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Tim Burton Reflects On 'Angry Village' Of Fans That Turned Against Past Collaborators Johnny Depp And Paul Reubens

 Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands
Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

35 years after the O.G. film hit theaters with its macabre mania, Beetlejuice 2 is closer than ever to becoming a reality, and director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton nearly finished filming the sequel when the SAG AFTRA actors strike went into effect. Keaton obviously isn’t the only fan-favorite collaborator that Burton has favored working with over the years, with Sleepy Hollow star Johnny Depp and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure co-creator Paul Reubens serving as two stable regulars across various projects. The filmmaker isn’t the only connective tissue between the actors’ careers, as they both suffered public downfalls and backlashes at different heights in their careers, which Burton has reflected on a little over a month after Reubens’ death at 70.

Burton’s decades of creative endeavors will soon be on display for an exhibition at the National Museum of Cinema in Turin, showcasing sketches, photos, costumes and much more from his lengthy and successful career. When speaking to The Independent, the director was asked for his current thoughts about the falls from public favor that both Reubens and Depp went through at various points in their careers, with Edward Scissorhands’ angry mob brought up as a comparison point. Here’s how the Ed Wood director responded:

Here’s the thing. When I was a child, I always had an image of the angry villagers in Frankenstein... I always used to think about society that way, as the angry village. You see it more and more. It’s a very, very strange human dynamic, a human trait that I don’t quite like or understand.

It’s interesting that Tim Burton, who has long been perceived as the alt-goth kid in Hollywood’s high school lunchroom, has spent nearly his entire life viewing the public as an angry village waiting to rail against the thing they don’t agree with. The idea of violence-minded citizens is arguably most related to the castle-storming crowd at the climax of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but is a concept that has been utilized time and again in more modern fictions, particularly on The Simpsons. (Nobody loves a good town mob like Springfield citizens.) And as social media has made clear in recent years, there’s no lack of mob mentality in today’s society either.

When it comes to Paul Reubens, the backlash had almost entirely faded by the time he passed away, but the memories likely had not. It was in July 1991 when Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure as he was watching a film at a porno theater. The arrest itself may not have been enough to derail the actor’s career, but the juxtaposition between Reubens’ sexualized private life and the child-friendly nature of his public Pee-Wee Herman persona was a major sticking point. His drug use and erotic photography collection also made him a target for angry parents over the years as well.

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp has gone through multiple stages of fanbase swings and public disapproval throughout his career. (The two actors famously worked together onscreen, not for a Tim Burton film, but for Ted Demme’s Blow.) The actor’s persona and on-screen performances began to draw ridicule after his popularity exploded anew due to 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean and its sequels, but it was his controversial relationship with Amber Heard that really shook the fandom up. The lengthy and highly publicized trial that followed their break-up drew just about every kind of opinion under the sun, but the fact that he came out on top in the end makes it that much easier for the actor to make a mini-comeback in the aftermath.

Both celebs’ situations are/were far cries from the misplaced anger and vengeance that fueled the mob that descended on the titular character’s home in Edward Scissorhands. And that character did not, as far as we know, get a second chance to win over those who’d loved him previously. That wasn’t so much the case for Paul Reubens and Johnny Depp themselves, but there are no doubt some out there whose opinions of both have been tarnished for good.

It’s unclear if Tim Burton will ever make another film with Johnny Depp, who presumably won’t be popping up in Beetlejuice 2 in any capacity. That film is currently set for a September 6, 2024 release date, but time will tell if that needs to get pushed back or not.