DreamWorks Studios announced that Johnny Depp has been set to star and Tim Burton to direct Sweeney Todd, the award-winning Stephen Sondheim musical thriller.
The co-production with Warner Bros. will star Johnny Depp as the titular Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp is currently starring in the record-breaking blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Sweeney Todd marks the 6th collaboration between the actor and director. The previous Burton-Depp films have been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow.
Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will partner with Richard Zanuck and John Logan to produce the screenplay adaptation which was written by Logan. Production is planned to begin early next year for a late 2007 release. Paramount will distribute for DreamWorks domestically and Warner Bros. internationally.
The Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, with Sondheim's music and lyrics and a book by Hugh Wheeler based on the play by Christopher Bond, opened in 1979 and won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Its mix of the comic, the dramatic and the macabre held together by Sondheim's movie-like score has had hundreds of productions throughout the world. A highly acclaimed revival is now playing in New York.
The story of Sweeney Todd is of a wrongfully imprisoned barber in Victorian England who sets out to seek revenge on the judge who imprisoned him. The plot is foreshadowed in the first lines of the opening number: "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd./His skin was pale and his eye was odd./He shaved the faces of gentlemen/Who never thereafter were heard of again."
Sondheim is known in the theater for the lyrics to West Side Story and Gypsy, the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park With George, among others, as well as the film scores of Stavisky and Reds (the latter co-written with Dave Grusin) and the Academy Award-winning Best Original Song Sooner or Later from the Warren Beatty movie Dick Tracy.
Former DreamWorks co-heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have produced or executive produced a wide range of critically and commercially successful films, including the Oscar-winning Gladiator, the Men In Black and Ring series, as well as Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, and The Terminal, the latter all directed by Steven Spielberg.
Sweeney Todd will mark Richard Zanuck's third collaboration with DreamWorks, having produced Deep Impact and Road to Perdition for the studio. The film will also mark Zanuck's reunion with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton with whom he produced last year's international hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Among his many films, Zanuck won a Best Picture Oscar as a producer for Driving Miss Daisy and has received the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for consistently producing high quality motion pictures.
Tim Burton is also developing the Paramount production of Ripley's Believe It Or Not.