As director Tim Burton's official biographer, author Mark Salisbury has worked a number of Burton-related volumes, including the acclaimed Burton on Burton and the newly released tie-in Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. We caught up with Mark to get the lowdown on the new book...
You've had a long association with Tim Burton. How did you first make contact with him?
One Sunday afternoon in 1985 I went to see a Touchstone Pictures’ dinosaur film Baby: The Secret of the Lost Legend at my local cinema and was surprised to find Burton’s original short Frankenweenie showing prior it. I didn’t know who Tim Burton was – this was before Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure was released – but I was completely enthralled from the word go, and knew I was watching something very special. I remember scribbling Burton’s name on a scrap of paper in the dark when the short ended, certain it was one to remember.
Did it take long to meet the man himself?
I eventually met him a few years later at a Warners’ Christmas party in London – he was shooting Batman at the time – although I had arranged to have dinner the following week with him and horror author Clive Barker for an article I was writing for the now defunct horror magazine Fear: Their conversation was later reprinted in the book Shadows of Eden. I interviewed Burton again for Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns and in 1994 approached him about writing Burton On Burton, which was first published the following year.
Given your unique perspective, where would you say Dark Shadows fits into the Burton filmography?
I think all of Burton’s usual themes and preoccupations are present in Dark Shadows. Perhaps the only difference is the film marks the first time Johnny Depp asked Burton to direct him in a film. Typically it’s been Burton doing the asking.
Any theories on what attracted Burton to tackling Dark Shadows?
He grew up on the show. Just like Depp, he would run home from school in order to see it. As a monster movie-loving child what’s not to love about a TV show featuring vampires and werewolves and ghosts? Moreover, a show that was on during the afternoon.
You were on set for Dark Shadows. How would you compare the atmosphere to previous Burton shoots?
Burton’s sets are generally fun-filled and relaxed. This appeared even more so. The script was funny, once the actors got hold of it, wearing those costumes, in those environments it was hysterical to watch. There was much laughter on set and during dailies.
What does The Visual Companion have that will surprise fans?
Because the book’s publication comes after the film’s theatrical and home entertainment release, we were able to show certain images – among them Carolyn’s transformation – that we might not have been able to if the book had preceded the film. For me, the book’s strength, however, is the sheer amount of behind-the-scenes photos that reveal the artistry involved in creating the film’s amazing sets. I particularly love the section detailing the creation of Collinsport – designed by the genius that is Rick Heinrichs – although my favourite photo is on pages 124-125, which shows Alice Cooper performing at the happening.
And what did you think of the finished film?
I always find it
really hard to comment on any new Burton film, because, typically, I’ve
read the script, spent many, many days on set, and so feel too close to
the finished product to form an objective opinion. Typically it takes me
a few years to divorce myself from the
“I-was-there-when-they-shot-that-bit” or “That-wasn’t-in-the-script”
thoughts when I’m watching one of his films. That said, I’ve seen Dark Shadows a couple of times and really enjoyed it.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available at a discount price by clicking here, and also in a limited collector's edition signed by Tim Burton, which can be ordered by clicking here. UK readers can also purchase the book by clicking here.