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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 2007 British/American musical psychological slasher horror film directed by Tim Burton. The film re-tells the Victorian melodramatic tale of Sweeney Todd, an English barber and serial killer who murders his customers with a straight razor and, with the help of his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, processes their corpses into meat pies for dinner. The film stars Johnny Depp as the titular character and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett.

PlotEdit

In 1846, Benjamin Barker, a barber, arrives in London, accompanied by sailor Anthony Hope. Fifteen years earlier, he was falsely convicted and exiled by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who lusted after Barker's wife Lucy. Barker adopts the alias "Sweeney Todd" and returns to his old Fleet Street shop, situated above Mrs. Nellie Lovett's meat pie shop, where she sells the "worst pies in London". Lovett tells him that Turpin raped Lucy, who then poisoned herself with arsenic. The couple's daughter, Johanna, is now Turpin's ward. Todd vows revenge, and re-opens his barber shop after Mrs. Lovett, who loves him unrequitedly, presents him with his old straight razors. Anthony becomes enamored with Johanna, but is caught by Turpin and driven away by his henchman, Beadle Bamford.

Todd denounces faux-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli's hair tonic as a fraud and humiliates him in a public shaving contest judged by Bamford. A few days later, Pirelli arrives at Todd's shop, with his boy assistant Tobias Ragg. Pirelli identifies himself as Todd's former assistant, Davy Collins, and threatens to reveal Todd's secret unless Todd gives him half his earnings. Todd kills Collins, and hides his body in a trunk.

After receiving advice from Bamford, Turpin visits Todd for grooming, intent on marrying Johanna. Todd shaves Turpin, preparing to slit his throat, but they are interrupted by Anthony, who reveals his plan to elope with Johanna before noticing Turpin. An angered Turpin renounces Todd's service and leaves. Todd swears revenge on the entire world, vowing to kill as many people as he can while he waits for another chance to kill Turpin. Mrs. Lovett gets the idea to bake Todd's victims into pies, and Todd rigs his barber chair to drop his victims' bodies through a trapdoor and into her bakehouse. Anthony searches for Johanna, whom Turpin has sent to an insane asylum upon discovering her plans to elope with Anthony.

The barbering and pie-making businesses prosper, and Mrs. Lovett takes Toby as her assistant. She tells an uninterested Todd of her plans to marry him and move to the seaside. Anthony discovers Johanna's whereabouts and, following Todd's suggestion, poses as a wigmaker's apprentice to rescue her. Todd has Toby deliver a letter to Turpin, telling him where Johanna will be brought when Anthony frees her. Toby has become wary of Todd and tells Mrs. Lovett of his suspicions, vowing to protect her.

Bamford arrives at the pie shop, informing Mrs. Lovett that neighbors have been complaining of the stink from her chimney. Todd distracts him with an offer of a free grooming and murders him. Mrs. Lovett informs Todd of Toby's suspicions, and the pair search for the boy, who is now hiding in the sewers after finding human remains in Mrs Lovett's bakehouse. Meanwhile, Anthony brings Johanna, disguised as a sailor, to the shop, and has her wait there while he leaves to find a coach.

A beggar woman enters the shop in search of Bamford, and Johanna hides in the trunk. The woman recognizes Todd, but upon hearing Turpin coming, Todd kills her and sends her through the trapdoor in the floor. As Turpin enters, Todd explains that Johanna had repented and is coming to him, then offers a free shave in the meantime. When Turpin finally recognizes Todd as Benjamin Barker, Todd stabs him several times, cuts open his throat, and dumps him into the bakehouse. Johanna comes out of her hiding place, still in disguise, and Todd prepares to kill her as well, not recognizing her as his daughter. However, hearing Mrs. Lovett scream in horror in the basement when the dying Turpin grabs at her dress, Todd lets Johanna go.

Todd discovers that the beggar woman was his wife Lucy, whom he believed to be dead, and that Mrs. Lovett deliberately misled him so she could have him to herself. Todd pretends to forgive her and dances with her before hurling her into the bakehouse oven, then cradles Lucy's dead body in his arms. Toby appears, enraged at Mrs. Lovett's death, and Todd allows Toby to slit his own throat with his own razor. Toby leaves as Todd bleeds to death over his dead wife.

List of deaths Edit

Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
Adolfo Pirelli Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Man Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Man Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Man Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Man Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Man Throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes
Beadle Bamford Throat slit, brain busted open Unknown; (presumably Sweeney Toad) No Body discovered by Toby
The Miserable Woman (disguised as Lucy Barker) Throat slit Sweeney Toad Yes
Judge Turpin Stabbed multiple time, throat slit with straight razor Sweeney Todd Yes Accident
Nellie Lovett Burned to death in cooking furnace Sweeney Todd Yes
Sweeney Toad Throat slit Toby Ragg Yes

CastEdit

  • Johnny Depp as Benjamin Barker / Sweeney Todd
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Nellie Lovett
  • Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin
  • Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford
  • Jayne Wisener as Johanna Barker
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Adolfo Pirelli
  • Laura Michelle Kelly as Lucy Barker / Beggar Woman
  • Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope
  • Ed Sanders as Tobias Ragg

Production Edit

Tim Burton first saw Stephen Sondheim's 1979 stage musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, as a CalArts student in London in 1980. Burton recalled his experience of seeing the show, saying, "I was still a student, I didn't know if I would be making movies or working in a restaurant, I had no idea what I would be doing. I just wandered into the theatre and it just blew me away because I'd never really seen anything that had the mixture of all those elements. I actually went three nights in a row because I loved it so much." Although not a fan of the musical genre, Burton was struck by how cinematic the musical was, and repeatedly attended subsequent performances. He described it as a silent film with music, and was "dazzled both by the music and its sense of the macabre." When his directing career took off in the late 1980s, Burton approached Sondheim with a view to making a cinematic adaptation, but nothing came of it. In Sondheim's words, "[Burton] went off and did other things."

Meanwhile, director Sam Mendes had been working on a film version of the story for several years, and in June 2003 Sondheim was approached to write the script. Although he turned down the offer, Mendes and producer Walter F. Parkes obtained his approval to use writer John Logan instead. Logan had previously collaborated with Parkes on Gladiator, and claimed his biggest challenge in adapting the Sondheim stage play "was taking a sprawling, magnificent Broadway musical and making it cinematic, and an emotionally honest film. Onstage, you can have a chorus sing as the people of London, but I think that would be alienating in a movie." Mendes left to direct the 2005 film Jarhead, and Burton leaped at taking over the direction after his project, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, fell apart due to its excessive budget.

On Burton's hiring, he and Logan reworked the screenplay; Logan felt they agreed over the film's tone due to "share[d] stunted childhoods watching Amicus movies". Turning a three-hour stage musical into a two-hour film required some changes. Some songs were shortened, while others were completely removed. Burton said, "In terms of the show, it was three hours long, but we weren't out to film the Broadway show, we were out to make a movie, so we tried to keep the pace like those old melodramas. Sondheim himself is not a real big fan of movie musicals, so he was really open to honing it down to a more pacey shape." Burton and Logan also reduced the prominence of other secondary elements, such as the romance between Todd's daughter Johanna and Anthony, to allow them to focus on the triangular relationship between Todd, Mrs. Lovett, and Toby.

Casting Edit

DreamWorks announced Burton's appointment in August 2006, and Johnny Depp was cast as Todd. Christopher Lee, Peter Bowles, Anthony Head, and five other actors were set to play the ghost narrators, but their roles were cut (Head does appear in an uncredited cameo as a gentleman who congratulates Depp after the shaving contest). According to Lee, these deletions were due to time constraints caused by a break in filming during March 2007, while Depp's daughter recovered from an illness. Burton's domestic partner Helena Bonham Carter was cast in October 2006, as well as Sacha Baron Cohen. In December 2006, Alan Rickman was cast. In January 2007, Laura Michelle Kelly was cast as Lucy Barker. Timothy Spall was added to the cast, and said he was urged to audition by his daughter, who wanted him to work with Depp. He recalled, "I really wanted this one – I knew Tim was directing and that Johnny Depp was going to be in it. My daughter, my youngest daughter, really wanted me to do it for that reason – Johnny Depp was in it. (She came on set to meet Depp) and he was really delightful to her, she had a great time. Then, I took her to the junket – and (Depp) greeted her like an old pal when he saw her. I've got plenty of brownie points at the moment."

Three members of the cast had never been in a film before: Ed Sanders was cast as Toby, Jayne Wisener as Johanna, and Jamie Campbell Bower, who auditioned, and after four days got the part of Anthony said, "I think I weed myself. I was out shopping at the time and I got this call on my mobile. I was just like, 'OH MY GOD!' Honestly, I was like a little girl running around this shop like oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god."

Filming Edit

Filming began on February 5, 2007 at Pinewood Studios, and was completed by May 11, despite a brief interruption when Depp's daughter was taken seriously ill. Burton opted to film in London, where he had felt "very much at home" since his work on Batman in 1989. Production designer Dante Ferretti created a darker, more sinister London by adapting Fleet Street and its surrounding area. Burton initially planned to use minimal sets and film in front of a green screen, but decided against it, stating that physical sets helped actors get into a musical frame of mind: "Just having people singing in front of a green screen seemed more disconnected".

Depp created his own image of Todd. Heavy purple and brown make-up was applied around his eyes to suggest fatigue and rage, as if "he's never slept". Burton said of the character Sweeney Todd, "We always saw him as a sad character, not a tragic villain or anything. He's basically a dead person when you meet him; the only thing that's keeping him going is the one single minded thing which is tragic. You don't see anything else around him." Depp said of the character, "He makes Sid Vicious look like the innocent paper boy. He's beyond dark. He's already dead. He's been dead for years." Depp also commented on the streak of white in Todd's hair, saying, "The idea was that he'd had this hideous trauma, from being sent away, locked away. That streak of white hair became the shock of that rage. It represented his rage over what had happened. It's certainly not the first time anyone's used it. But it's effective. It tells a story all by itself. My brother had a white spot growing up, and his son has this kind of shock of white in his hair."

Burton insisted that the film be bloody, as he felt stage versions of the play which cut back on the bloodshed robbed it of its power. For him, "Everything is so internal with Sweeney that [the blood] is like his emotional release. It's more about catharsis than it is a literal thing." Producer Richard D. Zanuck said that "[Burton] had a very clear plan that he wanted to lift that up into a surreal, almost Kill Bill kind of stylization. We had done tests and experiments with the neck slashing, with the blood popping out. I remember saying to Tim, 'My God, do we dare do this?'" On set, the fake blood was colored orange to render correctly on the desaturated color film used, and crew members wore bin liners to avoid getting stained while filming. This macabre tone made some studios nervous, and it was not until Warner Bros. Pictures, DreamWorks and Paramount had signed up for the project that the film's $50 million budget was covered. Burton said "the studio was cool about it and they accepted it because they knew what the show was. Any movie is a risk, but it is nice to be able to do something like that that doesn't fit into the musical or slasher movie categories."

After the filming, Burton said of the cast, "All I can say is this is one of the best casts I've ever worked with. These people are not professional singers, so to do a musical like this which I think is one of the most difficult musicals, they all went for it. Every day on the set was a very, very special thing for me. Hearing all these guys sing, I don't know if I can ever have an experience like that again."" Burton said of the singing, "You can't just lip synch, you'd see the throat and the breath, every take they all had to belt it out. It was very enjoyable for me to see, with music on the set everybody just moved differently. I'd seen Johnny (Depp) act in a way I'd never seen before, walking across the room or sitting in the chair, picking up a razor or making a pie, whatever. They all did it in a way that you could sense."

Depp said of working with Baron Cohen, when asked what he was like in real life (meaning, not doing one of his trademark characters), "He's not what I expected. I didn't look at those characters and think, 'This will be the sweetest guy in the world'. He's incredibly nice. A real gentleman, kind of elegant. I was impressed with him. He's kind of today's equivalent of Peter Sellers."

External links Edit

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