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Dark Shadows movie - the Tim Burton and Johnny Depp duo step into the spotlight

by Camilla McNatty. Published Thu 10 May 2012 23:28, last updated: 11/05/12

With the release of Dark Shadows this week, Purple Revolver begins a series of explorations into the work of Gothic power duo Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and whether their partnership still casts a potent spell on-screen.

Their growing list of adaptations ranges from Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow, Roald Dahl's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland alongside cult film Edward Scissorhands and musical Sweeney Todd.

Burton speaks of the pair creating films which have a 'tricky tone' and the upcoming reinvention of misplaced vampire Barnabus Collins in Dark Shadows promises a return to form.

The connection between them stems from an appreciation for life and the human condition in isolation. Their mutual understanding or rather not, understanding of normality when they first met in 1989.

Seeking inspiration from Burton's experiences of being an outsider, he weaves an intricate fantasy in Edward Scissorhands with traditional gothic elements as Depp in turn crafts a character who is inherently special, yet remains alienated and mis-understood.

Edward Scissorhands defines Tim Burton's Emmy award-winning directorial style and the film built a solid foundation for future collaborations and Burton turns a simple concept into a beautiful standalone fairy-tale.

Speaking of their relationship Depp recalls: "Tim had to fight to give me the lead role in Edward Scissorhands in 1990 when I was still unknown, and he's always stood by me, even when things weren't going well later in my career."

Burton was happy to team up with Depp again for the adaptation of Sleepy Hollow. The defining visuals of the Headless Horseman and the sinister townsfolk of Sleepy Hollow, make the film almost believable - but the combination of Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci ensures the narrative delves deeper than the creepy surface narrative.

Speaking of his character Ichabod Crane, Depp professes it was important to explore the role fully: "We had to make him interesting, different, push him as far as you can go where you're on the verge of believable and not so believable.

"Or even, quite possibly, almost bad acting.

"Tim and I knew, because of how we work together, we were going to throw in as much humor as possible. There were opportunities that had been missed in the script, so we went nuts building the character of Ichabod.'

The chance to 'go nuts' offered itself again with the 2005 production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the adaptation split audiences and left critics and fans of the original claiming they had ruined a classic.

Depp dissolves into a macabre and at times, freakish character while playing the notorious chocolate maker, Willy Wonka.

In a performance mirroring Heath Ledger's chilling Joker, Wonka is detached from the fun and with awkward flashbacks, the narrative loses it's flow.

The film is perhaps only saved by the bright, multi-faceted world within the chocolate factory and the way Depp keeps the audience on tenterhooks, wondering what he'll say next.

Stephen Sondheim's acclaimed musical Sweeney Todd welcomed the Burton/Depp treatment in 2007, with critics praising 'a thoughtful, sincere and moving film.'

Sweeney Todd's arabesque structure allowed Depp to add flourish to an embodiment of 19th Century disarray and paints a haunting figure as the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Speaking of this signature mix of horror and visual delight, Depp said: "Tim at a very young age was obsessed with horror movies, monsters and found -- as I had -- great sanctuary in those dark places.

Depp says that without the influence of Tim Burton, his successful career would be something of a dream, claiming he would be 'a minor actor working in horror B movies'.

He said: "I owe him so much because he believed in me from the beginning. I would play any role in any film that he asked me to do purely out of gratitude."

Fans will be excited to see if the current collaboration proves whether the duo can still pack a powerful punch. Dark Shadows is released May 11.


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