Reunited and it feels so bloody

Thursday, January 3, 2008
Actor Johnny Depp, left, and director Tim Burton pose for a photograph in West Hollywood, Calif., in this Dec. 5, 2007 file photo. Think of it as "The Sound of Music" with blood. That's how Tim Burton looks at his latest film, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file)

NEW YORK -- Dressed in drag and standing in front of a meat locker, Johnny Depp smiles into the camera and cheerfully declares, "Tim's a swell guy."

In its genuine warmth and weirdness, this moment, played out between scenes during the filming of 1994's "Ed Wood," encapsulates the ongoing collaboration between Depp and director Tim Burton.

Even amid the dark, surreal worlds the two have brought to life, they're all smiles.

The duo mark their sixth film together with "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," the new adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's gory musical about a barber who seeks revenge while cutting the throats of his customers.

"Singing. Who'd have ever thought?" wondered Burton at a recent interview, where he and Depp both still found it hardly comprehensible that two guys who don't like musicals (including an actor who doesn't sing) had just made one.

"Certainly not me. Least of all me," chimed Depp, whose hippy-dippy necklaces, colorful bracelets and round-rimmed glasses stood in stark contrast to Burton's dark duds, spiky black hair and squarish, purple shades.

While reminiscing about their new film and 17 years of working together, Depp and Burton often pick up each other's conversational trails, most of which end in either reveling in what they've managed to get away with in Hollywood, or in some kind of self-deprecating joke.

Burton continued: "Now you're going to get all these scripts and be like, 'Shall I do 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' or 'Jesus Christ Superstar?"'

Laughing, Depp retorted: "'Hair.' Then I'm going straight to 'Annie.'"

The two can chuckle at more mainstream fare because they have both specialized in offbeat eccentrics. Their paths first crossed in 1990's "Edward Scissorhands" when Burton cast Depp in his first leading role following his teen idol success on the TV series "21 Jump Street."

The two recall their first meeting with clarity.

"I remember walking into that coffee shop like it was yesterday," Depp said. "I just knew instantly that he was the real thing. That was clear to me. There was an instant connection."

While many of the classic director-actor pairings (John Ford and John Wayne, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune) have often focused on a particular genre, the Burton-Depp collaborations span a variety of films, albeit ones with a penchant for fantasy.

Besides "Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood," their previous projects include "Sleepy Hollow" (1999), "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005) and the animated "Corpse Bride" (2005).

"We've been lucky enough to do things that the studios never want to do," said Burton, with Depp adding: "On more than one occasion."

"It's surreal," said Burton, a veritable expert on that topic. "That feeling never quite leaves you that we're able to do something. It's almost like getting away with something."

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