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Hanks and Spielberg, Jimmy Stewart and Hitchcock, Deniro and Scorsese. This is all phenomenal actor-director pairs in the film industry. This hugely successful collaborations, often display the same remarkable off-beat sense of substance, style and quirkiness. This style has for director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp remarkably worked out big Time.
Historical back ground Depp-Burton collaboration
Since the early 1990s when the pair first collaborated on a box office hit film Edward Scissorhands. Almost all the projects they paired on have achieved commercial success, critical acclaim and reviews. With some leading to the actor getting nominated for the prestigious Oscars, for a role in one of their films. This collaboration has shown genius creativity, understanding and chemistry on screen to bring forth the most truthful, unique and compelling performances
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The pair have worked on eight film projects together. They have come to be regarded as one of the most fruitful movie making combination of recent years. Their style match, Tim Burton cartoonish and heavily gothic directing style which has become his trademark, coupled with the on edge teetering and quirky acting method portrayed by Johnny Depp have become tantamount with the tasty and offbeat pictures most present in dark humor.
This film collaboration kicked off with the 1990s Edward Scissorhands, a film based on deranged tales in the 1950s on forbidden romance. This film was widely successful marking the start of the creative adventures between the two. The pair was next reunited in 1994 where Depp played a role in a Tim Burton’s loving tribute to “the world’s worst director” film titled “Ed Wood”. The movie won Burton the most acclaims as well as earning Depp’s a golden globe nomination for his performance. Cortez, (2004). While asked about this film Depp was quoted saying that within ten minutes of knowing about the project he was committed. This goes to show how the director Tim Burton’s script projects are a fit for actor Johnny Depp.
Five years later the partnership venture was on again in sleepy hollow (1999) where Depp played the role of Ichabod crane. The film was a grand remake of classic horror story the legend of sleepy hollow. The film was a box office hit but this was greatly attributed to Burton’s creativity and directing ability, other than Depp’s performance on the film. The pair dint work together until 2005 where Depp played the mad candy maker Willy Wonka in Charlie and the chocolate factory. In July that same year Depp lent his voice in the making of corpse bride.
Depp was nominated for the golden globe and the Oscar for his role in Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber in 2007 a musical. Three years later the Depp-Burton venture saw Depp play the role of Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland. This year 2012 has been no different with the two collaborating alongside other Tim Burton regular cast in dark shadows.
Professional acting, training, techniques and influences
Burton drew inspiration for animation from Ray Harryhausen. Director Tim Burton attended Cal arts for training and later the Disney department for animation. In his book titled Burton on Burton, (Mark Salisbury (Ed). The movie director talks of his training in the Disney studios as an animator. His work is heavily influenced and characterized by dark humor, gothic themes and dark anguish where he creates dense and bizarre look at different specific characters for each film. This is well illustrated in films like the batman movies, Edward Scissorhands, Bettlejuice and sleepy hollow.
Burton uses various techniques in portraying mastery in dark and overwhelmingly nightmarish corners that prowl within the mortal mind. He does employ several unique techniques that show great fondness for the peculiar and surreal narratives told via films. This has become his signature in filmmaking with his visual style instantly recognizable in his films. Some of this techniques include, stop-motion technique employed in the film “The Nightmare before Christmas”. In Feb 1997, Burton changed the stop motion technique after the industrial light and magic (ILM) showed him their version of Jurassic park and he was overly impressed. Color either over or under saturated to create a gothic and dreamlike state, Dutch tilt and point of view shots like one used in “Edward Scissorhands”
Burton does seem to draw influences from other filmmakers especially derived from his love of films by Federico Fellini an Italian film master. This influence is most evident in the film “Bigfish”. It is however evident that Burton draws most of his influence from different genres of movies as opposed to direct influence from the specific film maker. He uses these films and inspirations from other film makers as a base or canvas on which he produces unbelievable sights for all to witness.
The director once said that some of the things you see as a child have a long lasting effect on you that you spend your whole life trying to recreate them. He grew up watching things like the Brian that wouldn’t die on television from where his roots for horror films were born.
Actor Johnny Depp began taking acting lessons in 1986 at the loft studios. His quirky character and commanding voice coupled with the ability to adopt and own the various roles he has been cast puts him a grade above others. In an interview with IGN film forces Steve Head, Depp characterizes his vast array of characters portrayed, to his adventurous nature and challenge for the role, it is not a reflection of his life and he jumps from character to character so he is not stuck in one identity.
Different roles require different skills for an actor to truly execute the role; Depp had to take singing lessons with his long Time partner Vanessa Paradis for his role in the musical Sweeney Todd. He also had to take hair cutting training for this role demon barber.
Events influencing roles
Life events have influence on an actor’s approach to the roles, in 1994 Depp following ups and downs o acting career, Depp was overly depressed about movies and filmmaking. At the Time he landed a role in the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood. This gave him an opportunity to extend himself and have fun with the project. He said that his love for acting was rejuvenated working with landau a fellow actor.
Lifestyle and childhood also influence a director’s story or an actor’s role choice. Scott Rudin, a producer once concluded that the inability of director Tim Burton to socially communicate and express himself as a teenager led to most of his movies, siting the movie Edward Scissorhands. The characters reflected the directors’ personal life. He argued that actor Johnny Depp was merely depicting the director in his movies. Tim denied this claims although Depp agreed with Rudins’ assessment.
Casting back ground and consideration
As much as a director my like to cast guys he likes working with. Director Tim Burton in an interview said he cannot just cast actor Johnny Depp in a role in the film just because they have good chemistry. The director has to find the best match for that particular role. Each role requires unique qualities. He also said that all the actors he has worked with understand that.
With requirements for actors to perfectly suit roles. Director Tim Burton has had a fairly easy task in casting his lead actor in Johnny Depp. In the making of Edward Scissorhands in 1990, Burton and producer Denise Novi had to weigh considerations for casting the rising shining star at the Time Tom Cruise. But the impressive audition by Johnny Depp won the directors respect and he was cast for the role. This was Depps’ first feature film.
This role changed Depps fate forever. He associated more with the dark gothic appeal and themes presented by director Tim Burton that at some point he rejected offers so as he can be available to appear in this directors movies. After the filming of Edward Scisssorhands, a definitive path seemed to appear for Johnny Depp. Salisbury (2008). It was as if the directors movies had roles tailor made for actor Johnny Depp, with their fruitful collaborations of over eight successful movie projects to date.
Approach to rehearsal or preparation for the roles or projects
Different actors have specific ways of preparing for roles. Actor Johnny Depp often paints a portrait of his still developing character. This is to aid him in finding his personality and face for the character. Getting the character right involves research, great understanding and excellent script interpretation by the actor. In the making of “The Mad Hatter” Depp made a portrait of the mad hatter staring down at him. Director Burton with his well-known background in animation and art drew his various characters and when the two compared the handiwork, Depp said they were very close. (Rachel Abramowitz L.A Times)
Important aspects of collaborations
The most important aspect of the Depp-Burton collaboration lies in the ability to find a common interest and understanding in both role development and directing. Most of the films directed by Tim Burton involve a lot of freedom of expression in the form of art. These have been key in in the collaboration as it appeals to the actor as well. Another important aspect to a successful actor director partnership is to allow the actor some freedom to play around with the character he is playing so that it feels more natural. This is something Burton has accorded Depp in the many films they have worked on.
Why the collaboration works
Burtons’ artistic gifted mind and the offbeat acting style of Johnny Depp have proven to be a fruitful winning combination. Depp is extremely effective in portraying characters in director Burton’s films. Speaking in reference to Depps character Charlie in “Charlie and the chocolate factory”, Burton s says that Depp loves to work spontaneously. In that same movie Depp is said to have scrambled his character together in just 15 minutes. This goes to show the adaptability and skill level of the actor.
The directors techniques and the qualities a director is looking for goes a long way in establishing good chemistry between the actor and director. When asked about casting Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands, Burton said that as much as Depp was looked at as the handsome lead role, Depp himself dint believe he was and in some way that helped him relate to the movie character, of being perceived one thing and being another.
The choice of dark humor, anguish and nightmarish approach adopted by director Burton merges perfect to actor Depps quirky character hence bringing forth a more believable feature.
Other aspiring directors and actors can learn the need to understand each other in both acting and directing. As far as the different roles require unique qualities, any successful pairing must have a common interest in the nature of the movies they make. Burton and Depp had art and paintings in common. This aided them in communicating through such expression.
Aspiring directors should also be able to use elements that have touched them in childhood and over the years and add their own personal and unique touch to those feelings, emotions, sights to bring forth something completely unexpected, familiar and breathtaking to behold.
Over the years both actor Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton have given many interviews. Below is a link to the audio interview where they both talk about their film project Alice in Wonderland.