Actor Johnny Depp earned universal praise for his performance in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. However, it certainly wasn’t an easy role for the actor to play. The title character certainly fits into Depp’s wheelhouse, although he didn’t have much experience singing as he did in Sweeney Todd. As a result, he encountered the most “mortifying” thing about teaming up with Burton in this movie.
Johnny Depp starred in a musical before ‘Sweeney Todd’
IGN participated in a 2008 press conference including Depp for Sweeney Todd. One question asked him about his experience filming his first musical and if he would be interested in doing another one. However, it turns out that it isn’t his first time truly doing a musical.
“We’re doing the sequel now,” Depp joked with a laugh. “I actually did do a musical many years ago with John Waters called Cry-Baby, but technically it was only half me – it wasn’t me singing.”
Depp continued: “Tim’s the only person brave enough to actually let me try to sing. It was the first time I’d ever sung – I’d never even sung in the shower, I’m too mortified. But once I got over the initial fear it was kind of enjoyable. Sondheim’s melodies and lyrics are a real pleasure to tromp around in, it’s really beautiful stuff. Would I ever do it again? No, I doubt it.”
Johnny Depp revealed that singing on set was the most ‘mortifying’ part of filming ‘Sweeney Todd’
IGN reported a question aimed at Depp regarding the biggest acting challenges he faced on Sweeney Todd. There was a lot of discussion between the actor and Burton regarding how to pull off the songs, especially since Depp doesn’t classify himself as a singer.
“It’s funny because early on, when Tim and I talked about Sweeney and the idea of doing it, 50% of the job would be done before we ever stepped on the set with the recording of the songs,” Depp recalled. “Then we’d go in and lip sync to it. Or that’s what we thought.”
However, the process wouldn’t ultimately work that way. As a result, Depp went through an “extremely mortifying” experience that ultimately paid off in the end.
“But these guys know as well as I do that you go into the recording studio and sing your guts out recording the stuff, and do it as best you can and then you go onto the set,” Depp said. “We thought we were going to lip synch but in fact the only way to do it is to belt it out once again on the set, which is extremely mortifying. Everyone’s very, very close and you just feel like an idiot at first.”
Depp concluded: “But then it was oddly liberating, having music on the set all the way through. It made it interesting. It felt like we were doing a silent film.”
Did he channel David Bowie?
There was a lot of speculation at the time regarding who Depp was channeling for his vocals in Sweeney Todd. Many of his fans saw glimpses of David Bowie in his performance. However, the actor ultimately stepped in to set the record straight once and for all.
“A couple of people have said that, which is interesting because I wouldn’t ever dream of attempting to channel David Bowie,” Depp said. “He’s a big hero of mine. If there’s a similarity it wasn’t intentional. And it’s a nice compliment.”
Depp ultimately earned his most recent Oscar nomination for his performance in Sweeney Todd. However, he would ultimately lose the Oscar gold to Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood. It was a tough category including Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises, George Clooney for Michael Clayton, and Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah.