Ed Wood (1994)
Directed by Tim Burton
Screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Based on the book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. by Rudolph Grey
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, Patricia Arquette
The story of Ed Wood, a troubled and ambitious young director, as he tries to make his mark on Hollywood.
This film was directed by Tim Burton (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure). It was based on the book Nightmare of Ecstacy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. by Rudolph Grey. Scott Alexander (Big Eyes) and Larry Karaszewski (1408) wrote the script. The film stars Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco) in the title role. The cast also features Martin Landau (North by Northwest), Sarah Jessica Parker (Footloose), Bill Murray (Rushmore), Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood). The movie would earn two Oscar nominations, winning both.
The actors do a great job working within the weird world that Tim Burton created in this film. Johnny Depp’s performance would feel overacted in any other film. In this one it feels almost perfect. His ability to show the vulnerability underneath the confidence really pays off. Depp also has excellent chemistry with all of the other stars. One of those stars was Martin Landau. His performance as Bela Lugosi is wonderful. Throughout the film he brings a unique power and emotion to the role. Landau would win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. (Somewhat surprisingly, this was the only win of his career. ) Sarah Jessica Parker does a great job playing opposite Depp. Their chemistry really helps bring out some of the more complex emotions in the story. Billy Murray, Jeffrey Jones, and Patricia Arquette all add to the film by bringing their unique characters to life. There are also numerous others who do great work in filling out the world of the film.
This script does a good job of crafting dialogue that fits into the weird world Tim Burton created. Like the performances, the dialogue would sound bad if it didn’t fit the visuals so perfectly. There is an honesty in the film that is so important to showing the struggles that each of the central characters deals with. The writing really hits the right pace as the story begins to narrow its focus on Plan 9 from Outer Space. From there it weaves in drama and comedy that tells a great story.
This film is a highly stylized account of the efforts Ed Wood made in trying to get his big break. The cinematography combines with excellent production design to create a very unique world. Rick Baker, Ve Neill, Yolanda Toussieng would share an Oscar win for Best Makeup for their work on this one. This one also has an excellent score, composed by Howard Shore (The Aviator).
This movie isn’t the kind of story with a Hollywood ending. In fact, I’d argue that it’s an attempt to show how badly that dream can go. This is also a story of a man who desperately wants to present his real self to the world. If you’re a fan of old Hollywood B movies this is one to check out. I would also highly recommend this to fans of Tim Burton. Like his other films, this one lives in a world unlike any other. Fans of the stars should also check this out. The film does seem to wander a little early on, so it might not work for everyone. I give this one 3.7 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 127 Minutes