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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Working with Tim is like arriving home. It’s a very comfortable place

Feature by: Jack Foley

IT'S fair to say that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton enjoy one of the sweetest working relationships in Hollywood given the critical and commercial success of their collaborations.

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory marks their fourth film together (after Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood) and continues the success story, having opened strongly in America where it helped to halt this year's box office slump.

But the two remain remarkably humble about their relationship insisting that there's no secret formula behind it.

"For me, every time I’ve worked with Johnny it just gets better and better because you see him change and do different things," explains Burton, at the recent London press conference.

"When you work with the same people you get that feeling, and I love it because it’s like a weird family when you’re making a movie, so it’s nice to be around people you like."

Adds Depp: "There’s kind of a built in language from having had other experiences together before, having explored other stories and characters before. So, it’s great for me. Working with Tim is like arriving home. It’s a very comfortable place."

Working with Burton also affords Depp the opportunity to extend his range and explore some truly eccentric characters.

Willy Wonka, for instance, is another enigma that Depp excels in portraying, even though most of the inspiration came from Roald Dahl's classic book itself.

"That source material is an amazing help in building the character of Wonka, using Roald Dahl’s work," he explained, upon being asked how he prepared for the character.

"But in early conversations with Tim we talked about various things, like memories we had when we were growing up of children’s show hosts and that kind of strange cadence with which they spoke to children.

"You know that kind of [puts on voice] 'Hello kiddies. Today...' And game show hosts, the mask that they put on, the sort of perpetual grimace, that kind of thing. Then we just went from there."

Much of the allure in watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lies in the fact that it does try to stay faithful to Dahl's work and is not a mere remake of the classic Gene Wilder version, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Indeed, the only difference between Burton's film and Dahl's book is the back story given to Wonka in a bid to understand his character a little more.

Explains Burton: "We sort of thought that when you see an eccentric character if you don’t get a flavour of why he’s eccentric, then he’s just a weird guy.

"We wanted to show a little bit of that to get a flavour of that without destroying the mystique of the character.

"The great thing about the Wonka character is that you’re never quite sure about him. That was an important quality to maintain. But by doing this, you get a little bit of the flavour of his background without destroying the ‘what’s up with this guy' element."

For Depp, it also helped with his preparation as an actor.

"Iit’s the kind of thing that you try to put in your homework, you know, that kind of back story, even if it isn’t on the page or in the film.

"This was a sort of great luxury into the history, the back story of Wonka. It was really helpful, not just for me as the actor, but also for the audience. It was a really brave move."

Having completed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to such crowd-pleasing effect, Burton and Depp will next be together for Corpse Bride, an animated adventure that returns to the style of the director's Nightmare Before Christmas.

Depp will then reprise the role of Captain Jack Sparrow for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, before also appearing in a film called The Libertine.

So what is it that keeps him interested and wanting to create such interesting characters?

"As an actor, I think you owe it more to the audience, not to yourself or the filmmaker, to try something different each time.

"I think it’s important to try to keep playing different types of guys and to keep exploring, because you are constantly learning.

"If you keep playing the same characters it’s like, you know, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, meatloaf. It’s the same old thing over again. So I just try to do different things each time.

"Frankly, it’s a miracle that I still get jobs!"

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