Behind The Scenes Saturday: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

Welcome back to Behind The Scenes Saturday! I know it’s been a while since I’ve made one of these, and I’m sorry! I’ve been focused on other posts, and my 100th blog took forever. Now, I’m ready to get back to it! This week is all about my favorite horror musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

(Trivia provided by IMDb.com)

(Pictures provided by google.com and IMDb.com)

(SPOILER ALERT!!!)

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  • The composer of the 1979 musical, Stephen Sondheim was very protective of his works, and often turned down the idea of a film adaptation. When Tim Burton expressed interest in the project, Sondheim agreed on the condition would have a say in casting. Burton’s dream team usually included Johnny Depp (Sweeney) and Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett). Sondheim was hesitant about casting Johnny Depp as the lead, because he was afraid Depp’s singing would be too rock oriented. Depp ended up doing a voice audition and immediately earned Sondheim’s approval. Helena ended up sending Sondheim at least 12 audition tapes in order to land the role of Mrs. Lovett. He was also impressed with her voice and (almost) immediately approved.
  • While auditioning for the role of Pirelli, Sacha Baron Cohen ended up singing the entire score of Fiddler On The Roof to Tim Burton.
  • While she was filming, Helena Bonham Carter was actually pregnant with her and Burton’s second child. She pointed out that, because the film was shot out of sequence, her bust is noticeably different sizes, depending on which scene you’re watching.

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  • Johnny Depp had difficulty handling real razors. Because of this, Depp asked the prop department to make a mechanical one for him that he can open with a press of a button.
  • In order to stay synchronized with the rhythm of the music, Helena Bonham Carter rehearsed her songs while practicing various baking techniques.
  • While preparing for his role, Sacha Baron Cohen hired his personal barber to help him with shaving techniques. It ended up taking Cohen around 16 hours to learn how to handle a razor.

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  • Tim Burton felt that the stage versions of Sweeney’s story lacked the blood and robbed it of its power. He saw the blood as Sweeney’s emotional release, as everything with him is internal. For that reason, Burton made sure his film would be plenty bloody.
  • Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is 15 years old in the film. Filmmakers didn’t want to hire Jayne, who was 19 years old at the time, because they thought she was too mature for the role. Jayne immediately changed their minds when she sent them pictures of herself without makeup. 
  • In the beginning, Anthony Stewart Head and Sir Christopher Lee were cast as a couple of Sweeney’s victims, and their spirits were going to sing The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd. After recording the songs, Tim Burton felt that they were too theatrical for the film. Lee was completely cut from the film, and Head only had a small cameo as a man who asks Sweeney if he had his own business.

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  • Anne Hathaway almost landed the role of Johanna. However, Tim Burton wanted an unknown actress to play her, and he chose Jayne Wisener.
  • Johnny Depp has stated that he feels Sweeney Todd is like a long lost relative to Edward Scissorhands, another character he played.
  • Johnny Depp got his inspiration for his performance as Sweeney Todd from Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Anthony Newley, and Iggy Pop.

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  • The food stylist for the film, Katharine Tidy, stated that she made about 600 pies for the film.
  • Sam Mendes was originally going to direct the film, and Russell Crowe almost played the titular character.
  • Mr. Fogg’s (Phillip Philmar) death was originally very different. In the stage musical, Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) saves Johanna but is unable to shoot Mr. Fogg. Johanna ends up taking the gun from Anthony and shooting Fogg herself. In the film, Anthony saves Johanna and leaves the other inmates to kill Fogg.

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