Depp strives to put new spin on Sweeney Todd
One of the great chameleons of his day, it would seem that Johnny Depp is capable of morphing himself into virtually any character.
And even when he’s not exactly sure he can manage the role, Depp typically signs on anyway.
So it’s no surprise the Oscar nominee (Finding Neverland), who has tackled a diverse assortment of parts from the shear-fingered Edward Scissorhands, to a gangster in Donnie Brasco and most recently a swashbuckler in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, had his interest piqued by an offer from friend and regular collaborator director Tim Burton (Corpse Bride) to star in a big-screen adaptation of the Stephen Soderbergh musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
There was only one problem. Depp, who played in several rock bands in his youth, was unsure he could sing or pull off a performance worthy of Soderbergh’s titular razor-wielding barber.
“I initially did these demos in my friend’s garage studio because I didn’t know if I’d be able to hit a note, to be honest,” Depp recalls. “I’d seen the more recent production of it and just thought it might be a great opportunity to try to find a new Sweeney, a different Sweeney, in a weird way something slightly more contemporary in the sense of a punk-rock Sweeney.”
The opening frames of the film introduce a bitter Sweeney Todd returning to London after a lengthy prison term in Australia. The victim of false accusations and a bogus conviction at the hands of corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), Todd intends to exact revenge and find his daughter, now the ward of the judge.
Sweeney Todd is the sixth Depp-Burton collaboration and obvious are their trademark mutual eccentricities, darkly subtle humour and fascination with minutiae which, Depp points out, marked their relationship from its earliest stages.
“We have this weird fascination with the absurdity of things that were perfectly acceptable in the 1970s like macramé owls and fake fruit,” Depp says. “There was that weird connection on the spot. Since then as an actor I’ve only wanted to give him as close to what I think he wants.”
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street opens today.