Danny DeVito on reuniting with Tim Burton for Dumbo
With 2019’s Dumbo, director Tim Burton needed the perfect man to be his Ring Master. Max Medici, the leader of a down-on-its-luck circus, could only be played by one man for the filmmaker, and he knows a thing or two about Tim Burton circuses.
“This is the completion of the circus trilogy,” Danny DeVito tells us on the set. “When (Tim) called, he said exactly that. ‘We’ve got to complete the circus, the trilogy.’ And I was so excited because I’m a big fan of Dumbo and I love Tim and I would do anything to be in a movie with him,… I don’t know why he thinks of me with circuses.”
DeVito and Burton have collaborated on four movies now with 1992’s Batman Returns, 1996’s Mars Attacks!, 2003’s Big Fish, and now 2019’s Dumbo, three of the four featuring DeVito in circus related roles. The two have gone different ways countless times but always come back together. Burton has dabbled in stop-motion animation again and made a billion dollar movie with Alice in Wonderland while DeVito took back to television and starred in over 140 episode of It’s Always Sunny. Even now though, 27 years after their first collaboration, DeVito says Burton is no different than when they were tearing up Gotham City together in the early 90s.
“I’ll get emotional thinking about like, how much I care about him,” DeVito says. “Always spirited, always an artist, always thinking about the craft, always just painting with his mind…Right from the very beginning, even with Batman, I remember the first meeting we had was so great….It’s always the same. It feels like we don’t see each other for a really long time, and then you just pick up. It’s that kind of friend.”
Also part of the reunion this time is Michael Keaton, who DeVito is quick to point out plays the bad guy this time around.
“It’s really fun that Michael’s here and it’s also very interesting that we’ve done a couple of movies together, Michael and I, but the last movie with Tim and Michael and I, of course, we were both in suits, right? I was in the Penguin suit, he was in the Batman suit. He was playing the good guy in that movie. I’m the good guy in this movie. So it’s a little bit of an evolution here.”
When asked if his many collaborations with Burton were the most of any other director he’s worked with in film, DeVito agreed; and even waxed poetic about what the future might hold for them.
“But what are we going to do next? Who knows? Something really weird. Really. An understatement.”
Dumbo flies into theaters with Danny DeVito and under the direction of Tim Burton on March 29.