Tim Burton Had To ‘Find The Tone’ For ‘Dark Shadows’

Director talks to MTV News about time travel, 3-D and skipping his homework to watch the melodramatic vampire soap.

Director Tim Burton has kept such a tight lid on his forthcoming big-screen adaptation of the late-’60s soap opera “Dark Shadows” that last week we were forced to imagine things we’d want to see in a trailer for the film because one hasn’t even dropped yet.

News on the film has been scarce — until now! Last week, MTV’s resident movie guru Josh Horowitz talked to Burton about his busy 2012 , and the director was forced to dish on his biggest project of the year. Burton told MTV News he was busy “editing and doing effects” for the film now. Though the film will not be “an effects-heavy picture, it’s still got stuff in there,” he said.

At the BAFTA Britannia Awards late last year, MTV News talked to Burton’s partner Helena Bonham Carter , who appears frequently in his films, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and she told us that “Shadows” was a childhood obsession of Burton’s. “This was a thing that he raced home to see when he was about age 10,” she said. “So it was returning to his childhood roots of what he loved watching.”

Burton echoed her comments, telling MTV, “People like Michelle [Pfeiffer] grew up watching it. Some of the cast knew about it, some didn’t, but they were all game for it — getting into the weird spirit of what ‘Dark Shadows’ was. There was a generation of us who would run home from school to watch it. That’s probably why we were such bad students. We should have been doing homework; we were watching ‘Dark Shadows’ instead.”

“Shadows” bested “Spider-Man” to make the Elite Eight and is up against “The Dark Knight Rises” in round two of the MTV Movie Brawl 2012 — vote here!

For the director, the most difficult thing in bringing “Shadows” to the big screen has been mastering the tone of the melodramatic soap. “It was hard to put into words the tone it was. It had a weird seriousness, but it was funny in a way that wasn’t really funny. We just had to feel our way through it to find the tone,” Burton said. “We didn’t do any real rehearsals, because the cast all came in at different times. But there was an old photo of the [original] cast which I always remembered, so a couple days before shooting, we got the whole cast together to take a similar shot so everyone could see each other and get that vibe from doing a group photo. That helped set the tone more than anything.”

Burton didn’t reveal much about the vampire flick’s plot but did (somewhat) resolve a few lingering questions we’ve had about the film. Asked if the film’s story — like that of the show — would include time travel, the director admitted that, while audiences will get to see the Collins family in the late-1700s, most of the film is set “in 1972, which to the era of ‘Dark Shadows’ is the modern era.”

Elaborating further on time travel, Burton added, “For me, that’s when the show kind of made me want to do homework. I was like, ‘Wait a minute!’ That came near the end of the trail of the series.”

So it seems unlikely that the main story line resurrected for the early ’90s remake of the series, which had Victoria Winters traveling through time to Collinwood circa Barnabas’ (Johnny Depp) transformation into a vampire, will be incorporated here. Perhaps the trip back Burton refers to here is instead a flashback to show audiences how Angelique (Eva Green) used her evil magic to turn Barnabas into a creature of the night?

Burton also confirmed that the film will not be released in 3-D, as his version of “Alice” was. “No. It’s the ’70s, man. Only ‘Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror’ was in 3-D,” the director tells MTV News. “That’s the only one I remember from that time.”

Knowing that we won’t have to wear a pair of funny glasses to get the full effect of “Dark Shadows” makes us even more excited for the May 11 release!

Are you excited that Burton and company are keeping the time-travel plot out of “Dark Shadows”? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me @JohnMitchell83 with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!

Check out everything we’ve got on “Dark Shadows.”

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