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
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
"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
"I think it’s important to try to keep playing different
types of guys and to keep exploring, because you are constantly
"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
"Frankly, it’s a miracle that I still get jobs!"
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