Johnny Depp Interview For Tim Burton’s ‘Dark Shadows’
In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet – or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Directed by Tim Burton, ‘Dark Shadows’ stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Moretz and Gulliver McGrath. Look out for the film in cinemas May 11th.
When you were coming up with the physicality of Barnabas, how much of it came from Jonathan Frid‘s original incarnation in the ‘Dark Shadows’ series?
Johnny Depp: Every angle I tried, I kept coming back to Jonathan Frid’s iconic performance. He did something striking with that character, so my Barnabas is largely based on his, with a few other ingredients thrown in and slightly more flowery language. A little bit more of a vocal style in terms of enunciation. Approaching Barnabas, even in the early days of trying to explore the possibilities of the character, no matter where you went in your head, if you tried to veer away from the original Jonathan Frid character, it was apparent to both Tim and myself that it had to be rooted in Jonathan Frid’s character of Barnabas. It just had to be. It was so classic and this sort of classic monster, like Fangoria magazine or that kind of thing. So, in terms of that, Jonathan did have, when he was playing Barnabas, there was a kind of rigidity to him, that pole up the back, this elegance that was always there. And yeah, I did believe, Tim and I talked early on, a vampire should look like a vampire and it was a kind of rebellion against vampires that look like underwear models (laughs).
Having this gentleman from the 18th century coming back to the 70s, the many contrasts that brings, I can image that being one of the dynamics that interested you?
Johnny Depp: It sparked a whole series of ideas, the idea of this very elegant man having been cursed, as the un-dead, in a box for 200 years, then he comes back to 1972.…which is perhaps the worst time in human existence aesthetically (laughs). Everything is absurd, kids of that era, or people of that era accepted weird little troll dolls, lava lamps, pet rocks, macramé owls, resin grapes. So we thought it was great way to incorporate having this vampire come back, 200 years later, to 1972, and basically being the eyes that we never had back then. The eyes that can see the absurdity (laughs).
What was it about the series that caught your attention?
Johnny Depp: There was nothing like it, certainly not in the daytime, with its vampires and ghosts and witches. I’ve always been attracted to that genre, even as a very young kid, so when I got a hold of ‘Dark Shadows,’ I didn’t let go. Obviously, the one person who immediately came to mind to bring this project to life was Tim Burton. He became really pumped up about it as we began to develop it.
The approach and tone of this adaptation of the series heightens the universe a bit….
Johnny Depp: Yeah. It is ‘Dark Shadows,’ but it is a very different angle on what the series was. It’s sort of taking what they did on the series, and heightening the universe and that world a little bit. Heightening the reality of things. It’s kind of a fine line between soap opera and reality. Without Tim, we’d never have achieved what we did with it, in terms of tone and quality and humour. Just his inventiveness, you know?
How was it having Michelle Pfeiffer on board as Elizabeth, seeing as she was a fan of the series like yourself and Tim?
Johnny Depp: What I found amazing was that Tim called me and said, “I’ve just spoken to Michelle and she was huge fan of the ‘Dark Shadows’ show at the time as well,” because Tim and I were both on top of that show, when we were kids. So he went on and said, “So what do you think, wouldn’t she be great as Elizabeth?” You couldn’t get more perfect, Michelle was amazing. I think Barnabas finds a kindred spirit in Elizabeth, because she has tried to uphold the family name and is as dedicated as he is to restoring them to their previous stature.
What do you think people find so tempting about vampires?
Johnny Depp: It’s a strange thing, because as a child, you have this fascination. I certainly had this fascination with monsters and vampires as did Tim and whatever this darkness, this mystery, this intrigue. And then, as you get older, you recognize the erotic nature of the vampire and the idea of the undead. That was most interesting, in terms of Barnabas, the idea of the combination. It was a real challenge, probably more for Tim than me, to make that guy, that vampire clearly a vampire fit back into this odd society and this dysfunctional family. I think he did it rather seamlessly.
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