So, Tim Burton made another movie about weirdos — wonderful, delightful, heroic weirdos. With “Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children,” the legendary director tackles Ransom Riggs’ bestselling series about a cadre of kids with superpowers: one who can fly, one who’s invisible and a newbie, Jake (Asa Butterfield), who enters their world and proves he has powers of his own. Lording over them is Burton’s current muse, Eva Green, who plays the eponymous headmistress. Burton talks about how monster movies can be therapeutic for picked-on kids and whether or not he’d ever do another Batman movie (spoiler: who knows?).
What motivated you to make a movie adaption of Ransom Riggs’ novel?
At some point in our lives we have been misfits and have had to struggle to be understood. Perhaps I was a peculiar child, who lived between tragedy and comedy, so I was attracted to the novel by Ransom Riggs and the approach he made through images. That got to me.
You point out that you were a peculiar child. Did it set you apart from your classmates in a good or bad way?
I have my own peculiarities, and like everybody else I keep some wounds from high school. As a child, you never forget those feelings of being different; they stay with you forever. They would say I was peculiar because I loved monster movies. So you go through that sort of thing in your childhood and occasionally later in life. There are many people out there who feel that way, but the important thing is to make sense of that difference.
What is it about monster movies that appeals to you?
I’ve never been afraid of monster movies at all. It’s strange how monsters are always perceived as bad, and in most monster movies they are rarely bad. And kids love to dress like monsters. I think costumes and masks are a great release for small children. They somehow make you feel “normal.” It is revealing and liberating, because those who do not follow the stereotypes of beauty and fashion are dubbed “weird.” People think I’m weird because of my hair, my dark side and my movies. And the truth is, well, maybe I am. [Laughs]
What’s your creative process?
It’s not that complicated. I usually draw everything; I’m very visual and that helps me get the thoughts from inside out. With “Miss Peregrine” it all emerged as a folk story with a horror story for children, but with a human aspect.
How much freedom did you have in the making of the movie?
Let me tell you something, I did not know the book, but I knew that the novel by Ransom Riggs published in 2011, was a worldwide hit and topped the bestseller list. I read it a bit late but I enjoyed it. I liked the way Ransom built around these old photographs. I think Riggs is very similar to me: somewhat strange.
Did you have any emotional bond to Miss Peregrine?
I called Miss Peregrine the Scary Poppins. [Laughs] But Abe’s character reminded me of my grandmother. She was a magical and special person, and the most important person in my life. So I understand very well the relationship between Jake and Abe [Abe’s grandfather]. A bond with a grandparent is different from the one you have with a parent or friend. It is a unique situation.
Would you return to Batman?
I have learned in this race that nothing is written, there is never a “no.” After the second film [Batman Returns], the process was very complicated and I was exhausted. I thought it would be fun, but in the end it was not so much. Today I prefer to make smaller stories instead of action films.