This year, filming finally began on director Tim Burton’s long-in-the-works big-screen adaptation of “Dark Shadows,” a campy, late-1960s soap opera about vampires, witches and time travel. Burton is a lifelong fan of the series and, as his partner Helena Bonham Carter told MTV News this month, “This was a thing that he raced home to see when he was about age 10.”
With its atmospheric New England setting and myriad mysterious characters, “Shadows” has the feel of a classic Burton film, more akin to his “Sleepy Hollow” and “Batman” flicks than his more candy-colored efforts like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” And Burton at his dark and spooky best, working on a passion project, is something to get excited about.
Production began on “Shadows” at Pinewood Studios outside of London in May. The director lined up a dream cast — from Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer to Chloe Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley, not a single part appears miscast.
And while Burton has kept the film under lock and key, paparazzi did catch a fleeting glimpse of Depp during production, which briefly became cause for worry among some fans of the series. The shot of Depp in character as Barnabus Collins, wearing heavy white makeup walking down a seaside hill, found its way online in mid-September and was derided by fans as being too cartoonish, too reminiscent of Depp’s styling in Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Based on those initial images, the world Burton looked to be creating seemed to have little in common with the Gothic aesthetic established in the soap.
Concerns were alleviated, however, when just a week later, Entertainment Weekly debuted the first official image from the film. Through Burton’s lens (and some creepy filters), Depp’s makeup took on the undead-but-oddly alluring look you’d expect from a traditional vampire movie. The rest of the cast captured the feel of their TV counterparts too: Pfeiffer looked regal and sullen as family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard; Johnny Lee Miller’s smarm as Roger Collins was apparent; and Bonham Carter looked every bit the orange-haired, eccentric “alcoholic psychiatrist,” Dr. Julia Hoffman.
Of the film, Moretz, who plays Carolyn Stoddard, had this to say when talking to MTV News last month: “It straddles the typical Burton line: camp and drama. It’s an amazing movie. Going in and working on this movie with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter — it really does get back to Tim’s roots. It gets back to ‘Beetlejuice,’ ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ back to true Burton. So working on this movie was epic for me because he’s always been my dream director to work with because, god, he’s so iconic.”
Moretz’s “Shadows” co-stars share the love for Burton. Pfeiffer, who worked with the director on 1992’s”Batman Returns,” described work on the new film as a “dream job.” “[It is] such a fun cast and we had so much fun. I just love working with Tim [Burton], I love watching him direct. [There’s] nobody like him,” she told MTV News. “I loved meeting Helena and getting to know her. I hope it’s successful so that we can do a bunch of them because it was such a fantastic, creative group of people.”
Hopefully, that on-set camaraderie and excitement will help “Shadows” fulfill fans’ high expectations. The original soap spanned some 1,225 episodes, so there’s plenty of plot for sequels if Pfeiffer gets her wish. While we’re still waiting for a trailer for the May 11, 2012, release (come on, Tim, give us something!), what we’ve seen so far gives us faith that Burton and Co. are getting it all exactly right!
Are you looking forward to seeing what Tim Burton and co. cook up for “Dark Shadows”? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me at @JohnMitchell83 with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!
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