DreamWorks unveiled "Sweeney Todd" to 700 members of the Hollywood elite tonight at the big theater on the Paramount lot, a grand fete hosted by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Stacey Snider in honor of attendees Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and Stephen Sondheim.
Even though Johnny portrays a demon barber who ruthlessly slashes the throats of innocent chaps who drop by his shop (then drop down through a trap door in the floor after getting the closest shaves of their lives), he tells us, "I love the character. He's super complex because there's a whole lot going on there. Fifty-one percent of the people say he's a madman and 49 percent say he's the original victim in the plot."
What does Johnny think?
"I belive he's a victim," he said. "I believe he's a tragic figure."
When I asked Sondheim if he was skeptical when he heard that Johnny — who has never before sung on screen — would portray the lead in the film adaptation of his Broadway musical, he replied, "No, I've always preferred actors who sing instead of singers who act and generally I've tried to cast that way with the shows in New York. They have to be musical. They have to be able to carry a tune. They have to have a sense of rhythm.
"Legitimate voices, so to speak, can be too big for the screen, particularly this," he added. "The screen is much more intimate, a realistic medium. In order for singing to work on the screen, it has to be acted and it has to be small."
ABOVE FROM LEFT: Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Richard Zanuck, Stephen Sondheim.
ABOVE: Johnny, we hardly knew ye before tonight, but Depp hung out with producer Richard Zanuck at left and chatted casually with scores of attendees.