Those familiar with the work of Johnny Deppare likely aware of his penchant for exploring characters who are quirky and misunderstood — so his decision to take on the role of conflicted vampire Barnabas Collins in “Dark Shadows” is not at all surprising.
The Tim Burton-directed family melodrama is an adaptation of the popular TV soap opera of the same name, which began airing in the late 1960s and interested Depp not just because he was a fan of the show and had always dreamed of playing a vampire, but because this particular vampire never wanted to be one in the first place and has to learn how to exist in the strange and curious setting of the 1970s.
“Playing a kind of reluctant vampire, in a sense, the reluctant vampire who has been locked in a box for 200 years and his misfortune to be let out in an age when things are probably at their most surreal in terms of 1972,” Depp explained of why Barnabas is more interesting than your average fictional bloodsucker. “It’s a very odd period. Things are changing radically; the sort of peace and love thing was over with, and we were rapidly approaching disco, so musically and aesthetically, that was the fun of it, to place this hyper-elegant figure from the late 18th century into one of the weirdest times of all time.”
Depp’s conflicted Barnabas is supported by an equally strange cast of characters played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloë Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley and Jonny Lee Miller, who all relished the opportunity to camp and vamp up for a cause — not that the film is a straight comedy, by any means.
“It’s a funny film for me, because I never considered it a comedy,” Burton said. “I was always trying to capture the weird vibe of ’Dark Shadows,’ which is a weird thing to try to capture. It was a weird daytime soap opera. … It’s not like I’m being campy with it or anything,” Burton said. “The guy’s been locked in a box for 200 years, and [when] he comes out … something weird is going to happen.”
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