Depp plays "punk rock Sweeney Todd" in new film

Mon Dec 3, 2007 8:16am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - He once likened his singing voice to "the mating call of a rutting stag."

But Johnny Depp did not let it get in the way of arguably his most challenging film role yet -- an all-singing turn as the serial-killing barber Sweeney Todd in a remake of the Stephen Sondheim musical.

Directed by long-time collaborator Tim Burton, Depp is pale-faced and dark-eyed in the grim story of revenge, blending into the black-and-white world of grimy 19th Century London punctuated only by the vivid red of his victims' blood.

His sinister sidekick is Mrs. Lovett, played by Burton's partner Helena Bonham Carter, whose meat pies start to sell like hot cakes when she teams up with neighbor Todd in an ingenious venture to dispose of the countless bodies he produces.

"I never sang before in my life, so I had to kind of find my way to it," Depp told journalists in London at a recent press launch for the film, which premieres on Monday. "I didn't know if I would be able to hit a note, to be honest."

To find out, Depp called a member of the band he played for in the 1980s and recorded "My Friends," an early song in the musical. When producer Richard Zanuck heard the recording, he believed Depp could pull it off.

The 44-year-old star of the hit "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, as well as Burton pictures including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Edward Scissorhands," said he hoped to bring something new to the Sweeney Todd legend.

"I just thought it might be a great opportunity to try to find a new Sweeney, a different Sweeney, in a good way a slightly more contemporary, almost like a punk rock Sweeney."   Continued...

<p>Cast member Johnny Depp attends the premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at Disneyland in Anaheim, California May 19, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>