Long before Bella and Edward bewitched the teen masses, director Tim Burton cut his otherworldly teeth on the supernatural soap opera, Dark Shadows. It tells the tale of vampire Barnabas Collins, who is entombed for two centuries before emerging into a va
Dabbling in dark arts
Q: So were you one of those kids in the ’ 70s who rushed home from school to watch the TV show Dark Shadows? A: Oh yes, didn’t do my homework. Lousy student! It was such an unusual thing. It was a specific time in America. Television was basic. It’s not like now where you can get everything on cable. It was kind of this weird, supernatural soap opera on every day in the afternoon. I remember it. Johnny [ Depp, who plays Barnabas] remembers it. And Michelle [ Pfeiffer], she used to watch it every morning in the make- up chair. It’s etched like a weird dream in our minds. Q: It was meant for housewives, but ended up being loved by teenagers and now you’re making the movie . . . A: It was a strange phenomenon. It was a melodramatic gothic soap opera and then they brought [ vampire] Barnabas Collins in and that’s what clicked with everybody. Strangely enough, it was the first version of what we see a lot of now – those TV shows GOTHIC TV: An ABC file photo shows Jonathan Frid, of the ’ 60s original vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows. that mix supernatural and drama, vampires, witches, werewolves. Dark Shadows was the first version. Q: How hesitant were you about doing a vampire movie? A: I never considered it to be a vampire movie. Barnabas Collins [ Depp] is a reluctant vampire. For me, it’s more of a family story that happens to have a vampire.
I never really felt I’m jumping on the vampire bandwagon.
I felt more this is a story where a guy’s been locked up for 200 years and he comes back and has trouble dealing with his life and family. Q: Is it true Johnny Depp was so obsessed with Barnabas when he was young that he wanted to grow up and be him? A: So he says. Looking at the way he turned out, be careful what you wish for! Q: There’s something like 1220 Dark Shadows episodes. What was essential for you to retain from the original? A: That made it hard. You can’t have every character. I finally boiled it down to a story about a family. The hardest thing was trying to capture the weird tone of Dark Shadows but still making a movie. Q: You made Alice in Wonderland in 10 days on a set and the rest was green screen. A: Yeah, horrible! Q: What was it like going back to basics with Dark Shadows? A: It was great, especially with a project that is more actor- based and not over- reliant on special effects and more about the characters. It helps me. It helps everybody. Especially when we’re going for kind of a strange tone: the Dark Shadows vibe. The house becomes a character and the environment is a character.
Q: Why no 3D?
A: Well, first of all, there wasn’t a lot of time. It’s a fairly short schedule for a movie like this. But bottom line, it’s set in the ’ 70s and we wanted it to feel like a ’ 70s film.
Q: I have to say, it’s a pretty spectacular cast you’ve got
A: Oh yes. It was a weird thing casting, too, ’ cos with the casting director we’d think about actors and I’d have this weird thing. I told her, ‘ Look, I can’t explain to you what I mean by this but some actors are Dark
Shadows and some aren’t.’ We’d talk about really good actors and I’d go ‘ They’re not really Dark Shadows to me.’
‘‘ I still can’t describe what that is. But when I look at our group of actors, they’re all Dark Shadows people. ‘‘ Whether they like it or not, they’re in the
Dark Shadows club.