The star and director talk about the upcoming film, their unique star-director bond and ballet?
Sweeney Todd is coming to theaters on December 21. Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton recently did a press conference on the film, and MovieWeb has all the highlights of that conference for you. Here's what the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and his director had to say:
Why did you want to do this picture, Johnny?
Johnny Depp: I mean I was familiar to some degree with the, with the you, you know the er the earlier versions of this, this stuff that you know I'd seen the, the video of um Angela Lansbury quite extensively. And, and I'd seen the more recent er production of it and then just thought it might be, you know certainly a great opportunity to, to try to find a, a new Sweeney, a different Sweeney in kind of a way I suppose like a ... just like a little contemporary in the sense of like also the punk rock Sweeney you know.
We already heard that you created a kind of situation of suspense because nobody knew if you can really sing it so and you came round to do late with it. So was it also fun for you to, to let them wait a little bit? How would you describe the process?
Johnny Depp: Yeah. I was, I think I was probably more frightened than anyone, except maybe Tim. No he really trusted me with it you know and, and like you know I, I was very lucky that he allowed me to ... 'cause I didn't have a process really you know in terms of the singing. I've never sang before in my life so er so, so I had to kinda find my way to it. I thought it was important that I, you know, keep it very, very low key and, and so yeah I initially did these demos in my friend's garage studio and, cause I didn't know if I would be able to hit a note or. I just, I wanted to make sure I could do it for Tim. So then, we did, I think the first demo we cut was with my friend, and like you know I showed it to er I showed it to Tim. You know he waited for the outcome really. (Chuckles)
Tim, we talked to Helena earlier and she was joking and saying how you made her audition for the role and that you didn't talk about it for the five weeks and during that period you were auditioning other women for the role. Can you just talk about that process?
Sounds very sleazy the way you put it.
Tim Burton: Yeah well I mean you know it was, I thought it was important 'cause I'd never done anything like this before myself and it's quite a difficult musical to do. And you know like in the stage thing that was a, you know that it's a hard role, the roles are hard, and I just didn't want it to seem like I was just giving the job to my girlfriend or anything. So, er I really was probably harder on that for that reason, and I just wanted to make sure that er it was basically she was really, really right for her, which she is, which she was and is. So it just was, yeah I probably was a bit harder on her than, than others, for the reason on just wanting to really make sure it was right.
Johnny, we heard earlier that you and Sacha Baron Cohen had a sort of shaving lesson so to speak while you were on set.
Johnny Depp: Yeah.
Can you tell us about that experience?
Johnny Depp: He still has scars all over his back.
Could you also talk about Sacha Baron Cohen actually and how he was cast?
Tim Burton: And no he was great you know. I admired him because you know he could have gone off and done a whole bunch of different stuff but, you know he chose to do this and that was you know it. It was great that he did it.
Johnny Depp: God I'd have loved to have seen that.
Tim Burton: Oh yeah. He literally went through the whole score of Fiddler on the Roof. It was the whole book. Great.
Mr. Burton I just wondered whether, given the level of violence, that it's a musical, you see this as a kind of a challenge at the box office? Is that something that occupies your mind, you know making your money back?
Tim Burton: Well I mean it, it, you know it's always a risk. I remember when I first saw the show in London back when I was still a student. I didn't know anything about the music and I remember seeing the show and [you're right] when Joanna ca... these two ladies, these very proper, British ladies were s... sitting in front of me and they were kind of chatting throughout the show, and then when Joanna came up and the, you know the blood started spurting across the stage they both stopped and paused for a minute and, one leaned over and said "Was that really necessary?"
Tim Burton: But in fact it was necessary and I've seen other productions of it where you know they've tried to be a bit more politically correct and skimp on it and it really lost something, because I mean the show is based in those old, grand horror theatre melodramas, where you know they had buckets pouring out over the stage. So, it just felt like that was true to the spirit of what the show is, it was and is and it's over-the-top too so we never felt like it was ... you know it's more of an emotional release than it is kind of a reality thing in this movie. The studio they were cool about it, they accepted it, they knew it cause they knew what the show was. But, you know anything, any movie is a risk, but it's nice to be able to do something like that where you know it doesn't fit into either musical or slasher movie category; kind of its own category.
Johnny, your character like you say is always unhappy and angry.
Johnny Depp: The funny thing is during the filming it was like like a laugh riot. It was a great time, it was a great experience and great fun and we laughed a lot.
Tim Burton: I'd say the humour from, from my point of view from his character comes from how just serious he is and just how single-minded he is, and you know the relationship he has in the with Mrs Lovett and anybody else. There's something weirdly humorous about that but I guess it depends on you know what you think is funny really.
Johnny, what does Tim get out of you as an actor that maybe no other director has been able to pull from you? And, Tim, what does having Johnny do for you as a Director that maybe you can't do with other actors?
Johnny Depp: Oh boy yeah.
Tim Burton: Well I mean I'll say you know he just tries anything. I mean the fact is that he's not a singer, you know he's musical but and that he would try like one of the hardest musicals ever to do. You know that just says it all. You know he's just willing to go out there and believe me, something I learned is singing is, especially if you're not a singer, it's a very exposing process. You know anybody that can do that can basically do anything and, so it's, for me it's just a artistic pleasure to see somebody try different things and, and actually achieve it and achieve it beyond your expectations.
Johnny Depp: I mean with Tim I mean since the first second that we met, all those years ago in a coffee shop in Los Angeles, there was a kind of instant connection on a lot of different levels. I mean the most obtuse levels of you know what in this kind of weird fascination of understanding the absurdity, the absurdity of things that were totally you know perfectly acceptable in the 1970s for example like macramé owls.
Johnny Depp: No one thought you know twice about it. So there, there was that weird connection right on the spot. And ever since then I've only wanted to as an actor, as a friend but I mean as an actor, just give him as close to what he wants and what I, what I think he wants. I mean any actor's job really is to just give the director options you know and just give him as much option. So I mean, the funny thing is I, like for example when I go into a movie and I'm [playing] like a character or whatever, you know ideas that sort of come to me and incorporate them in the character. If I feel good about it myself then you know have hopes that others you know feel the same. But when I'm working with Tim, as I'm coming up with the character, before I'm thinking about what I feel about the character I'm thinking about and just hoping that I don't let him down. So, he comes first.
Tim Burton: The other thing is he's great cause I love that he isn't looking at himself, which is great for me. You know I mean, you don't have to spend you know, "I'm gonna go look you know and see. Oh that's not a good" you know. He's just completely open to like, "Okay. Whatever" and "I don't really care to look at myself or wanna look at myself." He just does a great job and believe me that's a huge issue for me to not have that certain kind of vanity of like looking at yourself and you know stopping. It kinda keeps the process going, keeps it vital and that means a lot to me and I think the crew and everybody else. They get into the spirit of like just doing it you know not sitting around and analyzing everything.
Johnny Depp: But, you know, Tim, you know anything that he would ask me to do I [still get] the opportunity.
Except a ballet. (Laughs)
Johnny Depp: I actually would.
You're not gonna do that.
Johnny Depp: I would, I would try.
Sweeney Todd arrives in theaters on December 21.