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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 14:44 GMT
A Gothic double-act
By Natasha Mardikar
BBC Newsnight

Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd reunites Depp, Burton and Bonham-Carter

Johnny Depp likes British art critic Brian Sewell - how do I know this?

I had the tough job of going to meet director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp to talk to them about their version of slasher musical Sweeney Todd.

I'm lucky enough to say it's what you'd expect at Newsnight if you work alongside Culture Correspondent Steve Smith.

But on this occasion Steve was sent at short notice to Liverpool to do a film with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr on a rooftop somewhere in Merseyside - and quite unexpectedly I had to stand in for him and do the interview.

I've been hooked on Burton and Depp's movie back-catalogue since watching Gothic fairytale Edward Scissorhands in the 90s.

Brian Sewell
Brian Sewell - Johnny Depp's a fan
Meeting them is like hooking up with a pair of old school friends. They sometimes even finish each other's sentences - like two mates chatting, who just happen to be in the business of making movies.

Many people including Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant have remarked on how similar Depp sounds in Sweeney Todd to David Bowie. He finds this a huge compliment but says it certainly wasn't intentional.

"I wouldn't have expected to be mentioned in the same breath as Bowie," says Depp.

I ask him which British persona he might take on next.

He laughs: "I like that guy Brian Sewell - maybe he's next!"

While Depp is charming in the flesh his character in Sweeney Todd is quite different - he has no qualms at killing his victims and making them into pies with his accomplice Mrs Lovett played by Helena Bonham-Carter.

Both Burton and Depp make light of the high body count in the film.

Burton and Depp
Burton and Depp come across like a comedy double-act
Burton, who says he never gets tired of making Gothic pictures because of his love of old horror movies, is quick to remind me it's all part of the story. It's obviously over the top and very unrealistic, he says.

And what about making something more uplifting I suggest.

"I thought this was happy and uplifting," responds Burton.

"One of the things I loved about this was the tragic romance of it. I tried to make it happily depressing as opposed to just depressing."

Would he make a comedy then?

"Apparently I'm meant to be doing something with Barry Manilow," says Depp - and Burton laughs and says: "Barry On" - before Depp adds in his usual deadpan way: "A Barry On Film."

Depp Greatest Hits

Throughout the interview the pair exchange rapid-fire jokes and banter and it dawns on me how their relationship is more like a double-act - rather than just a director and his leading man. I was quickly drawn in to their comedy ping-pong, almost forgetting why I was there.

"What about making an album?" I ask Depp.

"Maybe - what I've decided to do is make a greatest hits album," he laughs.

"No, I've inflicted my voice on the masses once - that's probably enough!"

As I was about to leave Johnny said: "Tell Steve he made the right choice to go to Liverpool!"

Maybe he was right - but given the choice between Ringo Starr and the double-act of Depp and Burton I know which one I'd choose.


Watch the interview tonight on Newsnight at 10.30pm.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Johnny Depp's interview with BBC Newsnight



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