A young director in the 50’s gets a crack at making his film dreams come true instead, he ends up being recognized as the worst director of all time.
Winner of 2 OSCARS: Best Supporting Actor (Landeau), Best Makeup (Rick Baker, Ve Neill, Yolanda Toussieng)
A little known film stands as one of the all time greats, with the exception of not many having seen it.
In 1994 Director Tim Burton, fresh off the success of A Nightmare Before Christmas, released a biographical look at the worst director in the history of film. The director was Edward D Wood Jr., and the film was Ed Wood. Burton explored a new avenue in this film, one that he had yet to wet his feet in, a straight comedy/drama. Up until this time Burton’s credits were crazy and sometimes outlandish special effect driven pictures like Batman, Beetlejuice, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Burton was to prove far and beyond that he was capable of the task. Burton, although taking a more straight forward film, still made it his own and in a bold choice, elected to shoot it in glorious black and white.
Burton then did the one thing that was the most genius of all; he hired his good friend Johnny Depp to play the pathetically optimistic Edward D Wood Jr. His choice of Martin Landau would end up being the only recognition the film would receive come trophy time. The additions of Sarah Jessica Parker to play the sane Deloris Fuller, Jeffrey Jones to play the farcical magician Criswell, Patricia Arquette as the lovable Kathy and a personal favourite of mine Bill Murray to play the flamboyantly gay Bunny Breckinridge, motive enough to watch this film.
The scriptwriters chose to center their attention to a specific time in Woods life. The prime of his film career and the years spent with his childhood idol Bela Lugosi. The film tends to really focus on this unique friendship that mirrors Burton’s relationship with Vincent Price.
The film kicks off with Wood, in his mid 30’s working on the Universal film lots. He catches an ad in Variety magazine, “Director Wanted”, Wood applies. During the job interview, Wood reveals that he is a transvestite in hopes of landing the job; he is declined. Dejected, on his way home Wood’s luck would change. A chance encounter with lifelong hero, Bela Lugosi (Dracula) would forever change his life and career. The two engage in conversation when Wood offers to drive Bela home. With Lugosi’s best days a memory, Wood seizes the chance to utilize his name as a draw for the director’s job. The producer is less than enthused, however due to heavy deadlines and Wood’s optimism and charm, gives him the job. By doing so, a monster was born.
Ed Wood is the story of a man with the American Dream burning in his heart. Constantly denied jobs, Wood begins the task of raising money himself. Looking to small, obscure investors Wood was seeing his dream take shape. His relationship however, was falling apart. Blinded by his dreams, Wood was oblivious to Deloris’s sorrow. Ed Wood also explores the tragic twilight of Bela Lugosi – a gifted Hungarian actor of stage and screen. In his native land, he was as big as it gets. With his dreams in hand, America was where he went. His portrayal of Dracula in 1931 would go on to be the most recognizable depiction in the rich history of the character. Lugosi was immortalized but forever doomed to monster films and low budget heels. After the golden monster era died out so did Lugosi’s career. He hit rock bottom. That is until Ed Wood plucked him from obscurity... hindsight being 20/20... rock bottom wasn’t so bad.
Wood finally had enough money to start shooting his next film entitled “Bride of the Monster” It was on this film Wood would welcome new friend Criswell and wrestling superstar Tor Johnson to his motley crew. Johnson was played by famed wrestler “George ‘the Animal’ Steele”. A misunderstanding with a backer shuts down the film. Wood, defeated? Never!
Wood would help Lugosi’s moral by offering him work but he was also supporting the struggling actor with his heroin addiction. Burton shows a meek and beaten Lugosi in rehab. Lugosi was the first actor to go public with drug rehabilitation. In Lugosi’s final scene of the film, he is on the street giving a spine tingling monologue that sends the audience on the street and in the theatres into euphoria. The next scene chronicles the death of Lugosi. Wood was shattered for losing a friend and lets face it, a relative meal ticket.
While down and out, Wood again, with some chance mixed with quick thinking convinces his landlord to fund his film. Promising him enough return money that he would be able to make a series of biblical films. Wood sold it to them by claiming it “Bela Lugosi’s last picture”. Wood had mere minutes of Lugosi footage but that was enough. Wood Productions was at it again but first Wood must have all his friends baptized into the church. In a classic scene Bill Murray steals the show.