A biopic about Ed Wood originally sounded like a bad idea, simply because the primary impulse should have been to ridicule the poor old Angora-wearing fellow into oblivion for two hours. That might have been funny for a minute or two, but Wood did it to himself, so much better, in his own films. Happily, screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski and director Tim Burton instead made a loving tribute to a nut that never gave up, and Ed Wood became one of the most endearing movies of the 1990s. It's one of my all-time favorites, but it gets extra credit for one brief scene that comes fairly late in the film.

Wood (Johnny Depp) is having trouble with the producers of his latest low-budget sci-fi epic and he storms out -- in full drag -- to the nearest bar. There he meets Orson Welles and gets a stirring piece of advice: "visions are worth fighting for." I love the humble way in which Wood introduces himself, and of course it's hilarious that the maker of Citizen Kane doesn't know Wood or his films. But the scene works because, despite the huge difference in talent, the two were kindred spirits; they both stuck to their personal expression, and they both suffered for it. Ed Wood was filmed just before the era in which film students switched from wanting to be Orson Welles to wanting to be Quentin Tarantino, and the idea of being Welles was also the idea of ultimate artistic integrity, making personal movies in spite of the money or the distribution.

Burton must have been tremendously moved by this scene. He, too, is a filmmaker that has stuck to his own personal vision through thick and thin (with the possible exception of Planet of the Apes), and although he has met with financial success more often than most, he must at least have been familiar with the pressure to compromise and conform. He fought to shoot Ed Wood in black-and-white and fought to keep the first and final draft delivered by his writers (no rewrites). The film flopped, but though the money is gone, the vision endures. Incidentally Orson Welles is played bodily by Vincent D'Onofrio and in voice by Maurice LaMarche, who also provided the Welles-like voice of "The Brain" on the television cartoon "Pinky and the Brain."
CATEGORIES Cinematical