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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Movies)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Movies)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Movies)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Movies)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Movies)
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Information about Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (film)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 2007 (12 years ago) movie directed by Tim Burton. It is an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Tony Award–winning 1979 (40 years ago) musical thriller. It re-tells the Victorian melodramatic tale of Sweeney Todd, an English barber who murders his customers with a straight razor and, with the help of his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, turns their remains into meat pies.

Having been struck by the cinematic qualities of Sondheim's musical while still a student, Burton had entertained the notion of a movie version since the early 1980 (39 years ago). However, it was not until 2006 (13 years ago) that he had the opportunity to realize this ambition, when DreamWorks announced his appointment as replacement for director Sam Mendes, who had been working on such an adaptation. Sondheim, although not directly involved, was extensively consulted during the film's production. It stars Johnny Depp (9 walls) as Sweeney Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett. Depp, not known for his singing, took lessons in preparation for his role, which producer Richard D. Zanuck acknowledged was something of a gamble. However, Depp's vocal performance, despite being criticized as lacking certain musical qualities, was generally thought by critics to suit the part.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was released in the United States on dec. 21, 2007 (12 years ago), and in the United Kingdom on Jan. 25, 2008 (11 years ago), to largely enthusiastic reviews. However, Warner Bros.'s decision not to advertise the movie as a musical led to complaints from some cinema-goers, who felt they had been deliberately misled. The movie won a number of awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion picture (wallpaper) - Musical or Comedy, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion picture (wallpaper) Musical or Comedy, and the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. Johnny Depp (9 walls) was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Although not an outstanding financial success in the U.S., it performed well worldwide, and has spawned a soundtrack album and various DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) releases.



Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp (9 walls)), a skilled barber, is falsely charged and sentenced to a life of hard labor in Australia by the corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who lusts after Barker's wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly). Now under the assumed name "Sweeney Todd", Barker returns to London with sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower). At his old Fleet Street lodgings above Mrs. Nellie Lovett's (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop, he discovers that Lucy, having been raped by Turpin, has poisoned herself, and his teenage daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is now Turpin's ward, and like her mother before her, is the object of his unwanted affections. Todd vows revenge, reopening his barber shop in the upstairs flat.

While roaming London, Anthony spots Johanna (Green Finch and Linnett Bird) and falls in love with her, but is ejected from the Judge's house by Turpin and his associate, Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall). Far from being discouraged, the sailor becomes determined that the pair will elope (Johanna). Meanwhile, Todd, during a visit to the marketplace, denounces a fraudulent hair tonic by faux-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen), and later humiliates him in a public shaving contest. Pirelli and his boy assistant Toby (Ed Sanders) visit Todd's barbershop; Lovett keeps Toby occupied downstairs, while in the parlor Pirelli reveals himself to be Todd's former assistant and attempts to blackmail him into paying him half of Todd's earnings or he will reveal Todd's real identity. Instead of giving Pirelli a pay off Todd murders him to protect the secret of his true identity.

Turpin, intending to propose to Johanna, pays a visit to Todd's parlor to groom himself into Johanna's ideal suitor. Recognizing his tormentor, Todd relaxes the judge while preparing to slit his throat. Before he can do so, they are interrupted by Anthony, who, unaware of Turpin's presence, bursts in and reveals his plan to elope with Johanna. Turpin leaves enraged, vowing to never return. His plan thwarted, Todd has an epiphany, and decides to vent his murderous rage upon his customers while waiting for another chance to kill Turpin. He is indiscriminate about his victims — he believes that he is punishing the corrupt aristocracy for their exploitation of those below them and, at the same time, saving the lower classes from their misery.

Lovett becomes his willing accomplice, suggesting they dispose of the bodies by baking them into pies to improve her business. Todd enthusiastically agrees, and rigs his barber's chair with a pedal-operated mechanism, which deposits his victims through a trap door into Lovett's bakehouse. As the weeks pass, Todd's murders accumulate (although he is shown sparing a man who brings his wife and daughter, suggesting a family like he might have had invokes his softer side). Meanwhile, Anthony begins to search for Johanna, who was sent by Turpin to Fogg's insane asylum as punishment for her refusal to marry him.

The barbering and pie-making business prospers financially, and Lovett takes in young Toby. Anthony finally discovers Johanna's whereabouts and, following Todd's plan, poses as a wig-maker's apprentice, allowing him access to the asylum to put a rescue plan into action. Todd's motive for assisting is to lure Turpin back to the barber shop, and he sends Toby to the courthouse to let the judge know where he will find Johanna. Toby has become wary of Todd, and when he returns he tells Lovett of his distrust, unaware of her complicity in his crimes, he promises to protect Mrs. Lovett, whom he has come to love as a surrogate mother. Beadle Bamford arrives at the barber shop and is murdered by Todd, and Lovett informs Todd of Toby's suspicions. The pair search for Toby, whom Lovett has locked in the basement bakehouse to keep him out of the way. He is nowhere to be found, having hidden in the sewers after seeing the Beadle's body drop into the room from the trapdoor above, as well as finding fingers in a pie. Meanwhile, Anthony brings a disguised Johanna to the shop, where she hides herself in a trunk in a corner of the room.

An insane beggar woman who has been pestering Todd, Lovett and Anthony throughout the movie now makes her way into the shop. As Todd enters, she claims that she recognizes him. Just then, Turpin's voice is heard. Todd quickly slits the beggar woman's throat and deposits her body through the trap door. As Turpin enters, Todd explains to him that Johanna had repented, and offers a free shave. Todd then reveals his true identity and stabs Turpin in the neck numerous times before finally slitting his throat and dropping him through the trap door. As Johanna peeks out of the trunk, Todd spots her and prepares to slit her throat as well, not recognizing her as his daughter. A scream from Lovett diverts him to the basement, where she tells him that Turpin had still been alive and tried to grab at her dress before bleeding to death. Viewing the corpses in the light of the bakehouse fire, Todd discovers that the beggar woman was his wife, Lucy, whom he had believed to be dead based on Lovett's account of the poisoning. Todd realizes that Lovett knew Lucy was alive. Lovett points out that she never said Lucy died; and, after attempting to convince Sweeney that she misled him for his own good, she confesses she lied because she loves him and would be a better wife than Lucy ever was. Todd pretends to forgive her, waltzing maniacally with her around the bakehouse before hurling her into the open oven. He watches her burn as he shuts the oven door and locks it. He returns to Lucy and cradles her dead body as Toby emerges from the sewer, picks up the discarded razor, sneaks up behind the barber, and slits Todd's throat (Todd appears to hear him, but he simply raises his neck, and allows Toby to kill him.) The movie ends with Todd bleeding over his dead wife as Toby walks away.


  • Johnny Depp (9 walls) as Benjamin Barker / Sweeney Todd
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett
  • Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin
  • Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope
  • Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Davie Collins / Signor Adolfo Pirelli
  • Ed Sanders as Tobias "Toby" Ragg
  • Laura Michelle Kelly as Lucy Barker
  • Jayne Wisener as Johanna Barker



Tim Burton first saw Stephen Sondheim's 1979 (40 years ago) stage musical, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, as a CalArts student in London in 1980 (39 years ago). Although not a fan of the musical genre, Burton was struck by how cinematic the musical was, and repeatedly attended subsequent performances. He described it as a silent movie with music, and was "dazzled both by the music and its sense of the macabre." When his directing career took off in the late 1980s, Burton approached Sondheim with a view to making a cinematic adaptation, but nothing came of it. In Sondheim's words, "[Burton] went off and did other things."

Meanwhile, director Sam Mendes had been working on a movie version of the story for several years, and in Jun. 2003 (16 years ago) Sondheim was approached to write the script. Although he turned down the offer, Mendes and producer Walter F. Parkes obtained his approval to use writer John Logan instead. Logan had previously collaborated with Parkes on Gladiator, and claimed his biggest challenge in adapting the Sondheim stageplay "was taking a sprawling, magnificent Broadway musical and making it cinematic, and an emotionally honest film. Onstage, you can have a chorus sing as the people of London, but I think that would be alienating in a movie." Mendes left to direct the 2005 (14 years ago) movie Jarhead, and Burton leaped at taking over the direction after his project, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, fell apart due to its excessive budget.

DreamWorks announced Burton's appointment in Aug. 2006 (13 years ago), and Johnny Depp (9 walls) was cast as Todd. On Burton's hiring, he and Logan reworked the screenplay; Logan felt they agreed over the film's tone due to "shared stunted childhoods watching Amicus movies". Turning a three-hour stage musical into a two-hour movie required some changes. Some songs were shortened, while others were completely removed. Christopher Lee, Peter Bowles, Anthony Head, and five other actors were set to play the ghost narrators, but their roles were cut. According to Lee, these elisions were due to time constraints caused by a break in filming during Mar. 2007 (12 years ago), while Depp's daughter recovered from an illness. Burton and Logan also reduced the prominence of other secondary elements, such as the romance between Todd's daughter Johanna and Anthony, to allow them to focus on the triangular relationship between Todd, Mrs. Lovett, and Toby.

In the film, Toby, rather than being a feeble-minded young man on the verge of insanity, is a little boy who, at the end, kills Todd in revenge for Todd's having killed Mrs. Lovett. Mrs. Lovett treats Toby in a more motherly way in the movie than in the show. While it isn't made as obvious that Mrs. Lovett wishes to kill Toby after he learns of their activities, she and Sweeney Todd do search for him, while Todd conceals a razor behind his back.


Filming began on Feb. 5, 2007 (12 years ago) at Pinewood Studios, and was completed by May 11, despite a brief interruption when Depp's daughter was taken seriously ill. Burton opted to movie in London, where he had felt "very much at home" since his work on Batman in 1989 (30 years ago). Production designer Dante Ferretti created a darker, more sinister London by adapting Fleet Street and its surrounding area. Burton initially planned to use minimal sets and movie in front of a green screen, but decided against it, stating that physical sets helped actors get into a musical frame of mind: "Just having people singing in front of a green screen seemed more disconnected". Depp created his own image (wallpaper) of Todd. Heavy purple and brown make-up was applied around his eyes to suggest fatigue and rage, as if "he's never slept".

Burton insisted that the movie be bloody, as he felt stage versions of the play which cut back on the bloodshed robbed it of its power. For him, "everything is so internal with Sweeney that [the blood] is like his emotional release. It's more about catharsis than it is a literal thing." Producer Richard D. Zanuck said that "[Burton] had a very clear plan that he wanted to lift that up into a surreal, almost Kill Bill (2 walls) kind of stylization. We had done tests and experiments with the neck slashing, with the blood popping out. I remember saying to Tim, 'My god, do we dare do this?'" On set, the fake blood was colored orange to render correctly on the desaturated color movie used, and crew members wore bin liners to avoid getting stained while filming. This macabre tone made some studios nervous, and it was not until Warner Bros., DreamWorks and Paramount had signed up for the project that the film's $50 million budget was covered. Burton said "the studio was cool about it and they accepted it because they knew what the show was. Any movie is a risk, but it is nice to be able to do something like that that doesn't fit into the musical or slasher movie categories."


Sweeney Todd had joined Ed Wood to become only the second movie in Burton's directing career with music not composed by Danny Elfman. Burton wanted to avoid the traditional approach of patches of dialogue interrupted by song. He cut the show's famous opening number, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", explaining, "Why have a chorus singing about 'attending the tale of Sweeney Todd' when you could just go ahead and attend it?" Sondheim acknowledged that, in adapting a musical to film, the plot has to be kept moving, and was sent MP3 files of his shortened songs by Mike Higham, the film's music producer, for approval. Several other songs were also cut, and Sondheim noted that there were "many changes, additions and deletions... [though]... if you just go along with it, I think you'll have a spectacular time." To create a larger, more cinematic feel, the score was reorchestrated by the stage musical's original orchestrator, Jonathan Tunick, who increased the orchestra from twenty-seven musicians to seventy-eight.

The Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Deluxe Complete Edition soundtrack was released on dec. 18 2007 (12 years ago). Johnny Depp's singing was described by a New York Times reviewer as "harsh and thin, but amazingly forceful". Another critic adds that, though Depp's voice "does not have much heft or power", "his ear is obviously excellent, because his pitch is dead-on accurate... Beyond his good pitch and phrasing, the expressive colorings of his singing are crucial to the portrayal. Beneath this Sweeney’s vacant, sullen exterior is a man consumed with a murderous rage that threatens to burst forth every time he slowly takes a breath and is poised to speak. Yet when he sings, his voice crackles and breaks with sadness." Weezer's Brian Bell stated that the soundtrack was his favourite album of 2008 (11 years ago).


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street officially opened at the US box office on dec. 21, 2007 (12 years ago) in 1,249 theatres, and took $9,300,805 in its opening weekend. Worldwide releases followed during Jan. and Feb. 2008 (11 years ago), with the movie performing well in the United Kingdom and Japan. Sweeney Todd grossed $52.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $99.62 million in other markets, accumulating a worldwide total of $152.52 million. In the United States, the Marcus Theaters Corporation was not initially planning to screen the movie after its premiere, because it was unable to reach a pricing agreement with Paramount. However, the dispute was resolved in time for the official release.


Although Stephen Sondheim was cautious of a cinematic adaptation of his musical, he was largely impressed by the results. Public reaction was very favorable — as of sep. 16, 2008 (11 years ago), the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86 percent of critics gave the movie positive reviews, based on 198 reviews, and Metacritic gave the movie an average score of 83 out of 100, based on 39 reviews. Sweeney Todd appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best movies of 2007 (12 years ago).

Of the reviewers, Time rated it an A-minus and added, "Burton and Depp infuse the brilliant cold steel of Stephen Sondheim's score with a burning passion. Helena Bonham Carter and a superb supporting cast bring focused fury to this musical nightmare. It's bloody great." Time's Richard Corliss named the movie one of its top ten movies of 2007 (12 years ago), placing it fifth. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it four stars out of four, lauding Burton's visual style. In his review in Variety, Todd McCarthy called it "both sharp and fleet" and "a satisfying screen version of Stephen Sondheim's landmark 1979 (40 years ago) theatrical musical... things have turned out uniformly right thanks to highly focused direction by Tim Burton, expert screw-tightening by scenarist John Logan, and haunted and musically adept lead performances from Johnny Depp (9 walls) and Helena Bonham Carter. Assembled artistic combo assures the movie will reap by far the biggest audience to see a pure Sondheim musical, although just how big depends on the upscale crowd’s tolerance for buckets of blood, and the degree to which the masses stay away due to the whiff of the highbrow." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B-plus on the Movie Reviews section and stated, "To stage a proper Sweeney Todd, necks must be slit, human flesh must be squished into pastries, and blood ought to spurt in fountains and rivers of death. Enter Tim Burton, who... has tenderly art-directed soup-thick, tomato-red, fake-gore blood with the zest of a Hollywood-funded Jackson Pollock." She went on to refer to the piece as "opulent, attentive... so finely minced a mixture of Sondheim's original melodrama and Burton's signature spicing that it's difficult to think of any other filmmaker so naturally suited for the job."

On the DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) Reviews section, EW's Chris Nashawaty gave the movie an A-minus, stating, "Depp's soaring voice makes you wonder what other tricks he's been hiding... Watching Depp's barber wield his razors... it's hard not to be reminded of Edward Scissorhands frantically shaping hedges into animal topiaries 18 years ago... and all of the twisted beauty we would've missed out on had [Burton and Depp] never met." In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers awarded it 3½ out of 4 stars and added, "Sweeney Todd is a thriller-diller from start to finish: scary, monstrously funny and melodically thrilling... [the film] is a bloody wonder, intimate and epic, horrific and heart-rending as it flies on the wings of Sondheim's most thunderously exciting score." As with Time, the critic ranked it fifth on his list of the best movies of 2007 (12 years ago). Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter said, "The blood juxtaposed to the music is highly unsettling. It runs contrary to expectations. Burton pushes this gore into his audiences' faces so as to feel the madness and the destructive fury of Sweeney's obsession. Teaming with Depp, his long-time alter ego, Burton makes Sweeney a smoldering dark pit of fury and hate that consumes itself. With his sturdy acting and surprisingly good voice, Depp is a Sweeney Todd for the ages." Harry Knowles gave the movie a highly positive review, calling it Burton's best movie since Ed Wood, his favorite Burton film, and said it was possibly superior. He praised all of the cast and the cinematography, but noted it would probably not appeal to non-musical fans due to the dominance of music in the film.

Not every review was positive. Cole Haddon of was critical of Depp's and Bonham Carter's singing voices and the use of CGI. Acknowledging his stance, Haddon stated that his unfavorable review of the movie was "contrary to everything you’ve read elsewhere", as well as saying that "I stand alone against the masses," highlighting the enormous critical acclaim the movie had received.

The movie ranks 490th on Empire magazine's 2008 (11 years ago) list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.


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