Tim Burton’s charming and bittersweet ode to his own teen angst holds up well. It’s a delightful backward glance at the simplicity of the times, the director’s work and Johnny Depp, before he turned into a caricature of himself. As a matter of fact, I found myself bowled over by this Depp, who reportedly spoke only 169 words throughout the entire film, yet was able to express so much emotion through his eyes, facial expressions and awkward body movements. Diane Wiest was the perfect mother figure and again, a lovely embodiment of a woman of the time, both strong-willed and soft. As usual, Winona Ryder is the weak link, but with Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Kathy Baker and a surprisingly effective Anthony Michael Hall, it is easy to look past her to see the beauty in this part fairy tale/part coming-of-age love story.
Tim Burton said that the story developed when he was a teenager, growing up in Burbank, California. He often felt misperceived and ruminated over that a lot; Edward Scissorhands is representative of his own feelings and misperceptions about himself during that time.
Burton always liked to draw and certain sketches stayed with him; those become the ideas he likes to explore. When Burton first drew Edward, he had sharper instruments. The emotional thrust of the story was that here was a person who wanted an emotional connection and wanted to be touched, but couldn’t actually be touched because of the sharpness of the instruments. Scissors are a suburban-type of instrument, chosen because that’s what was at hand.
Florida, east of Tampa, was chosen to represent Burbank. The film was shot in a real neighborhood, they rented out about 50 houses, painted them and added in the foliage and plant life. The actual residents temporarily moved to a nearby Super 8 (type) motel.
Some locals were extras who, once they realized what it was like, wanted to go back to their regular jobs. Long hours and heat wore off the glamor of show business quickly.
The mansion was built on a Fox set. Burton was happy they got to build it themselves, the way they wanted so “it could feel really real and like they were actually there.” He called it “Martha Stewart’s house when she’s old and crazy.”
Burton said it was difficult filming in Florida—not only because of heat and humidity—at times of the day it was so thick with black bugs that they couldn’t shoot, it would make the film look grainy. And because the clouds move so quickly, it is almost like a different day every time they’d shoot; it was hard to match shots.
ES is the last film in which Vincent Price appears (The Inventor). He died October 25, 1993. Burton’s self-described first film Vincent was a tribute to the actor.
Burton worked with famous make-up/effects man, Stan Winston, who worked on films such as The Thing (1982), Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Interview with the Vampire, AI: Artificial Intelligence and directed his own feature, Pumpkinhead to bring his simplistic sketches (of the scissor-hands) to the third dimension. Depp was then able to take home the scissors to wear all day and get used to being the character before shooting started.
Diane Wiest (Peg) was the first person signed on and Burton felt that she got the tone of the film immediately. Of the actress, Burton said, “It’s difficult to make things funny and still have emotional weight, she was very good at that.” The director said he responds to people —especially in a project that is not real—who can make extreme characters real. He called Wiest’s character a “fantasy Avon lady guardian angel.”
According to the director, Edward’s suit was made of (among other things) latex, leather, the old sofa in his first apartment and tape.
Saying that people are weird about shaving off their eyebrows, though they’ll shave their heads or arms, Burton asserted that he didn’t make Johnny shave his. Instead, Depp wore “appliances” over them.
When Burton met Johnny Depp, he had a feeling about Johnny right away. He had seen pictures of Depp but never watched “21 Jump Street.” Burton said that it was immediately apparent that Johnny could express a lot with his eyes and that he felt Depp could relate to the idea of misperception: “Johnny was perceived as a teen idol but he didn’t feel that way about himself.”
At the time of filming, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were engaged; the New York Times noted their real life chemistry carrying over.
This was Burton’s second time working with Winona Ryder (the first being Beetlejuice). He thought it would be fun to see her “playing a more normal, suburban character, which she’s not.”
Burton enjoyed Russ Meyer veteran, Stuart “Studs” Lancaster’s (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Mudhoney, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Good Morning…and Goodbye!) brief appearance as “retired man.”
The scene in which several women neighbors feed Edward giant spoons of their concoctions is one of two that made Johnny Depp get sick. He had to do about twenty takes of that scene, after which he vomited. The second time was after Depp had to run from the police (at full speed). After the sixth run, Johnny never came back; he was in the bushes, throwing up.
The shots of all the neighbors running (especially at the end of the film) were for Burton, reminiscent of the angry villagers in Frankenstein. He decided against having them carry torches.
Tom Jones’ music was used because when he was growing up, Burton remembered that no one listened to music, but everyone liked Tom Jones.
Burton first asked Robert Smith of The Cure to score Edward Scissorhands, but Smith turned him down because he was too busy working with his band on their next release, Disintegration.
This is the fourth film on which Burton has collaborated with composer Danny Elfman (former lead singer of Oingo Boingo). Elfman has scored all but two of Burton’s studio films; their first project together was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
Siskel and Ebert gave the film two thumbs down. Ebert called it “perverse and self-indulgent” and that it left him “depressed and disturbed,” while Siskel “wished for a third act that was as interesting as the first two.”
After filming, the houses had to be paint back to their original colors. After a few months, some of the owners liked the new colors, but most went back. The crew also had to take out the topiaries (Crazy!).
Cindy Davis could easily kick Anthony Michael Hall’s ass with her bare hands.