How to Get Cast in a Tim Burton Production

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Photo Source: Disney/Matthias Clamer/Netflix/Warner Bros/20th Century Fox

Tim Burton carved a special place for himself in Hollywood thanks to his distinctive gothic style, coined as “Burtonesque.” While the director is known for his dark, offbeat humor and odd, morbid visuals, his creative storytelling keeps fans and critics coming back for more. Throughout his impressive career, Burton has racked up several accolades, including two Academy Award nominations and an Emmy nomination for his most recent project, Netflix’s “Wednesday.” Therefore, it’s not shocking that many big-name actors, such as Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Keaton, frequently want to collaborate with the director. 

Are you hoping to join a Burton film or series one day? In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about auditioning for the spooky director’s next project—including advice from industry experts.


What are Tim Burton’s most famous films?

Burton primarily channels his talent into making both live-action and animated films, including these beloved titles:

  • “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
  • “Beetlejuice” (1988)
  • “Batman” (1989)
  • “Edward Scissorhands” (1990)
  • “Batman Returns” (1992)
  • “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
  • “Mars Attacks!” (1996)
  • “Sleepy Hollow” (1999)
  • “Big Fish” (2003)
  • “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005)
  • “Corpse Bride” (2005)
  • “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)
  • “Alice in Wonderland” (2010)
  • “Dark Shadows” (2012)
  • “Frankenweenie” (2012)
  • “Big Eyes” (2014)
  • “Dumbo” (2019)
  • “Beetlejuice 2” (2024)

In 2022, Burton brought his signature gothic style to Netflix’s “Wednesday.” The hit series is a reboot of the classic “Addams Family” from the perspective of the titular daughter. It stars Jenna Ortega in the breakout role, and Burton couldn’t think of a better actor to portray the character. He praised her work to the British Film Institute, saying, “She’s one of the most aware, not only as an actress, but everything, around the camera and the set. She’s a very special talent. And she’s done a lot of horror movies, which I love, too. That gave her a special place in my heart.”

Wednesday BTS

Who are the casting directors behind Tim Burton’s films?

During his decades in the business, Burton has worked with numerous casting teams:

  • Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins (“Apollo 13”) cast one of Burton’s earliest features, “Beetlejuice.”
  • Victoria Thomas (“The Morning Show,” “The Last of Us”) served as casting director on multiple Burton projects, including “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood,” and “Mars Attacks!”
  • Susie Figgis (“Love Again”) also partnered with Burton on numerous occasions, casting notable films such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
  • Florina Fernandes (“The Contractor”), Sophie Holland (“The Witcher”), and John Papsidera (“Inception”) served as the casting team behind Season 1 of “Wednesday” on Netflix.

While an audition room can be intimidating for even the most seasoned pro, Papsidera wants actors to know that CDs offer a safe space to be who they are.

“I hope they feel like they had a space and a moment to share a bit of their soul,” he said. “I think that is what my job is, and everybody who works with me tries to create a space where that can happen. We really respect actors and we want them to be able to feel like when they walk into the building and then specifically into the audition room, they have freedom to do the best work they can. That’s always the goal. I think you do that by making it a safe space, by being helpful and collaborative and present. It’s a big thing for me to feel like we show up for actors. That’s the least that they can expect, and we try to get the best out of them by having someone participate in that.”

Alice in Wonderland

How does the casting process work for a Tim Burton movie or show?

The story of how “Edward Scissorhands” found its lead is worth noting, especially for actors hoping not to get pigeonholed in their careers. Burton’s team originally tapped Tom Cruise to play the iconic Edward Scissorhands, but things obviously did not work out. According to outlets, the “Top Gun” star’s tendency to question the logic behind Edward’s movements and motives (and Cruise’s desire for a happier ending) clashed with the director’s vision. In Burton’s eyes, Cruise’s approach disqualified him, so the team ultimately cast Depp, who brought the character to life with dedication and respect.

Depp, who was still in the midst of his “21 Jump Street” era, had yet to establish himself as a character actor, but Burton saw something more than a pretty face when he cast Depp as his lead. “Here was a guy who was perceived as this thing—this Tiger Beat teen idol. But just meeting him, I could tell, without knowing the guy, he wasn’t that as a person,” Burton told The New York Times. “Very simply, he fit the profile of the character. We were in Florida in 90-degree heat, and he couldn’t use his hands, and he was wearing a leather outfit and covered head to toe with makeup,” he noted, adding that he was “impressed by [Depp’s] strength and stamina.”

From here, Depp became a frequent Burton collaborator, starring in everything from “Sleepy Hollow” and “Sweeney Todd,” to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Alice in Wonderland.” “I connected with him when I met him for ‘Edward Scissorhands’: He was similar to me, kind of suburban white trash. It was not even a verbal understanding,” Burton told Variety. “It was something I could feel. He liked the characters, he was interested in acting for the art of it, not the business of it. It was exciting to see somebody play different things, the idea of this transformation from film to film always excited me.”

But what happens when you need to cast…a hand? Thing, the disembodied hand, is an integral part of the Addams Family’s story. So how did the casting team find their right-hand man for “Wednesday”? The crew found a magician, of course! “He’s a Romanian magician who does card tricks, basically. So he has incredible dexterity,” showrunner Miles Millar told Variety. “We did a lot of auditions for hand people. Tim [Burton] was very, very involved with this. He was sort of obsessed with Thing. It was a lot of time spent actually rehearsing and getting the sign language with our visual effects supervisor. In our studio, they had actually an old Romanian puppet theater from Romanian TV shows with puppets. And so they’d rehearse in this puppet theater and come back and have video of what he was doing. So it was really intricate and very intentional in terms of making him feel bizarrely complex and real.”


Where can you find open casting calls and auditions for Tim Burton projects?

Currently, there are no Burton productions actively casting. But you might want to explore our guide on how to audition for Netflix and, more specifically, how to get cast on “Wednesday,” since the hit show was renewed for Season 2 and will resume filming in April 2024. Bookmark our main casting page (or this roundup of spooky projects) for the latest opportunities as they become available, too.

We also recommend signing with an agent if you haven’t yet, as they have their finger on the pulse of the industry’s most in-demand projects. If you don’t have representation, look to our guide on how to find an agent for ways to get started.

Edward Scissorhand

What are the best audition tips for landing a role in a Tim Burton production?

Be open to constructive criticism: Beyond partnering with Burton on several projects, such as “Sleepy Hollow,” Christina Ricci not only plays Marilyn Thornhill in “Wednesday,” but the former child actor also portrayed Wednesday in “The Addams Family” films of the ’90s. As someone who has been part of the industry for decades, she knows exactly what it takes to make it. “I would give this advice to anybody, really, starting in pretty much any field—and certainly in an artistic field. You should always be open to constructive criticism…” she said.

But don’t allow any criticism to extinguish what makes you different from everyone else. “Also, find the thing that you do that’s special, and do that thing. No matter how strange the thing is that you’re good at, if you’re the only person who does that, and does it beautifully,” she added, “play to your strengths, even if they’re not popular at the time.”

Study the history of your craft: As someone who has cast for both film and television, Thomas knows what it takes to impress filmmakers of Burton’s caliber (especially since she’s cast for him on numerous occasions)—and it all starts with how you prepare.

“Know the history of your craft and of movies and television,” Thomas noted. “Look at actors in the past and learn from the good ones. I think knowing the history of your industry and your occupation is a good place to start. I find that a lot of people don’t know as much about the history of Hollywood and movies as I think they should. Have some sense of who came before you, and that can hopefully impact your acting. The other things are what a lot of casting directors say: Prepare for your scenes, make a choice, but also be prepared to make another choice if I give you a direction. Someone will come in and do it once, and I give them a direction and they’ll do it exactly the same way. I understand nerves and that you’ve practiced, but you have to leave some opening to adjust. Take classes. Study. All that stuff.”

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Keaton played Bruce Wayne in Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” But before Keaton donned the mask to become the Caped Crusader, he established an audition mindset that rid him of his nerves. “I made this decision: I never looked at an audition as an audition again,” he told us. “I looked at it like: Oh, I have a job. Here’s my job. I have a script. I went to work. If I was only there 25 minutes, when I left, I was getting off work. So I said, ‘It doesn’t matter if I got the job. I already got the job.’ It may take a while, but it’ll pay off in the long run.”

While it might take effort to adopt this approach, Keaton added that there’s no harm in making some errors along the way. “Make mistakes, man—not just in acting. Go make mistakes,” Keaton advised. “Just don’t be afraid. Don’t play it safe all the time. That doesn’t mean go do something stupid! But take chances. My favorite actors are the ones who are courageous.”

Embrace your collaborative spirit: As for CD Holland, she told us this key to standing out in the audition room. “Don’t be memorable, just be you. Come into the room and understand that it’s a collaboration between a casting director and the actor, and that we want to work together on something that you bring ideas to that are well thought out and well-prepared and excavated—that you’ve really thought about what you want to bring to that character. Come in, be polite, and be on time; ultimately, be ready to work,” she said. “Then we’ll start to build a relationship with that actor.”

But don’t assume a so-called “failed” audition means you don’t have what CDs want—you just might not have what they want right now. “The thing about casting directors is that we have incredible memories. Four years down the line, we will remember you when something comes up, and we’ll bring you in,” she added. “But actively trying to be memorable is counterproductive; you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons!”