Tim Burton Was Very Particular About Jenna Ortega's Hair In Wednesday

Director Tim Burton has tapped into the feelings of teen angst and estrangement in his classic romantic fantasy "Edward Scissorhands" and with his animation work in "Frankenweenie" about a weird boy and his dog. Burton explores that territory once again with "Wednesday" starring Jenna Ortega, as the precocious, whip-smart Addams daughter who's sent off to Nevermore Academy, a school tailor-made for outcasts. 

Burton has almost become the goth version of John Hughes, and his macabre sensibility and grotesque aesthetic have become immediately recognizable trademarks. His taste for darker imagery and his attention to detail made his work a standout at CalArts when he was a student, and made him somewhat of an outlier at Disney when he first started at the company. Burton may be done working with the House of Mouse for now, but his involvement with "Wednesday" and Netflix looks to be continuing with season 2 hopefully coming soon

Due in no small part to Burton's involvement and Jenna Ortega's incredible portrayal of Wednesday Addams, the "Wednesday" series was watched for more than a billion hours. That's just below the numbers for "Squid Game" and "Stranger Things 4." Burton directed the first four episodes of the series, giving Ortega the opportunity to see how he worked and how meticulous he was about achieving the right look for the show and her character. Ortega just gave an impressive performance trying dangerously spicy hot sauce on the most recent episode of "Hot Ones," where she spoke about how Burton's attention to detail meant that Wednesday's hair had to always be perfectly in place. 

An artist first and a director second

Some years back, the MoMA in New York City curated a massive Tim Burton exhibition filled with concept art, storyboards, and other ephemera from Burton's films. The surprising thing to me after attending was how many never-before-screen sketches and drawings were on display. After hearing what Ortega had to say about the way Burton would direct at points, it's clear that the master of gothic fantasy (Burton's tied with Guillermo Del Toro) is still just as much of an artist as he is a filmmaker. "First of all, he draws a lot of his shots," she revealed. "So there were some days I would come into work and he would have his own little picture that he drew of me playing the cello or me fencing and he would say, 'This is what you're shooting.'" 

There's such a childlike sense of creativity that comes through hearing about Burton sketching on the day to help Ortega visualize whatever acting challenge is thrown in front of her. Burton is essentially storyboarding shots for her on the fly, which is a very loose and liberating way to work. Burton would also politely take over at times when he wanted to get the look of Wednesday Addams just right, according to Ortega:

"Even on the first day when they were trying to establish what my hair was gonna look like we ran two hours behind because 'No her braids are uneven. This one's lower, this one's higher.' He didn't like the way that my fringe looked at the time so he was just, 'Hey can I do ... do you mind if I do that?' He asked the hairdresser very politely and just kind of did my hair himself."

Jenna Ortega's favorite Tim Burton movie may surprise you

When asked on Hot Ones what some of her favorite Tim Burton movies were, Ortega rightly named off "Beetlejuice" first and then threw a little bit of a curve ball. "I wanted to be one of the aliens from 'Mars Attacks' so bad. But not the Lisa Marie one, the one with the exposed brain." Clearly, if you were a fan of Ortega before this interview, you're an even bigger fan after that answer. "Mars Attacks" was unfairly dismissed as a cartoonish B-movie throwback when it was released in the shadow of "Independence Day" in 1996. But it has gained more fans over the years and seems fairly prophetic now when looking at some of the political buffooneries on display after the aliens start blasting. 

Boasting an incredible all-star cast featuring Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman, and Michael J. Fox, "Mars Attacks" should have been a financial success. Burton's '50s sci-fi homage managed to only make back about half of its budget, reportedly. The fact that Ortega embraced "Mars Attacks" after finding the film at a young age and imagined herself as a giant-brained alien instead of one of the film's many stars is a testament to her genre appreciation. 

There isn't going to be a sequel to "Mars Attacks" featuring Ortega as an alien any time soon, but fans will get a chance to see her again in another sequel when "Scream VI" takes a bite out of the Big Apple on March 10, 2023.