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October 1999

Johnny Depp Isn't Johnny Depp Anymore
He got the girl, got a baby, got a place to live. Johnny Depp is growing up and he likes that just fine.

By Tom Shone

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"I just can't believe the English tabloids didn't use the headline ED WOOD," laughs Tim Burton, referring to the last movie he and Depp made together. Sleepy Hollow is their third collaboration: an adaptation of Washington Irving's classic tale about the headless horseman. "I liked the opposition between a character with no head and a character who lives entirely in his head," says Burton, although he could equally be talking about himself, or Depp for that matter. You wonder how on earth these two chronic dreamers have survived in the movie business, until you remember that, for the duration of three movies at least, they've had each other.

"Tim and I grew up with a very similar outlook," says Depp, "the same obsessions with things that seem perfectly normal but which, in fact, when you really look at them are perfectly absurd. Like on the wall of one house where I lived: a macrame owl! People would come over for dinner and never notice it. Me, I stood there and looked at it for hours. Why would anyone take, not a few minutes, but months to put a couple of needles in wool and make this thing, this owl? That's beyond primitive. I mean I could dream about that for 40 years and never come up with a fucking answer. Or resin grapes...why? These are the things that Tim and I connected on."

Reports from the set of Sleepy Hollow suggest that Burton's dark visual wit has been working at full tilt--his designs have all their usual wild, tumorous proliferation. "I respond more to the visual," says Burton. "I'm not the most verbal, so it's nice with someone like Johnny, who understands with only a few words--there's that connective tissue." It's a fair warning to talk show hosts to steer clear of the pair of them ("I went on The Arsenio Hall Show with Johnny once..." remembers Burton--"Ten minutes of silence.") but also a subtle reminder of the fact that their best work together approaches the rarefied plane of silent cinema. Sleepy Hollow is all flickering Cabinet of Dr. Caligari grimaces, while the character of Edward Scissorhands--with his blade-sprouting fists and petrified shuffle--was like some cross between Buster Keaton and a pair of garden shears.

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