Ed Wood is one of the most infamous directors in Hollywood history. Widely considered to be one of the worst directors of all time, if not THE worst. And his legend was immortalized in the 1994 Tim Burton movie Ed Wood. Now, being a Tim Burton film, it, of course, stars Johnny Depp, but the supporting cast is pretty incredible too, with Martin Landau in Oscar-winning form.
If you’ve never watched the movie before, we strongly recommend you check out this biopic, and then maybe go back and watch some of Ed Wood’s movies. Then you can make a decision about whether or not you consider him the worst director of all time. Tommy Wiseau of The Room infamy is certainly a contender, but for now, let’s focus on Ed. This is the story of the acclaimed biopic of this cult director.
Two students came up with the idea
The movie itself was the brainchild of former USC students Larry Karaszewski, and Scott Alexander, and they had originally planned to make a documentary about the life and work of Ed Wood, back in 1985, but this never happened. It wasn’t until 1992 that they were inspired to revisit the idea, following the release of Rudolph Grey’s oral biography Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy. This inspired the screenwriting duo to pen a 10-page treatment for a biopic about Ed Wood.
Columbia Pictures dropped the movie
Leave it to Tim Burton to get a studio all riled up, right? The casting of Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi was a masterstroke by Burton, who never envisaged anybody else for the role. However, because the only pictures ever seen of Lugosi had been in black and white, Burton decided to shoot the picture in black and white, for the purposes of authenticity. Columbia did not approve the change from color to black and white and implored Burton to reconsider. He refused, and they dropped the movie; it was later picked up and released by Disney.
Tim Burton was never meant to direct
The original plan for the movie was that the movie would be a low-budget indie picture, helmed by Heathers directed Michael Lehmann, a former classmate of Karaszewski and Alexander. Tim Burton was originally going to come on board as a producer to help the project gain traction. Excited by the prospect, and, as a lifelong fan of Ed Wood, Burton clamored to direct the project. He came on board in the director’s chair, making the financing of the movie much easier.
It got a mixed reception from those it was about
Though critics universally loved the movie, there was less than stellar praise from many of those portrayed in the film. Bela Lugosi’s son Bela Lugosi, Jr. didn’t like the way his father’s drug rehab process was portrayed in the movie. Dolores Fuller was another who was unhappy and took exception to the way Sarah Jessica Parker portrayed her in the film, especially as the actress hadn’t bothered to contact her.
The movie is widely acclaimed, and certainly one of the best and most interesting biopics of all time. The movie had quite humble beginnings and blossomed into an Academy Award-winning, critically acclaimed, and wonderfully handled character study. The story of this movie is almost as engaging as the film itself – make sure you check it out if you haven’t seen it.