For his latest film, Tim Burton goes back to his childhood with an adaptation of "Dark Shadows," the campy horror soap opera about the cursed Collins family, led by a 200-year-old vampire (played by Johnny Depp in the film). But Burton's film has a stronger comic edge than the series -- not that it was necessarily on purpose, he admits.
You set "Dark Shadows" in 1972. Who were you back then?
Well, that was a scary thing. I was at that horrible age when you're going from a kid to a teenager. That is quite a horrible time for anybody's life. And I think that's one of the reasons why I responded to the show -- it felt out of place, it felt weird. It's almost less about the show and more about the weird feeling of childhood and growing up in that era, with the music feeling strange, the clothes feeling strange. And I remember feeling it was strange then, and then going back to revisit it, it's still strange.
Comparing the series to the film, when did you make the decision to go for a more comedic tone?
Well, never. That's the scary thing. (laughs) I like things you can't categorize, so I like a mixture. To me, that's natural. From a marketing or studio standpoint, for people who like things categorized -- "I want to go see a comedy, I want to go see a drama" -- it can be a bit of a problem. But for me, I like that. I never said to Johnny, "Make this funnier." It was just like, well, OK. He makes me kind of laugh, but I don't know. I've been to a few weddings and a few funerals where I've started laughing, which was inappropriate.
Dysfunctional families are a regular theme in your work. In your life, how do you try avoid that?
I don't know if you can avoid it, you know? That's the thing. I remember learning early on, because I didn't get along well with my family so I'd gravitate toward other families, but then you get in and you see the dynamic, and every family's the same.
You've been working a lot with writer Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote "Dark Shadows" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," which you're producing. What was your draw to him?
I read just the book proposal for "Abraham Lincoln." I don't know, it was late at night, maybe I had too much to drink or whatever, but it just clicked with me, like this is the kind of movie I'd like to see. Because it reminded me of movies that I remember seeing in the '70s, like "Blacula" or "Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde," where they take something and kind of f--- around with it. And it just made sense. And then when I read it, it was interesting because it's not a joke. It kind of makes sense, really. Lincoln, you look at pictures of him the guy looked like he was up all night hunting vampires.
Is it true you're doing "Beetlejuice 2" with him?
Well, no. Seth is actually just writing something, and we'll see. I love the character, but I just said to Seth, "Don't get me involved. Just write something and then see what happens."
A Tim Burton exclusive
After interviewing Tim Burton, the director of "Dark Shadows," we asked him to draw something just for us. His doodles have sold out museums worldwide, so put this page on eBay, stat.