Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is a film biography of Edward D Wood Jr, a Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer and actor. Starring Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi and Sarah Jessica Parker as Dolores Fuller.
Edward D Wood was famous for making cheap films, bordering on the ridiculous; these films were notable for their bad acting, questionable stock shots, flimsy set designs and doubtful special effects, especially for that time. However, Wood was able to gain popularity and attract a cult as a result of his so-called artistic shortcomings, accomplished however after his death. Burton, on the other hand, worked meticulously to re-create Wood's films and his film Ed Wood was no exception. It was a production that brought the late 1940s to life and was comically portrayed in the same B-movie style that Edward D Wood created in his own films. J.D Lafrance talks briefly on Burton’s passion: “No one understands and appreciates this devotion to cinema more than Burton. From Beetlejuice (1988) to Mars Attacks! (1996), his films are lovingly crafted homages to the horror and science fiction B-movies that the director enjoyed in his childhood” (Lafrance, 2004). It is the same devotion and love of film making that Edward D Wood injected into his own films that makes Burton the perfect candidate to make this movie. In wanting to recreate a film based in the late '40s, Burton felt it had to be shot in black and white, and he was adamant in his decision. The film was turned down by Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox until Disney welcomed the project. Tim Burton held fast to his vision in true Edward D Wood Jr fashion. From places, studios, houses in the same architectural style, to furnishings within them, Burton adopted them all to bring the atmosphere of that Hollywood decade to the screen. Burton told the story of Ed as a surprisingly happy soul despite constant failures to make popular films. What he might have lacked in talent, he made up in determination, and would sacrifice all to fulfill his visionary projects. Ed Wood is portrayed as an enthusiastic young screenwriter/director working as a prop man in a Hollywood studio trying to get his work screened. Dolores Fuller is his then girlfriend and an aspiring actress. Although very dark in places, particularly when portraying Bela Lugosi’s addiction and subsequent death, the film is generally light and comical. Following Ed Wood from his debut Glen or Glenda? to Plan 9 from Outer Space, Burton lightheartedly interpreted Ed Wood’s one-take scenario as a comical parody insisting after the first take “that’s real”, regardless of the take being riddled with errors. Wood’s perception of Hollywood and life had a slightly different twist than his contemporaries. This allowed Burton to add colour and lightness to what could have been a darker, heavier black and white film owing to its biographical nature, focusing on his cross-dressing fetish, a dedication to film making, and what would seem to be his one-take ineptitude. Burton used those instances as his glue to build an otherwise depressing story of one director’s need to tell his own story regardless of others' opinions to his struggle with unpopularity.
With the infusion into our daily lives of the colour of television and film, we sometimes take for granted the freeing of emotional inhibitions that today’s story telling gives us. The bombardment of colour allows us to feel imposed upon when a Black and white film is shown, as the story telling may appear difficult to interpret or even to watch. Burton’s method of story telling allows for such films to be more palatable although black and white. He focused on making his character, Wood, more understanding by utilising his so-called defects humorously, thereby introducing a broader spectrum in the film. As a result, Wood becomes approachable, easy to sympathise with and to love. Although intuitive and revealing, Buton's biography seems to be more about filmmaking, imparting useful pointers, in regard to Ed Wood, on what not to do to make a successful film until you can wield the power of Tim Burton, whose meticulous hard work almost always assures him a hit.