Johnny Depp on Playing a "Classic" Vampire in Dark Shadows
10.18.11 by BJSprecher
When the first "spy" photos of Johnny Depp in makeup as Barnabas Collins on the set of Dark Shadows turned up online, fans weren't sure whether he was playing a vampire or a reject from his last collaboration with director Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately, Depp's makeup was less clownish in the first official cast photo that was released shortly thereafter, but the initial images left lingering questions in the minds of fans about the direction Burton and Depp were going with the character. In a recent interview with MTV, Depp explained that his character's look is inspired by the original '60s TV series on which the movie is based and by the desire to play Barnabas Collins as "a classic monster character" in "classic monster makeup," the way vampires were portrayed in cinema for decades.
The memory that I have of watching the show as a kid, Jonathan Frid and what he did with that character was the main inspiration, for sure. But also the idea of, over the years, these vampire movies have come out and vampire TV shows and stuff like that, and you go, "Well, nobody looks like a vampire, man. What happened?"
I adored Dracula, still do. I adored [everyone] from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee. I adore Nosferatu, [played by] Max Schreck. I adore all those wonderful sort-of horror films. And it was an opportunity really, an opportunity to sort of go into what really doesn't exist [onscreen] so much anymore, which is classic monster makeup and a classic monster character. So that was really the inspiration Tim and I talked about.
Dark Shadows was written for the screen by best-selling author Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer). The plot follows the return of the cursed vampire Barnabas Collins in the 1970s after being buried for more than 200 years. With nowhere else to go, Collins returns to his family estate to find it has fallen into disrepair and that his descendants are a dysfunctional lot harboring their own dark secrets. The cast includes Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Gulliver McGrath, Bella Heathcoate, Jackie Earle Hayley, Jonny Lee Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ray Shirley.