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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Johnny Depp interview

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JOHNNY Depp talks about singing and slitting throats in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and why he’s a big fan of revenge.

He also discusses comparisons to David Bowie vocally, why he probably won’t be singing again and the truth about whether he’s interested in appearing in Dr Who or not…

Q. How was it doing your first musical? And will you be doing it again?
Johnny Depp: We’re doing the sequel now laughs]. I actually did do a musical many years ago with John Waters called Cry-Baby, but technically it was only half me – it wasn’t me singing. Tim’s the only person brave enough to actually let me try to sing. It was the first time I’d ever sung, I’d never even sung in the shower, I’m too mortified. But once I got over the initial fear it was kind of enjoyable. Sondheim’s melodies and lyrics are a real pleasure to tromp around in, it’s really beautiful stuff. Would I ever do it again? No, I doubt it.

Q. What were the biggest acting challenges you faced?
Johnny Depp: It’s funny because early on, when Tim and I talked about Sweeney and the idea of doing it, 50% of the job would be done before we ever stepped on the set with the recording of the songs. Then we’d go in and lip sync to it. Or that’s what we thought… But these guys know as well as I do that you go into the recording studio and sing your guts out recording the stuff, and do it as best you can and then you go onto the set. We thought we were going to lip synch but in fact the only way to do it is to belt it out once again on the set, which is extremely mortifying. Everyone’s very, very close and you just feel like an idiot at first. But then it was oddly liberating, having music on the set all through. It was interesting. Like Tim said, it felt like we were doing a silent film.

Q. Did you base your singing voice on any person in particular, as you sound a bit like David Bowie when you sing?
Johnny Depp: A couple of people have said that, which is interesting because I wouldn’t ever dream of attempting to channel David Bowie. He’s a big hero of mine. If there’s a similarity it wasn’t intentional. And it’s a nice compliment.

Q. You once said that there is always something of you in every role you play – what part of you is in Sweeney?
Johnny Depp: I do believe that you have to bring some degree of truth from yourself to the role and I’ll admit it here, I have shaved a grown man before. I have done it. And it wasn’t Tim [Burton].

Q. Did he survive?
Johnny Depp: [Laughs] He is alive, yeah, he’s walking around to this day.

Q. Where did you get your accent come from?
Johnny Depp: Just from spending time over here, it wasn’t any one particular person that I based it on.

Q. Sweeney seems a bit of a gunslinger with his razors, did you see that and was it fun playing with the razors?
Johnny Depp: The holsters seemed the safest area to put the razors. And did I have fun playing with them? The killing of everyone was the easy part, the most difficult part was lathering them up and shaving them, that’s the part that freaked me out the most.

Do you see this as a tale of redemption?
Johnny Depp: I think, as Tim said the other day when we were talking about the theme of revenge, it’s a feeling that most people don’t want to admit to. But I think we all have it secretly in there. I’m a big fan of revenge, I think it’s a story of a man who clearly has obsessions to avenge the horror that happened to him.

Q. What revenge have you taken?
Johnny Depp: [Smiles] I can’t incriminate myself.

Q. Is Sweeney Todd redeemed?
Johnny Depp: He’s kind of cleansed in the end.

Q. You’ve been in The Fast Show, so is there any truth to the rumour you wanted a role in Doctor Who?
Johnny Depp: No, I didn’t really pursue anything with Doctor Who. But The Fast Show is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen anywhere. When that was mentioned as a possibility I went after Whitehouse, I stalked him. I was sitting on a tree outside of his bedroom window with a funny mask on, that’s how I got the job basically. I haven’t done that for Doctor Who.

b>Read our review of Sweeney Todd

b>Read our interview with Tim Burton