Danny Elfman On Catching His Acting Break As Tim Burton Was An Oingo Boingo Fan

Danny Elfman joined Metal Hammer for a recent chat, discussing how he came to work with Tim Burton, why he felt like one of Burton’s characters, and what ‘odd things’ the duo easily bonded over.

Elfman and Burton spent years together collaborating on different projects, so when the host asked the rocker how it all started in the first place, Danny had to dive deep through his memory and recall his initial meeting with the director in the mid-80s.

So, years before the duo met, Tim and another film icon, Paul Reubens, knew all about Elfman since he had previously composed soundtracks for his brother Richard Elfman’s movie, ‘Forbidden Zone,’ in the early 80s. Burton and Reubens were familiar with Danny’s works through that film and had a common wish to collab, and luckily, that wish was granted when the rocker met Burton.

Danny recalled how he met Tim with the following:

“I started with an incredibly lucky break because I had two people – Paul Reubens, who played Pee-wee Herman, and Tim Burton, who was the director – and my name was recognizable for both of them.

Five or six years earlier, I did a weird cult movie for my brother called ‘Forbidden Zone,’ and Paul loved ‘Forbidden Zone.’ He made a note: ‘Whoever that guy is, I’m gonna use him someday.’ And Tim knew of Oingo Boingo, And so, I guess between the two of them, they were like, ‘Oh, OK, let’s bring this guy in.’ And I didn’t meet with Paul; I only met with Tim, but we just hit it off.”

Elfman then recalled how he and Burton easily bonded over their shared interest in horror, ultimately making them an inseparable duo. He also noted feeling close to many of Tim’s characters, who were often outcasts who failed to fit in with society, always looking for a sense to feel enough and whole.

The rocker on how they bonded with Burton and why he felt close to his outcasted characters:

“We both grew up in Los Angeles, on horror films. We were both monster kids, really. And I think we were both kinda maybe odd kids. I understand Tim’s character. They’re all alienated. And I grew up feeling like that. So I think that’s part of what breeds a kinship.

I used to feel when I was younger that I came from some other planet and was still watching and learning human behavioral interaction. So it was easy for me to understand Pee-wee Herman, and Edward Scissorhands, and Jack Skellington, and both Batman and the Joker. I’m Lydia, and I’m Beetlejuice, somewhere in my character. I’m Lydia when I’m going through life, and then when I’m onstage, I’m Beetlejuice.”

Although the fact that Burton was a fan of Oingo Boingo surely helped out Danny, the rocker’s talent for acting and composing soundtracks landed him a part of Tim’s cinematic universe, at the end, and sparked the beginning of a friendship and a legendary collaboration between the two.