With eight collaborations under their collective belt, Johnny Depp & Tim Burton are one of cinema's most lucrative & stylistically successful actor-director pairings. Depp is an actor who so easily understands & communicates Burton's particular creative sensibilities & Burton is a director who always provides Depp with both opportunity & creative freedom to create a wide array of left-field characters. In honour of their upcoming Dark Shadows, let's look back at their best work together:
|1. Edward Scissorhands|
An artistic breakthrough for both star & director & the start a beautiful pairing. Burton's distinct visuals tell an effective modern fantasy. Disbelief is gladly suspended in order to share the quiet emotions of Edward's world. Depp makes a leap from bit parts & 21 Jump Street & introduces the eccentric sensibility that would ultimately bring him fame. Underappreciated at the time (nearly everyone but Depp got nominated by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror), Depp's performance is a master class in silent film acting & iconic in & beyond the goth community. With Bo Welch's incredible sets, Colleen Atwood's iconic costumes & Danny Elfman's soaring, magical score on display, it's amazing that Stan Winston's (admittedly stand out) make-up was the only thing recognised by the Oscars.
|2. Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street|
Seventeen years after Scissorhands, another blade wielding, pale faced outcast yielded the first & - to date - only Oscar nominated performance for a Depp / Burton collaboration. Far darker than any of their previous collaborations, Sweeny Todd is a very tricky proposition: a musical horror, with lines blurred between cringing, laughing & sing-along. It is to Depp's credit that he gets inside Todd's skin & maintains the emotion behind the singing & killing, but it is to Burton's considerable credit that he holds it all together. This time, the exceptional technical team was recognised alongside Depp, but Burton regrettably not.
|3. Ed Wood|
Another Ed is at the center of the pair's second collaboration, a strange & heartfelt biopic of the infamous & probably unfairly maligned "worst director of all time". Filled with eccentricities & style that celebrate its subject, Ed Wood is one of Burton's more serious (yet also sublimely silly) films. Depp's performance keeps things broad & light & unpredictable - never trying to explain or make fun of the man, but simply enjoying inhabiting his strange skin & world.
|4. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory|
To reinvent a character already successfully brought to life by Gene Wilder, Depp takes a number of deliberate left turns (in his own words) & churns out a true oddball - an un-apologetically antisocial, creepy perfectionist with daddy issues & a bit of a vindictive streak. His Willy Wonka bears an eery resemblance to the ultimate eternal man-child himself: Michael Jackson & makes up in enticing unpredictability what he lacks in warm charisma. From Burton's side, the Chocolate Factory is hardly a stretch, but it is joyous eye candy of the highest order & still a film with Burton's distinctive fingerprint all over it.
|5. Sleepy Hollow|
It has a good story, but Burton's Sleepy Hollow is all about the evocative style & rich atmosphere. A gloomy retelling of the tale of headless horseman, with incredible sets & gorgeous cinematography doubling for Washington Irving's prose. Depp's Ichabod Crane is a predictably offbeat take on the classic literary investigator. Never one to take his character too seriously, his Ichabod is a decidedly reluctant hero; an often terrified & cowardly academic more interested in science than people. A stern, serious character played for well judged comic effect in a merrily gothic tale.
|6. Corpse Bride|
Who better than Depp to voice the shy, sensitive hero of Burton's first animation outing as Director (after producing the hugely influential & extremely Burton-esque The Nightmare Before Christmas for Henry Selick)? The story is slight but sweet, the animation is legendary & the voice actors do uniformly excellent work.
|7. Alice in Wonderland|
With Depp beneath the cap, Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter was understandably promoted to lead character, but while Depp & Burton promised a truly mentally damaged Hatter, they delivered a brightly coloured, giddy cartoon. Depp's hatter is larger than life, entertaining & sweetly damaged, but ultimately more of an idea than an actual creation and, personally, the weakest of the pair's collaborations. Burton's film, meanwhile, is a technical & visual wonder, but quickly digested popcorn fare, story-wise.