Later this week we finally get to see Tim Burton's latest film offering, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It's an adaptation of Ransom Riggs' bestselling debut novel from 2011, which tells the story of a boy, Jake, who ends up travelling to what appears to be a derelict orphanage in Wales following the death of his grandfather.
What follows is an astonishing tale full of many strange revelations and experiences. In fact, it's pretty much the perfect ready-made Tim Burton tale, something that the director joked about when BuzzFeed sat down with him in London recently to discuss adapting the film. He quipped: "When I read the book I thought, wow, it’s got lots of themes that I... I thought, Did I write this book?! I didn’t, of course."
You can tell from speaking to the acclaimed filmmaker just how much he revelled in the story, which he brought to life with the help of Eva Green as the titular lead character and numerous breakout child stars, including Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell, as well as the inclusion of stars such as Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, and Chris O'Dowd.
And it's actually because he identifies with the main character that he particularly felt close to the story, the "peculiar" theme of it, and the message it sends to young people about embracing their strangeness.
He told us: "The Jake character feels like he doesn’t belong in his world and sees things that aren’t there, you think you’re crazy... I always felt like I grew up with that feeling where you get labelled as peculiar – labelled as something weird or strange and that’s what I liked about this. When I met Asa, the lead actor, I thought he looks like I felt as a teenager... You feel awkwardness, you feel like he doesn’t fit in. And also that dynamic of seeing things that maybe they’re there, maybe they’re not. Then you start to question, especially at that age, if you’re crazy. I remember feeling and thinking thoughts and things – maybe I’m crazy. It was a common feeling for me and maybe it’s something that other people can recognise as well."
But, as with any book adaptation, there of course came numerous tweaks and changes to bring it to life. And, along with the author, Burton ensured the story was told in the best way possible on the big screen. We got him to talk us through some of the biggest changes he made from book to movie...
1. Emma's peculiarity has been swapped over with another character's.
In the book, Emma (played by Ella Purnell in the movie, seen on the left) is a pyrokinetic peculiar who is able to create fire at will with her hands. However, in the movie this "talent" or affliction, as Burton calls them, has been swapped with Olive's. In the book Olive (played by Lauren McCrostie, seen on the right) is aerokinetic and can levitate, meaning she has to have her feet weighed down with metal boots to keep her from floating away. But Burton felt the narrative was better the other way around, so film fans will see Emma floating in the air instead.
He explained to BuzzFeed: "We switched Emma and Olive's afflictions, or whatever you want to call them. But luckily we had Jane, the screenwriter, [and] we ran some [stuff by Ransom Riggs]... you know, the author is still alive! He was a good collaborator. We just sort of felt that having Emma floating would be a bit more poetic and it was in the spirit of the book. So it just felt for the movie it was a better way to go with it. Because often times in novels, characters get omitted, deleted, condensed and I think Ransom felt confident that whatever changes we made were still in the spirit of the book and so it all worked out very well that way. There was no big fights or tensions or controversies in terms of how that came to be."
2. Emma can also control air and weather and create liquid bubbles, which becomes integral to the film.
3. Emma's relationship with Jake's grandfather back in the 1940s is hinted at in the film, but played down compared with the book.
4. Mr Barron, played by Samuel L. Jackson, didn't exist in the book version and was added especially for the movie. Burton admits he created the role because he was desperate to work with the actor.
Barron is the head of the wights in the movie. The wights are former peculiars who turned into monsters called Hollowgasts after a failed experiment in an attempt to become immortal years before. They now set out to kill peculiar children so that they can feed the Hollowgasts to help more of them turn into wights. (We told you it was the perfect Tim Burton story).
But when we asked Burton the reason for adding Barron to the film, he admitted the character was mainly written in so he could work with Jackson. He said: "Well, it's because I've always wanted to work with Sam Jackson! That was the first thing. It just felt like he's got such power, he's got such a presence, Sam, as a person and it was just a dream for me to work with him and then just what he brought to it. I remember when the first time he came on to the set with his look and his white eyes... I was like, 'Wow, that's cool'... next year's Halloween costume come to life. He's just one of those actors who's willing to go for it and try anything and had a real strength about him."