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Look out for more coverage of
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

THE STARS:
Johnny Depp • Helena Bonham Carter
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

The unctuous Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) moderates a shaving competition between rival barbers Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and the braggart Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen) THE CONCEPT:
Big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical thriller. Benjamin Barker (Depp) is unjustly sent to prison and vows revenge, not only for that cruel punishment, but for the devastating consequences of what happened to his wife and daughter. When he returns to reopen his barber shop, Sweeney Todd, aka Barker, becomes the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who ‘shaved the faces of gentlemen who never thereafter were heard of again.’ He is assisted by Mrs Lovett (Carter) who creates diabolical meat pies.

U.S. RELEASE: December 21 2007, Nationwide
• Rated: R

THE COMMENTS:

JOHNNY DEPP:
“I was familiar to some degree with the earlier versions of this. I ‘d seen the video of Angela Lansbury, and I’d seen the more recent production of it and I just thought it might be a great opportunity to try to find a new Sweeney, a little contemporary in the sense of like the punk rock Sweeney.”

TIM BURTON on making is girlfriend Helena Bonhan Carter audition for the role of Mrs Lovett:
“I’d never done anything like this before and it’s quite a difficult musical to do. And the roles are hard, and I just didn’t want it to seem like I was just giving the job to my girlfriend. So I was probably harder on her for that reason, I just wanted to make sure that she was really right for the part, and she was.”

STEPHEN SONDHEI:
“As you probably know, the show was a big flop in London; London critics hated it, which was ironic, because it was my love letter to England. I felt like a rejected lover – I’m serious. The first person to ask me to do it [as a movie] was in fact Tim about 20 years ago.”

DEPP on singing in the movie:
“I think I was probably more frightened than anyone, except maybe for Tim. No, he was amazing, he really trusted me with it. I was very lucky that he allowed me to do it, because I didn’t have a process really in terms of singing. I’ve never sung before in my life, and I had to find my own way to it. I thought it was important that I keep it very low key, and so I initially did these demos in my friend’s garage studio, because I didn’t know if I would be able to hit a note or not. I just wanted to make sure I could do it for Tim.”

SONDHEIM:
“I’ve always preferred actors who sing to singers who act in all the shows I’ve done. I’m interested in storytelling, and what I like about songwriting is songs used to tell a story. That’s why I don’t write songs apart from theatrical pieces. I found the film stunning. The film was a fresh experience for me and I was knocked out by it.”

BURTON:
“I think this character for me is one of my favorite characters Johnny’s done, just because I love the interior brooding quality of it. And then you put that with him singing, and it just created to me a really amazing new thing. He just tries anything. The fact is that he’s not a singer, and he tried one of the hardest musicals ever to do. Something I learned is singing is a very exposing process, especially if you’re not a singer. It’s just an artistic pleasure to see somebody try different things and actually achieve them beyond your expectations.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street site
Images above © DreamWorks Pictures
Feature © 2007 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #691, January 2008 cover

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