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Tim has talked with about 2,000 major actors and filmmakers over the years for TV, radio, print and online. New on his YouTube channel are clips from those interviews, including Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Mark Hamill, Kathy Bates, Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan, with new interview clips being added daily.
“Deepwater Horizon” (R) Kurt Russell, Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich and Kate Hudson excel in the compelling true-life tale “Deepwater Horizon,” which recounts the harrowing Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig disaster in April 2010. Most news accounts f
ocused on the fixed camera on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as BP’s crippled oil well spewed millions of gallons of oil into the gulf. Not chronicled so much was the oil rig disaster itself, which claimed 11 of the 120 crew members on board as the rig caught on fire, exploded and crumbled.
Directed by Peter Berg, “Deepwater Horizon ” is a must-see in IMAX, as the immersive sound and big, big picture literally takes you inside the disaster. As the rivets pop on the oil rig and shrapnel flies, the sound design of the film of the flying debris will have you ducking for cover. It’s an incredible cinematic achievement.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (PG-13) Tim Burton is back with a fantastical look at the oddities of life with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a highly entertaining family adventure that works on all levels. Chronicling the plight of a group of children with “Peculiar” abilities and the creatures who want to eliminate them, the movie is not only full of heart, it manages the tricky balance of being funny, quirky, creepy and thrilling all at the same time.
Some fans of Ransom Riggs’ 2011 best-selling novel of the same name may bristle at some of the changes Burton makes with some characters, but as a cinematic experience, “Miss Peregrine” soars. Eva Green is engaging as always as the titular Miss Peregrine, while Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell are terrific leading the ensemble cast of “Peculiar Children.” Samuel L. Jackson is wonderfully creepy as Mr. Barron, a shape-shifting creature who needs to nourish himself on the eyeballs of Peculiars to regain his original human form. All told, “Miss Peregrine” is Burton at this very best.
Starting out as Tim Burton’s assistant on the space invasion thriller “Mars Attacks!” in 1996,
time has been flying, for the lack of better words, at warp speed for filmmaker Derek Frey.
Having worked on every one of Burton’s films since, Frey quickly rose through the ranks under the iconic film director to the pivotal role of running Tim Burton Productions and serving as the filmmaker’s closest collaborator.
On Burton’s latest, the fantasy adventure “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” Frey once again assumes a key role as one of the film’s executive producers.
“It doesn’t feel like 20 years at all,” Frey said Tuesday in a phone conversation in New York City. “Each project brings a set of new challenges and it’s been great to be near him on this journey through all these wonderful worlds.”
Frey said each year, if not each day, working with Burton brings out a new thing he didn’t know about the director before. In the case of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” opening in theaters nationwide Friday, the biggest revelation was about making the film with more of a back-to-basics approach. There’s a reason the cinematic adventure, based on Ransom Riggs’ best-selling 2011 novel, feels like vintage Burton. Just like the old days, the filmmaker is relying as much as he can on practical special effects.
“It feels so fresh and looks so different. There’s so much of it that’s real and practical,” Frey enthused. “We obviously did some computer stuff, but we actually went to these locations and I think it makes a difference, visually. In this day and age, where everything is created virtually, Tim wanted to go against the grain and I think it was a great decision of his. You can sense that there’s something tactile there and there’s something in the room. The brain can just feel it.”
Frey said that the reason he gets on so well with Burton is that they have the same sort of sensibilities — something that Frey said he knew growing up in Pennsylvania.
“I was a fan of Tim’s well before I started even thinking that working in this industry would be a possibility. Anybody who knew me in high school and college knows that I loved his films and really identified with the characters he created, being a misfit and a little bit of an outsider,” Frey recalled. “I was very fortunate to begin working with him very quickly when I moved to Los Angeles.”
Twenty years later, Frey said he still gets excited by the energy Burton creates, and how quickly the cast and crew of each film pick up on it.
“They see that what he creates is a family, and we’re all energized by his energy,” Frey said. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve worked with him for so long because he’s maintained that same energy and passion. It’s incredibly inspiring.”
The great thing is, Frey said, is that Burton’s audiences get to share in the passion, too. His cinematic influence is worldwide, mainly because the films are something audiences can identify with on a personal level. Burton has felt the same emotions of the outsider as his characters have, and “Miss Peregrine” once again projects the feelings that his fans can grasp onto.
“Tim is not really one that follows reviews and critics — he knows it can be mixed bag,” Frey said. “But the people who identify with him, who embrace him films, are the ones who are going to be watching it 10, 20, 30 years from now. They’re going to be the ones dressed up as these character on Halloween, and they’re going to keep it alive.”
Of course, Frey knows that there are people who don’t identify with Burton’s work, and that’s OK.
“I said to him before, ‘The moment you’re universally accepted, it’s all over.’ He wouldn’t be the outsider anymore,” Frey observed. “As long as he’s the outsider, and he has those people who continue to identify, embrace and value these films, me personally, I’d rather be in that place. Look at pictures of his that didn’t generate a whole lot of interest or box office 20 years ago, yet are now heralded, like ‘Ed Wood.’ I’d take that any day. I would rather watch that film from 1994 than any film that came out within a few years of it.”
Waters of creativity
Admittedly a guy who can’t sit still for too long and is often on the road (fortunately, Frey is married to Leah Gallo, who is Burton’s photographer and author/photographer of “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”), Frey often engages in projects apart from Burton, most notably short films. His latest, the horror thriller “Green Lake,” has dominated the film festival circuit this year with more than 30 honors, and the accolades are still rolling in.
Frey said the opportunity to do films like “Green Lake” (inspired by the Hawaiian lore of the Mo’o — a female, shape-shifting-type of lizard that used to protect freshwater-based systems in the islands) affords him the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. During his off-time from Burton’s films, he gets to create his own work.
“I need to be creative. I need to tell stories. I need to create something,” Frey said. “But at the same time I see the pressures that Tim is under — the pressures of the studio and the system and the deadlines and all the big things that come with releasing a big film — and I want to go the complete opposite direction. I want to do something that I have complete control over. It may be a very, very microbudget, but I have complete control over it. It’s kind of like therapeutic in a way.”
“Would I like to do that on a greater level someday? Sure,” Frey added. “But in the meantime, to be able to help Tim with his films and exercise myself by these microbudget films, I’m very happy with that.”
Director Tim Burton has opened himself up to a whole new world with his new film, the dazzling “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” and he’s brought with him largely a new cast of players for the trip.
Apart from Eva Green and Terrance Stamp, who previously starred in Burton’s “Dark Shadows” and “Big Eyes,” respectively, the cast of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” mostly consists of a slate of actors Burton has never worked with before. Among them are young adults like Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell, and stalwart veterans like Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson.
In a phone conversation with Jackson from New York City Tuesday, Jackson, who has worked often with acclaimed writer-director Quentin Tarantino, said Burton reminded him quite a bit of his frequent collaborator.
“I wrapped ‘Hateful Eight’ with Quentin and I was wearing Mr. Barron’s eyes, teeth and wig two days later,” Jackson said. “I found that both Tim and Quentin are both sure-handed directors who know what they want and how they want to do it, and they have a crack team of people around them that understand them and their shorthand. They get what they want very quickly and don’t work you to death trying to get it.”
In “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” opening Friday in theaters nationwide, Jackson plays Mr. Barron, an undead, shape-shifting creature on the hunt for a group of “Peculiars” — supernaturally gifted children who are being hidden in a time loop by watchful Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), a headmistress-type with a special gift of her own.
“He’s an interesting character, I don’t know if he’s bad, but he has his interesting moments,” Jackson, 67, said. “He has a great ability to intimidate people, but he’s an affable kind of human when he’s human.”
Jackson knows audiences will likely be frightened of Mr. Barron because of his ghastly appearance, so that’s why he made a conscious decision to lessen the air of fear that surrounds the character.
“Because he has an intimidating look, I thought it was incumbent upon me to find some way to draw an audience in to discover who he is,” Jackson said. “I wanted to give them a brief respite from the look and be able to laugh with him and at him, sometimes.”
Jackson said the reason he got to play around with the role stems from the creative freedom Burton granted him, making Mr. Barron more of creative collaboration than a standard film role.
“He allowed me to blossom in the role. He had his idea of how the world of the film worked and who the people inside of it were, but allowed me to come inside and show him what I wanted to do,” Jackson said. “Once he figured out that I was playing with Mr. Barron’s humanity more than his monstrosity, he was extremely happy that I was bringing some light moments to things that would be very heavy in the hands of someone else.”
One of the delicacies of the role, at least to Jackson’s character, were human eyeballs — food, if you will, that Mr. Barron and his cohorts need to consume to in order to regain their human form. Jackson said he wasn’t too grossed out by the prospect. Basically he kept the ghoulish thoughts out of sight and out of mind.
“It was actually quite enjoyable. We had one hour of sitting at this table where we sat and ate these delicious marzipan eyeballs they made,” Jackson said with a laugh. “There was a moment of ‘ewww’ and then that repulsiveness turned into the joy of watching us enjoy them like they were the best thing on the planet. It turned into a laughable moment that should be repulsive.”
Also having lighter moments with her character, quite literally, was Purnell, who plays the Peculiar Emma Bloom — a teen who has the power to levitate and create bubbles underwater so she can swim to unfathomable depths. And while Burton used movie magic to create Purnell’s floating scene, all the underwater work in the film was her — with the exception of the bubbles and air pockets, of course.
“I did all of my work underwater since I knew how to swim beforehand, but you feel in such safe hands with Tim,” said Purnell in a separate phone conversation. “Even though it was this huge underwater sequence and it was before they added the special effects, I wasn’t nervous. I felt, ‘Tim knows what he is doing and how he wanted the scene to be.’ It was fun to take a massive leap of faith with somebody that was so brilliant.”
Purnell also did extensive wire work to create the illusion that she was floating, but despite it all, when she screened the completed film for the first time, she couldn’t help but feel that what she was watching was real.
Ella Purnell in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
“I still have to pinch myself because it’s so surreal. I have to admit, I do quite actually enjoy being up in the air now,” Purnell quipped. “Having spent six months strapped in a harness, I kind of miss it now, where they’d leave me up there and go out for lunch. It was such of a comfortable, happy place, and that’s why I could really relate to the character.”
Purnell believes the key to the success of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (based on the best-seller by Ransom Riggs) is that reliability — a sort of reliability that extends to the film’s audience.
“I think everybody can relate to the feeling of not fitting in, wondering what your place is and who you are,” Purnell, 20, said. “It’s OK to realize that you’re not as normal as you’d like to be or potentially you are a bit weird and stand out for the right or wrong reasons. Nowadays with social media, with young people following celebrities and trying to conform with society’s expectations, it’s important that they get our message. They have to see this movie because it celebrates individuality. It celebrates it as a strength – as something you can actually use to your advantage. You can use it to protect and save like-minded people. I just think that’s so wonderful.”
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers