Dozens of musicals have been adapted for the big screen, but not very many are as bloody as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sweeney Todd dates back all the way to 1846 to the serial The String of Pearls, but the character has been included in several plays over the years. In 2007, Tim Burton released his film adaptation of Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp in the titular role.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street got mainly positive reviews, with the film even managing to win the Oscar for Best Achievement in Art Direction. Despite the film being widely known by Burton fans and music enthusiasts alike, there are some things that you might not know about the movie. Here are 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Making Of Sweeney Todd.
10 The Composer Was Very Involved With The Casting Process
While the play of Sweeney Todd has been around since 1846, it wasn’t until 1979 that the play would be adapted into a musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Sondheim gave Burton permission to adapt his musical, but only if he was heavily involved in the casting process.
Helena Bonham Carter explained in the DVD featurette “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd” that Sondheim was initially hesitant to have Burton cast her as Mrs. Lovett since she had never sung in a movie before and because she was married to the director. Eventually, she proved that she could sing and Sondheim agreed to let her play the part.
9 Johnny Depp Was Cast Before Anybody Had Heard Him Sing
A good portion of the DVD featurette “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd” goes into the story of how each person was cast in the film. While everyone had to prove to Burton and Sonderheim they could sing, they trusted Depp when he said he could sing for the film.
The producers of the film revealed that they still hadn’t heard him sing even after sets, costumes, and props were being made for the film. Eventually, Johnny gave Burton and the producers a sample of his singing and they were relieved that their suspicions were correct.
8 Helena Bonham Carter Has Always Loved Sweeney Todd
Helena Bonham Carter has been acting since the 80s, but Sweeney Todd was her first-ever musical. In the DVD featurette “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd,” Carter revealed that she has always wanted to be in a musical and that she had been obsessed with Mrs. Lovett ever since she was 11-years-old.
She elaborated that she used to dress up as Mrs. Lovett as a kid and was eager to prove to Sondheim that she could act the part. Carter went to singing lessons for three months and after she got the part, then had to learn how to sing the complex songs while also baking pies.
7 There Is A Deleted Song
While there are a lot of songs in Sweeney Todd, not every song from Sondheim’s musical made it into the film adaptation. One of the songs that didn’t make it in was “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”. There were plans to include the song, with Christoper Lee as a character called The Gentleman Ghost, but the idea wasn’t included in the finished product.
Christopher Lee was understanding about the situation saying, “It would have been worse if I had done the scenes, but I never got to film them. It's a shame as the lyrics were wonderful, but these things happen.”
6 The Conductor Also Worked On The Original Musical In 1979
While Stephen Sondheim was heavily involved with Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, so was the music director named Paul Gemignani. Gemignani has been involved with several musicals over the years, most recently Mary Poppins Returns and Into the Woods.
Gemignani was the conductor and music supervisor for the 2007 film, but he was also the music director on the original Broadway and London productions of Sweeney Todd. The passion for Sweeney Todd also seems to run in his family as his son Alexander played Beadle Bamford in the 2005 Broadway revival of the musical.
5 Sam Mendes Almost Directed With Russell Crowe Starring
A film adaptation of Sweeney Todd had been in development long before Tim Burton tackled the project. Several directors were rumored to be involved with the movie, including Skyfall director Sam Mendes. Back in 2003 Mendes was in talks with Dreamworks to direct the adaptation, with many people believing that Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe would star as Sweeney Todd.
Despite neither one of the actors getting the role, both of them would later have big roles in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables . It’s believed Burton only agreed to do the project if Johnny Depp was Sweeney Todd and in 2006, Depp was officially cast in the role.
4 Anne Hathaway Was Almost Johanna
Anne Hathaway earned herself an Academy Award in 2013 for her performance in Les Misérables, but she almost appeared in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Hathaway was supposedly up for the role of Johanna, but Burton wanted someone who people wouldn’t recognize, so he went with newcomer Jayne Wisener.
However, Hathaway got to work with Burton later in her career when she was cast as the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Wisener has continued to act after her breakout role in 2007, but Sweeney Todd is still the biggest film of her career thus far.
3 Tim Burton Hates Musicals
Tim Burton was seemingly a perfect fit for the story of Sweeney Todd. The story included a lot of elements he often puts into his films, but it is surprising that he decided to do the film since he hates musicals. His then-wife Helena Bonham Carter revealed on the DVD featurette “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd ”that her husband hated musicals.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the only musical Burton has done to date. There were a lot of musical numbers in The Nightmare Before Christmas, but people often forget that he was only a writer and producer for that film.
2 Sweeney Todd Is The Only Adaptation That Sondheim Likes
Stephen Sondheim has had a successful career in the music industry dating all the way back to 1954. He has composed and wrote the lyrics for several musicals that were later adapted to film such as A Little Night Music and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Other musicals that he wrote lyrics for like Gypsy and West Side Story have also been adapted for film, but Sonderheim is very critical of film adaptions based on his work.
Until Burton’s Sweeney Todd, Sondheim said that he had never liked any of the film adaptations. That being said, he revealed on the DVD featurette “Burton + Depp + Carter = Todd” that he actually did enjoy Sweeney Todd.
1 Sacha Baron Cohen Sang Fiddler On The Roof For His Audition
Sacha Baron Cohen might be most associated with characters Borat and Brüno, but the actor has also appeared in musicals like Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd. In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Cohen plays the character Adolfo Pirelli who is an adversary to Todd and the creator of Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir.
When he came in to audition for Sweeney Todd, Cohen said that he sang from Fiddler on the Roof since that was one of the few things he could remember. He sang five or six songs, and Burton was immediately impressed.