I will never forget the first time I met Tim Burton. It was in what seemed like a wating room, in one of those great big buildings that loom over Hollywood sound stages. I walked in and I saw this guy standing in the corner, his hands shoved deep in his pockets, as if digging for something that wasn’t there. He and I were dressed the same - black, of course - both of us with black, tangled hair strategically placed to hide behind. We nodded, said “Hello,” and instantly struck up a conversation. I figured he was someone from the art department, maybe there to show the director a sketch or cool model he’d done. I was very comfortable talking with him, which was rare for me at 14. I was shy and quiet then, and even more nervous on auditions. It began to feel more like I was at someone’s apartment, and I was just hanging out with this really interesting guy. The kind of guy I’d want to hang out with and listen to music with and talk to about Edward Gorey and obscure old movies. It didn’t register that he could be a ‘movie person’ with the way I pictured them at that age. He looked as out of place as I did, and he was, well… just too cool. So when I finally realised I’m probably in the wrong building, and that I probably missed my ‘Beetlejuice’ audition, I asked if he knew where this ‘Tim Burton guy’s office’ was.’ He looked at me, shrugged, and said, ‘Yeah, hey, how ya doin?’ I spent the next five minutes wondering if he either was putting me on or maybe just misunderstood the question. Then it dawned on me that the last 45 minutes WAS the meeting. It may have been a blessing in disguise. He asked me if I wanted to be in the movie, and I asked if he wanted me to read, and he just shrugged and said, “Nah. It’s cool,’ and that was that.
I often think about that day, and why I remember it with such clarity. When you come from a place of feeling alienated and misunderstood, weather at school or just in life, you have to kind of make a decision. You can delve into it and have a deep sense of lonliness or you can try and embrace it, and even celebrate it. You’re special!! Unique!! Let the outsiders unite!! I was certainly in the throes of all that teen angst. In meeting and becoming friends with Tim, I felt that rare, unspoken bond that you feel when you connect with a fellow misfit. He makes you feel as if you have an ally, a kindred spirit. The rest of the world is the rule and it’s the misfits who are the exception, and there’s nothing wrong in being the exception.
I had the privilege to work with him on ‘Beetlejuice’ and ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ and he remains a cherished friend. He still possesses the same character and spirit that first endeared me to him some 20-odd years ago. Although Tim is a quiet, soft-spoken guy, there is this excited, wondrous little boy who still roams around inside him. I like to call him ‘Dill’ because he used to joke that he looked just like the Finch’s neighbour ‘Dill’ in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ He showed me a picture once, and it’s uncanny. For me, that boy is like so many of the characters that he has created and brought to life: Vincent, Pee-Wee Herman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Batman, Edward Bloom, The Headless Horseman, and so on. I am both confident and grateful that ‘Dill’ will remain free to rove around that glorious kingdom that is the heart of Tim Burton. - Winona Ryder