Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall and Sascha Baron Cohen. Johnny Depp plays the title character – Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – a barber who was sent to prison under false accusations. After 15 years he returns to London to take his revenge against those that wronged him and his family.
The movie is Tim Burton’s adaption of the 1979 Tony Award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Johnny Depp isn’t really known for his singing. He took singing lessons when he was cast for the part in preparation for the role. The producer of the film said that it was a bit of a gamble, but it seemed to work as the critics generally thought that he fit his character and the part.
When the movie was released I remember people critizing Helena Bonham Carter’s singing abilities, saying that her voice was too thin and weak for the portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, but I personally felt that it fit the story and the character for the film version.
Depp’s singing for me is personally one of the high points of the movie. His voice range goes from crackles at time that portrays great sadness to the voice of the demon when his rage is being expressed.
In the Victorian London, the barber Benjamin Barker is married to the gorgeous Lucy and they have a lovely child, Johanna. The beauty of Lucy attracts the attention of the corrupt Judge Turpin, who falsely accuses the barber of a crime that he did not commit and abuses Lucy later after gaining custody of her. After fifteen years in exile, Benjamin returns to London under the new identity of Sweeney Todd, seeking revenge against Turpin. He meets the widow Mrs. Lovett who is the owner of a meat pie shop who tells him that Lucy swallowed arsenic many years ago, and Turpin assigned himself tutor of Johanna. He opens a barber shop above her store, initiating a crime rampage against those who made him suffer and lose his beloved family.
Did you know?:
- In some of the scenes where Sweeney opens the razor very quickly, it is a mechanical razor. Depp requested that the prop department make him the mechanical razors as he had trouble handling the real ones.
- Tim Burton insisted that the film be bloody. He felt that with everything being so internal for Sweeney, that the blood was like his emotional release.
- For his preparation of Adolfo Pirelli, Sasha Baron Cohen hired a personal barber as a consultant on shaving techniques; it took him 16 hours to learn how to handle a razor.
- The address on Mrs. Lovett’s shop, number 186, is a reference to the London legend of Sweeney Todd, which places the barber at this very address.
- To prepare for the role, Depp recorded demo tapes of himself in West Hollywood working with old friend and music producer Bruce Witkin, to shape is own vocals without a voice coach.
- This is the second musical Johnny Depp has starred in, but this is the first one where he actually sings (he was only lip syncing in Cry Baby).
- Sweeney Todd and Ed Wood are the only two films in Tim Burton’s directing career with music not composed by Danny Elfman.
- Helena Bonham Carter practiced her song whilst practising baking techniques.
- The film was shipped to some theatres under the name ‘Skunk’. This was most likely due to the depiction of Todd with the white streak in his hair.
Adolfo Pirelli (Sasha Baron Cohen) and Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp)’s shaving contest
Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd sings “The worst pies in London”