Nothing says Christmas release like a blood-drenched musical about murder and revenge.
At the Variety screening of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” screenwriter John Logan and producer Richard D. Zanuck talked about the struggle to get the tuner on to the bigscreen.
“I saw the original Broadway production in 1979 when I was in high school,” said Logan. “It was the most thrilling evening I had ever spent in the theater, so the chance to work on it with Stephen Sondheim was an absolute dream come true, and incredibly intimidating.”
Zanuck had a different feeling when he came on board.
“Musicals did me in as a studio head,” admitted the producer. “I never wanted to touch a musical again, until this came along and Tim (Burton) said he can do it. We never really saw it as a musical. It was a horror piece in the old tradition put to music.”
Said Logan: “I’ve done big films, but nothing like ‘Sweeney Todd.’ You are faced with a language of Broadway, which seems to reflect the language of cinema, but actually isn’t,” said Logan. “It’s like turning a lion into a tiger. They are both great things, but completely different.”
Luckily, Tim Burton was an avid fan of the tuner as well.
“Tim first saw this show when he was a young art student in London in 1981. He saw it 12 times in a row and had a burning desire to do it. About 10 years ago he met with Sondheim, who was reluctant to give it up to anyone,” said Zanuck. “When Tim became Tim Burton and made some wonderful films, Sondheim warmed up to the idea.”
“Sondheim was very involved in how we were going to present this musical,” said Logan. “To his credit, he said to Tim, ‘I’ve done my job, now you do yours. Make this into a movie.’”