At the recent press conference for the upcoming Dark Shadows, director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp were eager to speak about their latest collaboration as well as their deep rooted admiration for Dan Curtis’ original Gothic soap, which ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971.
The series followed 200-year-old vampire Barnabas, originally played by the late Jonathan Frid and portrayed by Depp in the movie, as well as members of the eccentric Collins family while they lived on the mysterious Collinwood estate and was well known for its creepy atmosphere and dark melodramatic flair.
Read on for the highlights of Burton’s and Depp’s remarks regarding the feature film adaptation of Dark Shadows (review here) as well as more on whether or not there’s the potential for a sequel in the future.
Depp and Burton discuss being fans of the original “Dark Shadows” series and how that motivated them to tackle a feature film adaptation of the show:
Burton: It’s one of those kind of things where the show had a lot of impact for some of us- Johnny, Michelle (Pfeiffer) and I were all kind of ‘there’ at the time when it came out, and I think we all just recall it being a very strong and interesting property.
So yeah, we’ve talked about Dark Shadows for many years, and I do think this is the first project that I ever remember for Johnny, where you sort of said that you wanted to play this ever since you were a little boy.
Depp: Just a wee tyke. I was a fan of the show, and I think our initial conversation – I think it was during Sweeney Todd – where I just blurted out in mid-conversation, “We should do a vampire movie together where you actually have a vampire that looks like a vampire.” And as you know, Dark Shadows was kind of looming on the periphery; then Tim and I started talking about it and how it should be shaped, and then Seth (Grahame-Smith) came on board to write, and the three of us just riffed. One thing led to another, and it basically dictated to us what it wanted to be in a sense with Tim in the forefront leading the troops.
Depp on his fascination with monsters:
It’s a strange thing because as a child I certainly had a fascination with monsters and vampires, as did Tim, and there’s this darkness, this mystery, this intrigue to the world of vampires. And then as you get older, you recognize this erotic nature of the vampire, the idea of the undead, and what was most interesting in terms of Barnabas was to make that guy, that vampire – who was clearly a vampire – fit back into this odd society and this dysfunctional family, and I think Tim did it rather seamlessly.
Depp on his approach to the role of Barnabas Collins:
Approaching Barnabas, even in the early days of trying to explore the possibilities of the character, no matter where you went in your head, I found that 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 in Fangoria magazine or that kind of thing. So in terms of that Jonathan did have when he was playing Barnabas a kind of rigidity to him; that pole up the back sort of elegance that was always there. And yeah, I believe Tim and I talked early on that a vampire should look like a vampire; it was a kind of rebellion against vampires that look like underwear models. And there was a bit of Nosferatu in there, too.
But what I wanted to come across and what I wanted in Barnabas to come across was this idea of a very elegant, upper echelon, well-schooled gentleman who’s cursed in the 18th century and is brought back to probably the most surreal era of our time, the 1970s, or 1972 to be precise. Then we’d see how he’d react to things because of how radically different things were, not just through the technology and automobiles and such, but actual items of enjoyment for people like pet rocks and fake flowers and plastic fruit and troll dolls and lava lamps. Oh yeah- and the macramé owls; my favorite.
Depp on the cameos by the original players from the “Dark Shadows” television series:
It was great and I thought great of Tim to bring them into the fold; it was our way of saluting them, and Jonathan (Frid) was terrific. He had already written me a letter a couple years before and signed a photograph to me, sort of passing the baton of Barnabas to me, which I thought was very sweet. He had his cane with him, his original Barnabas cane, and I wasn’t sure when he actually saw me if he was going to attack me with it, but he didn’t so…(laughs).
Burton on the music choices for Dark Shadows and one of the film’s featured cameo players, Alice Cooper:
Setting it in 1972 was important because of the music; I remember that music from the AM radio and how it felt strange at the time and it still feels strange to me. That was the weird thing about the quality of music kind of going through everything, like really cheesy pop to really cool hardcore. But I also remember Alice Cooper being a strong influence for me, and he looks exactly the same now, which is really scary. Living in Arizona must do wonders (laughs).
Burton on a potential sequel for Dark Shadows:
Because of the nature of it being like a soap opera, (the open ending) was the structure; it wasn’t so much of a conscious decision. First of all, it’s a bit presumptuous to think that; if something works out, that’s one thing, but you can’t ever predict that. So that had more to do with the fact of the soap opera structure of it.
Like I said, there’s “Dark Shadows” fans and then there’s everybody else, and you can’t really make it with projecting what you think it’s going to be. First of all we make a movie that we wanted to see, and then you just hope for the best.
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