy the element of surprise sometimes. So when we walked in the room, where Burton and Connelly were waiting, he knew about Burton. He froze in the doorway when he saw Connelly, and I think he may have had a tiny orgasm. Thankfully, he recovered and was able to get some good shots of the pair, as we talked about 9 and a few other upcoming things for the both. Enjoy Tim Burton and Jennifer Connelly…
Capone: So, I think the panel went exceedingly well. People seemed really excited about it.
Tim Burton: I can't tell. I don’t know about you, but I’m like a deer in a headlights.
Jennifer Connelly: Me too!
TB: I can’t tell how many… I can’t feel my fingers or toes… I don’t know, but it’s weird.
Capone: A few years back, when the 9 short was making the rounds, I was on a short film jury in Chicago and saw this film and we gave in the top prize. So I have a real love for the short, and I am so excited to see it come to life like this. Do you remember your initial reaction to seeing it?
TB: That's amazing. Yeah, it was probably the same as you, you know? It was like “Wow.” When you see shorts, you see people doing personal animation, but the idea of seeing a feature, a personal feature animated film that is an amazing. That’s why I wanted to get involved, because I really like what Shane [Acker] was doing and just trying to get him in the environment so he could just make his movie, you know?
Capone: I think it was Guillermo Del Toro who told me that the job of a producer is to stay out of the way of the filmmaker, unless there is some interference coming at the filmmaker that you need to stop from interfering. Was that your approach?
TB: Absolutely, because I’ve been through it so many times having to argue about putting eyeballs into Jack Skellington or your know… “He looks a little too thin…” Or this or that and having gone through that so many times, and I still go through it today, you try to create an environment, especially if you like what somebody is doing, that’s the whole point, you know? Let them do it. Don’t try to put your stamp of approval or what you would do or whatever. Shane’s cool. He’s confident enough in what he does that he’s not disturbed by much. If you make a comment, either he will use it or he wont. It was a very good environment that way.
Capone: Jennifer, what do you remember responding to when you saw the short the first time?
JC: I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was art work. I thought it was so creative. I loved the character and thought it was weirdly moving, and I just loved the conceit of it. I thought it was beautifully rendered and that the light was beautiful and his attention to detail was really extraordinary. It was one of those things where I was watching it and thinking “Isn’t it amazing that people can do that sort of thing? Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that incredible that someone took that time and that care and has that level of artistry to be able to do that?” I just thought it was really impressive, and then underneath it, it had good intentions and was about something interesting and it was human.
Capone: I remember when I first saw it that I had to watch it a couple of times, because I thought it was stop motion the first time, because it looks so hand made.
TB: That’s Shane. We talked about that. He is a big fan of stop motion. A lot of his inspirations come from that world, and that’s what I love about it, too, because in the animation and in the actor’s performances, it’s got a naturalness to it, which I found very different than most animated films. You get a lot of times where people try to push the voices broader and this and that. But in the performances and in the animation, he really went for that kind of stop motion grounded reality that I love as well, and he made the right choice, because with the budget he had and then with the kind of camera moves and the kind of action that he wanted, I think he got the best of both worlds with that stuff.
Capone: Since your character wasn’t in the short, did you have any input as to either her look or her personality? Did you talk to Shane about elements you wanted to put in there that you thought would be a little more appropriate or natural for you?
JC: Frankly, no. I think that Shane had spent so much time with this project and everything was so well considered, he was so thorough in his preparation that by the time I came along, the character was so well flushed out. The drawings I thought were beautiful. I talked to him about motivation of different ideas, and for 15 minutes he would talk about what she was like and why she was like that and what he thinks she feels and I thought it was all really interesting. Honestly, this was an instance when I really felt like I just wanted to support his ideas and try to embody his vision as best I could. He had written a pretty kick-ass character, you know? Look at that opening introduction, I mean what’s there to mess with really? I thought that he had written her so well.
Capone: You are like the superhero in the movie.
JC: She’s awesome!
TB: As animation poses goes, she’s got the best ones.
Capone: I’m sure you have been asked variations of this questions over the years with some of the animated works that you have been involved with, but is the world ready for a post-apocalyptic animated film?
TB: There have been a lot of post-apocalyptic films, many many many of them, but that’s what I loved about this--it still was different. It came in different way. It surprises you. It’s got a mystery to it and there is an emotional core to it that, again, is surprising. I think what Shane said is true, nobody really thought of this as an animated movie, you know? So, there was a question during the panel about how adult animated movies don’t really sell. But nobody is really thinking that way, you know?
Capone: That girl was.
TB: I think that there are a lot of strange people in the world.
Capone: When you were making NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, were you and Henry Selick getting some of that same feedback, “Does anyone really want to see this dark movie?”
TB: At the time, because I had sort of designed it like ten years earlier and then I actually tried to get it out of Disney, because I didn’t think that they would want to do it. They really did it, because I didn’t want to do it with them. They kind of let it go, but I went through all of that “No eyeballs” and “He’s too thin” and “He’s a stick figure…” But they didn’t really have much of a choice, so we just did it, and it helps too when, like this movie, when they don’t cost that much money. There’s not that extra added pressure to deliver something that they think will make money or whatever.
Capone: You mentioned in the panel, are you really the kind of actor who gets real physical when you are doing voice-work.
JC: This is my first experience with it, but it was hard for me not to, frankly. She is so physical, and there are so many action sequences and I wouldn’t know how to do that unless I was actually putting something into it. You get some of that even doing ADR, you find to some extent I don’t know how to just make my voice do something that I’m not in some way feeling in my body, so yeah, I did.
Capone: I think it’s great to watch that.
TB: She kicked the crap out of the sound engineers!
JC: I would like to think I looked partly as cool as 7 did. [laughs]
Capone: Speaking of shorts, I’ve been seeing that FRANKENWEENIE might back on your slate of upcoming projects.
TB: It might be. My original drawings, which I couldn’t really do in the live action film, I’m interested in trying to capture that black-and-white stop motion.
Capone: So it is going to be stop motion then? That’s awesome.
TB: It will be fun.
Capone: That and VINCENT are just two of my favorite shorts.
TB: Oh wow, thank you.
Capone: Jennifer, you have THE CREATION coming out soon, correct?
JC: Yeah, it’s going to be at Toronto.
Capone: And I just came from seeing you husband in the footage from LEGION
JC: Oh yeah, I haven’t seen it. I want to see it.
Capone: It’s disgusting.
Capone: It looks awesome. What’s the tone of THE CREATION? Is it a straight drama, biography?
JC: Not really. It takes it’s focus from a book by Randal Keynes called ANNIE’S BOX. It borrows its focus from that book. It looks at a lot at his relationship to his children and his wife and the dynamic between them in that he of course came to write and the implications that that had on God and religion. She was devotedly religious who actually became more religious as her life went on…
TB: Watch the sparks fly!
JC: It also focuses on the loss of their daughter Annie and what that meant to them and their work and their marriage and if he was in some way sort of… what that would mean in terms of being reunited with Annie in heaven if Charles was going to be working on this kind of material, so it was a source of a lot of conflict in their marriage.
Capone: I can imagine.
TB: It sounds great.
JC: I thought it was really interesting. It’s a small little movie, but I think he cast some great actors in it.
Capone: Do you have any release date set in the States?
Jennifer Conelly: I don’t know the release date in the states, I just know that it’s going to be in Toronto I think in September… The opening night I think is September 10.
Capone: I hope it makes it here soon. Thank you both so much.
TB: Yeah, nice to meet you.
JC: Thank you.
TB: So you are here for the whole deal, huh?
Capone: This is day two for me, so I’m only halfway done.
TB: Good luck.
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