As impressive as it is when filmmakers like J.J. Abrams or James Gunn direct films in two, opposite, massive franchises, in the 1990s, Tim Burton almost beat them all. We all know he directed two Batman movies starring Michael Keaton but he also got very close to directing Nicolas Cage in Superman Lives, which fell apart before shooting actually took place. Directing both Batman and Superman on the big screen, can you imagine? (I guess one guy can, but you still get the point.)
Burton still imagines it too. “When you work that long on a project and it doesn’t happen, it affects you for the rest of your life,” the director said in a new interview with the British Film Institute. “Because you get passionate about things, and each thing is an unknown journey, and [Superman Lives] wasn’t there yet. But it’s one of those experiences that never leaves you, a little bit.”
This summer, Burton was forced to think about that experience again when not only his version of Batman but his version of Superman appeared in The Flash. In the same interview, he’s asked if he had any regrets regarding the Cage project and while he first says the above quote, he then added this. “But also it goes into another AI thing, and this is why I think I’m over it with the studio,” Burton said. “They can take what you did, Batman or whatever, and culturally misappropriate it, or whatever you want to call it. Even though you’re a slave of Disney or Warner Brothers, they can do whatever they want. So in my latter years of life, I’m in quiet revolt against all this.”
Now, he’s not explicitly saying he’s mad that those characters showed up in The Flash, presumably without his oversight, but likening the situation to AI certainly implies as much. Burton is likely referring to the idea studios now want to own actor’s likeless in perpetuity and do with it as they please via AI, a big issue in the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. Burton is saying that, because the studios own his version of the characters, they can do the same with them. Which they can. But he’s not too happy about it.
Do you think Burton has a point? How would you feel in his shoes?
The director was in the middle of filming Beetlejuice 2 when the strikes began so that’s, most likely, what we’ll see from him next. Read more about that and more at the BFI.
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