Tim Burton has a reputation for being a rather eccentric individual, so even he will admit that it’s a “strange phenomenon” that he has had so much success working within the Hollywood studio system. But while he has had some great successes, he has also had – like any filmmaker – projects that he just couldn’t get into production. One of the most famous of those lost projects is Superman Lives, which is covered in the video embedded above. A movie Burton was going to direct with Nicolas Cage as Superman. Speaking in a masterclass at the Lumière Festival, Burton revealed (as reported by Deadline) there’s another entry on his list of lost projects that sounds quite interesting: a musical remake of House of Wax that would have starred Michael Jackson!
Here’s the passage that discusses the lost House of Wax remake:
“I have worked for several months on things that got rejected,” he added. One project that go away he revealed was a musical version of the slasher movie House Of Wax with Michael Jackson. “They said ‘no’. Can you believe that?” he said with a laugh, adding that Jackson had been the only one truly on board.
This actually isn’t the first time Burton has mentioned his failed attempt to make House of Wax with Michael Jackson, as he named it as his favorite lost project in an interview while doing press for his 2012 film Frankenweenie. But it’s fascinating to hear about nonetheless.
Burton was probably trying to get his House of Wax made sometime before the release of the 2005 slasher film with that title. This would have been a remake of the 1953 classic starring Vincent Price, which was itself a remake of a 1933 classic called Mystery of the Wax Museum, starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. The 1953 film has the following synopsis:
Wax sculptor Henry (Vincent Price) is horrified to learn that his business partner, Matthew (Roy Roberts), plans on torching their wax museum to collect on the insurance policy. Henry miraculously survives a fiery confrontation with Matthew and re-emerges some years hence with a museum of his own. But when the appearance of Henry’s new wax sculptures occurs at the same time that a number of corpses vanish from the city morgue, art student Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) begins suspecting wrongdoing.
During the masterclass, Burton also mourned the loss of the “independent spirit” that Hollywood had in the ’60s and ’70s, talked about his fondness for Johnny Depp (“He was a bit similar to me, kind of suburban, white trash, whatever – we connected on some kind of level.”), and what it was like to make Batman and Batman Returns.
It did feel very exciting to be at the beginning of all of it. It’s amazing how much it hasn’t really changed in a sense – the tortured superhero, weird costumes – but for me, at the time it was very exciting. It felt new. The thing that is funny about it now is, people go ‘What do you think of the new Batman?’ and I start laughing and crying because I go back to a time capsule, where pretty much every day the studios were saying, ‘It’s too dark, it’s too dark’. Now it looks like a lighthearted romp.”
Burton says it has “gotten a lot harder” to get movies made in the studio system, but he has seen some promising signs for the future. To read more of what he had to say, click over to Deadline.
Are you a fan of Tim Burton’s work, and do you wish he had been able to make a House of Wax musical with Michael Jackson? Share your thoughts on this by leaving a comment below.
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