Tim Burton and Johnny Depp – a hellish match, made in heaven
It’s probably every actor’s dream to work with Tim Burton. Unfortunately though, if you’re not Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter your chances are minimal. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are a match made in heaven – or, more accurately, hell if we consider the gothic and sinister nature of their collaborations. They’re not just colleagues, but also friends – apparently they even communicate in their own made up language on set. The great Burton and Depp love affair started back in the early 90’s and was always destined for great things. It all began when a young and fresh-faced Depp played the eponymous Edward Scissorhands in Burton’s cult classic. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, the two have worked on a number of films together – from quirky gothic thrillers like Sleepy Hollow to animations such as Corpse Bride. Their seventh film together, Alice in Wonderland, is set for release early next year and they have already embarked upon an eighth entitled Dark Shadows. As we wait in anticipation for a trippy tale of a Alice’s return to Wonderland and a her encounters with a Mad Hatter, let’s refresh our memories with the six films that helped to establish one of the strongest director/actor relationships in Hollywood.
1) Edward Scissorhands, 1990
A story about a strange young man named Edward who was created out of machinery by a lonely scientist (Vincent Price). After the scientist’s death, Edward remains physically incomplete: His hands are a mass of scissor blades. He is left alone in his master’s mansion until Avon lady Pegg Boggs, discovers him and brings him into small-town civilisation. Everyone is intrigued by Edward but Edward is mostly intrigued by Pegg’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder), with whom he falls in love. Even though it was their first film, Edward Scissorhands is probably still the most popular out of all of their collaborations.
2) Ed Wood, 1994
This is perhaps a lesser-known film to non-Depp/Burton fanatics. Ed Wood is the biopic of Edward D Wood Jr., dubbed Hollywood’s worst ever director, with Depp playing the titular role of Ed Wood. Despite being the least commercially successful of all of his movies with Depp, it has been described as one of Burton’s most personal and provocative films. His own personal connection with the film and the choice of casting Depp proves the trust Burton has in Depp as an actor.
3) Sleepy Hollow, 1999
Depp plays Ichabod Crane a character taken from Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Alongside Katerina Von Hassell (Christina Ricci), Crane is sent from New York city to the small village of Sleepy Hollow to uncover a series of creepy and ghoulish murders. The film was the first of a shift in Burton’s vision, increasinly moving towards the sinister and macabre.
4) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005
This colourful yet creepy adaptation of Roald Dahl’s infamous children’s story sees Depp playing the kooky chocolatier Willy Wonka. Having to follow Gene Wilder’s celebrated portrayal in 1971, Depp exceeded many people’s expectations. Apparently based on Michael Jackson, he created a completely new version of a well-loved character without tainting the original.
5) Corpse Bride, 2005
Comparable to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride is the only animation Burton and Depp have been involved in. It’s a story about Victor Van Dort (voiced by Depp) who, after accidentally marrying a corpse (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter), gets taken to the Land of the Dead where he finds himself on a mission to get back home and save the woman he loves from marrying an evil Lord. It’s fascinating that even as an animated character, we can still sense Depp’s presence on screen through the delivery of his lines alone.
6) Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2007
Floods of blood and a singing Johnny Depp. This epic musical is based on the 19th Century legend of Sweeney Todd and the West End musical show. Playing the leading role of Sweeney Todd alongside Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett, it allowed Depp to go back to his musical days.
With Sweeney Todd as the last offering we’ve had from the two (a film which highlights every element of both Depp and Burton’s brilliance) they have set a high standard which they must match in their subsequent partnerships. Tim Burton is often hailed as the king of all that is strikingly unconventional and eccentric. And despite the fact that his staple cast seems to be predictable, Burton’s films will always impress his fans. Teaming his off-the-wall, mysterious and (in some instances) grotesque style and aesthetic choices with Depp’s innate ability to capture an audience’s attention with a single look seems to be the recipe for success. What’s most amazing about the Depp/Burton collaboration is the fact that they draw such a wide range of audiences, from men looking for action and children who want to be enchanted, to women swooning at Depp (however eerie his screen presence might be). Although we might know what to expect from this twosome, we never really know what’s coming – that’s the genius of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.