Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If You're Looking for Mrs. Lovett, She's on the Casting Couch.

Pardon the indelicacy but it pays to boink the director. Helena Bonham-Carter, Tim Burton's eternal fiancee, has landed the legendary role of Mrs. Lovett in his adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. This after, apparently, lots of A list courtesy auditions for Toni Collette, Cyndi Lauper, Annette Bening, Emma Thompson, and more...

Don't misunderstand me. Helena Bonham-Carter is a fine actress. If this were The World According to Nathaniel she'd have won the Oscar in 1997 for her sensationally incisive turn in Wings of the Dove.


But Tim... Tim... Casting your girlfriend in the lead role of a difficult musical? Especially after auditioning other more consistently great actresses who have already proven they can sing superbly? It just seems so... I don't know, Hollywood producer. Not auteur like at all. Are you not taking moviemaking seriously? Couldn't Helena have played the Beggar Woman or something? That's the type of role you used to give your girlfriends: slightly backgrounded or, at most, key supporting and that was fine. A film doesn't live or die by those roles.

Now. I had heard that Stephen Sondheim had been heavily involved with the pre-production which confuses me given the casting decisions thus far. Is no one listening to him? Or am I overestimating him? They've announced four actors: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Broadbent. I actually like all four of those actors. But only one (Broadbent) has proven he has what it takes for a musical. You'll remember that Depp was dubbed for Crybaby, with songs that are roughly 197 times easier to sing than the ones in Sweeney Todd.

I wish them all luck. I really and truly do. I hope that the casting powers-that-be know something I don't about this cast. I want this to be great --musicals being my favorite genre and this being one of my all time favorites within it. But I have a terrible sinking feeling...

Previously in my obsession with Sweeney Todd

37 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

I suppose I need to go out and find a Helena Bonham Carter lookalike so I can throw something at her, which is what I said I'd do if Helena got cast.

Ugh. This is getting ridiculous, Tim. For crying out loud. There are other actresses than your wife. Just cause she can't get hired in anything else...

J.J. said...

Emma. Thompson. Come. On.

Anonymous said...

You have more hope for this version of 'Sweeney Todd' that I, Nathaniel. As soon as I found out that Burton and Depp were doing it I gave up worrying about how the other parts were cast. Didn't seem to matter, when I feel that those two are both so thoroughly wrong for this project...

Anonymous said...

Toni Collette, the great singer/actress/dancer, gets passed over again for the lead role in a major musical by a lesser (or, at least, unproven) talent. I like Helena Bonham Carter -- loved her in WotD and 'Fight Club' -- but come on, this has the stomach-churning, gag-inducing whiff of Renee Zellweger in 'Chicago' all over it! I hope ST bombs just to spite the too-big-for-his-britches Johnny Depp and Tim Burton (who's hardly an auteur).

Anonymous said...

um, I guess we shoulda seen this one comin' lol. but, I was foolish enough to think Burton would cast an actress who is better suited for the role. Oh well.

kristoferrobbin said...

All right- it's a bit much, but I love Johnny, love Helena and LOVE Tim Burton. He sees the world like I do. Creepy but kindof cute. Anyone for pie?

Alanna said...

Is there evidence that Emma, Toni, or Annette are better singers than Helena?

And I'm sorry, but IMHO Cyndi Lauper is a joke.

This whole resurgence in movie musicals is just a way for actors to show how multi-talented they are, even though many of these roles are woefully miscast. See: Richard Gere in Chicago. Bleh.

Anonymous said...

You have an opportunity to cast anyone you like who can sing AND act. You can even go for complete unknowns if you like. A whole world of talent is yours for the picking.

Result?

Phantom. Of. The. Opera.

Ergo, thank God for the charismatic Helena (proven to have at least 85 more expressions than Emmy Rossum) and Johnny (proven to be able to sing better than Gerard Butler, what with - ya know - not being Gerard Butler).

Oh sure, they could have gone with Patti and A.N.Other and made a serious attempt at making a good film with a definitive cast. But what the hell would we have to bitch about then?

Besides, there's always the DVD of the Lansbury/Hearn production for anyone who gives a hang about seeing it done well...

Rob

NATHANIEL R said...

To Alanna:
I have no evidence that Helena B-C can't sing. But neither do we have any evidence that she can. Toni on the other hand is an amazing singer, dancer, actor (I've seen her do all three simultaneously with mine own two eyes on Broadway). I don't know about the voices of Emma and Annette. Haven't heard them. And Cyndi is no joke. She can act (Emmy award plus I've seen her on Broadway doing it) and lord knows she can sing (one of the best voices in the business).

To Rob:
Yeah, Phantom is a mess... and they did go more of a true musical route with it but it had a horrid director. And at least Patrick Wilson was a great choice (can sing and act) he was just stuck in an awful production.

I just don't see what's so hard about casting people with the combo of acting skills/singing voice/star charisma.

There are people with all three. I just don't get why Hollywood can't look at say Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago and make the connection: Gee, this person who can do all things required for a musical is better than these others who can't. Let's cast that way.

Johnny Depp has two of the three qualifications. But if he couldn't handle karaoke level vocals for Crybaby --my guess is his voice is as bad as Butlers. or worse.

adam k. said...

Yeah, I lost most of my hope for this when I heard Burton and Depp were doing it. And this just confirms the future badness of it. Where did that rumor about Collette come from anyway? Wasn't true at all, apparently.

It really boggles the mind how bad some casting is in Hollywood. It's REALLY not that hard to cast good people in musicals. They are everywhere.

You'd think people would take a hint when Zeta-Jones won the oscar for Chicago and the others didn't. It's cause SHE COULD SING AND DANCE, hello.

David S. said...

Toni Collette! I hadn't even thought of her as an option, but she seems perfect for the role. However, I guess I can see Helena Bonham-Carter in the role, as well. I suppose she'll have to do. I really liked her in Howards End, but I've yet to see The Wings of the Dove.

NATHANIEL R said...

Toni did audition. I've heard it from more than one source. How close she got to getting the role is of course unknown...though there were rumors it was almost hers.

since it was HBC though, this tends to make me think that all of the auditions were courtesy.

but again HBC --i think she's a fine actress and should have more oscar nominations than she has plus a win. so best to her... but singing?

brad said...

Carter did audition for Sondheim, though I had been under the impression it was for the Beggar Woman. He definitely approved her casting though, so I assume that means she sings at least reasonably well.

NATHANIEL R said...

does it? he approved Depp's casting too and we have every reason to believe that Depp can't sing.

Anonymous said...

Patrick Wilson is a terrific singer, yes, and he's the only person in Phantom I didn't have a problem with on some level. The only reason he didn't register much for me is because Raoul is a bitch of a thankless role.

I must add that I thought Butler's physical "acting" performance was revelatory and really rather good. It was just the singing that sucked. I was holding my breath to see if he'd make notes. And pre-recorded notes at that. Oy.

Off topic, but hey ho.

Rob

adam k. said...

Yeah, the least Schumacher could've done is gotten him some voice lessons so he at least knew what he was doing. God, I hate him.

I want to know why Sondheim approved the casting of these people. Will Depp be dubbed or what? That would be tragic. But perhaps not as tragic as having him sing for real.

And if Burton was just gonna cast HBC anyway, why did he audition all these people and get all these rumors flying? I guess I get the point of courtesy auditions, but god.

Anyway, I'm not holding my breath for anything good... maybe in 10 years someone'll remake this with Patrick Wilson and Toni Collette in the leads.

Anonymous said...

As I've posted at Oscarwatch. Take out the songs -> Irma La Douce.
Dubbing -> West Side Story.

- cal roth

Satlure said...

I thought Jim Broadbent was also dubbed for vocals in Moulin Rouge!.

However, he was excellent in making it seem like he was actually singing.

Anonymous said...

couldn't they just have waited for meryl or rejiggered the schedule or whatever that problem was?

NATHANIEL R said...

from my understanding meryl was only involved in the sam mendes/russell crowe phase.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Maybe Depp's improved his singing since 1989 (or whenever Crybaby was, I forget.) However, if let's remember that he also mimed badly in that movie.

Still, Why aren't more Hollywood people calling Tim Burton out on this. It's as if he thinks Johnny Depp and The Mrs are the only actors capable of starring in his films.

I like Carter too though. It surprised me to learn she didn't get any nominations from major awards groups for A Room With a View. Odd.

brad said...

Well, Depp's characters' singing in CRYBABY was a John Waters effect. It wasn't supposed to look natural or even particularly real. I doubt they even really considered whether he could do the singing himself, so I'm not sure if that is the best barometer of whether he can sing or not.

Carter has sung in movies before - albeit usually "in character" - as Ophelia and in ROOM WITH A VIEW and CORPSE BRIDE.

Neither Depp or Carter has had much reason to demonstrate vocal abilities up til now, so frankly there isn't much ground to debate on until the film is actually in pre-production.

All we know is that Sondheim approved these choices (and disapproved of other candidates Burton suggested).

BTW, Jake Gyllenhaal is being considered for Anthony. He definitely sings.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Thing is due to the lack of musicals in this day and age, film actors who are passionate about singing and dancing can go to broadway or the west end or wherever.

And so when it comes to Tim Burton casting Depp and Carter, is seems like he's doing it more as a convenience to him and his wife than to actually finding the best singing and dancing stars.

adam k. said...

Well, whoever brought up the dubbing in West Side Story... it's a point. I guess it is possible to make great musicals with dubbing. I just feel like you shouldn't, though, when good candidates are clearly available.

I am willing to give this a chance; I'm just not holding my breath. It may actually turn out great, who knows. Whatever.

I believe Jim Broadbent mostly sang his own songs in Moulin Rouge, but was just dubbed by computer enhanced voices in the big, surreal sequences. Plus he danced.

And Jake has definitely talked in interviews about singing at his Moulin Rouge audition and how he lost the role to Ewan. I'm sure he sings quite well.

Anonymous said...

"I just feel like you shouldn't, though, when good candidates are clearly available."

You really like drama. Andrews can sing better than Hepburn, Hepburn is cast, My Fair Lady is a masterpiece. Dubbed.
Give Burton a chance.

- cal roth

Kamikaze Camel said...

But then if it doesn't work then we'll be stuck with another musical flop and the genre will go down the drain!

It's like like Japanese horror remakes were hot for a while and then they all became awful (well, even more awful than they were in the first place) and now they're all but gone.

brad said...

Well, there really isn't much dancing in SWEENEY TODD, so that's not so much part of the equation.

The modern musical may be a chance of one step forward - two steps back - or perhaps with the case of RENT, THE PRODUCERS and PHANTOM - three steps back. But we look to be getting our one foot forward again with DREAMGIRLS, which if successful, will on its own greenlight some of the half a dozen Broadway musical adaptations in active development.

I don't believe Depp or Carter will be dubbed. The stigma attached to that in this day and age is too huge. What people don't generally remember is that most people, at the time, didn't really realize that Natalie Wood was dubbed in WEST SIDE STORY or that Rosalind Russell was dubbed in GYPSY; those things were kept rather hugh-hush. You also have to remember that if those films were made today, Wood and Audrey Hepburn probably wouldn't have been dubbed at all. If you listen to their original vocal tracks, there is clearly enough *there* that a modern technician could sweeten and digitally alter to make them sound just fine.

"Best" person for the role is always a subjective statement. Certainly Burton had emotional attachments when he cast Carter over say, Emma Thompson - but Carter too also is a superb actress, knows his style intimately and is a perfect aesthetic fit with Johnny Depp.

Sondheim has been adament that SWEENEY be a horror film. Not whimsy like Burton is so famous for. Perhaps Sondheim gave his blessing on casting to compromise so that HIS vision for a movie of his masterpiece will as a FILM be what he wants it to be.

Felix said...

I think either Sondheim approves of the cast and they are great or he has no idea what's going on. I refuse to believe he'd approve of anything that wasn't quality. Sondheim deserves that much credit.

with that said, I'm getting really nervous with these casting choices and I'm afraid of what be coming next.


Ps: If you like Sweeney go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4z9i3R7UAQ
Len and Angela still and will always be the best.

NATHANIEL R said...

i've been trying to work out why i'm so upset about this when i like both actors. and it's this: the casting of Helena with Johnny indicates to me that this will not be "stephen sondheim's sweeney todd" at all but "tim burton's sweeney todd". I understand that the director is the most important to a film. But in cases when you're adapting a classic piece that already has an authoritative voice behind it, you should approach it as a co-authorship. but with this casting it just looks like 'here's another tim burton picture...you like those' kind of approach to moviemaking.

and so I'm upset. that said I'll go see it and I'll root for everyone involved.

as to "best for a role" I agree that it's subjective. I realize that my eternal devotion to West Side Story is at odds with my otherwise absolutist feelings about casting musicals. But there it is. I firmly believe that you need the right person for the role and the right person should have the right musical talent. period.

otherwise you're editing around them (see: Zellweger & Gere in Chicago) and to me that's sacrificing your film for the sake of a star when there ARE stars with the correct musical talent.

also: as i've said a million times. The movie musical will never be safely back as a real genre until it starts producing stars that are famous principally for their musical talent: i.e. new garlands, andrews, astaires, and streisands. and the only way that's ever going to happen is if the producers, directors, and rights holders start respecting musical talent and stop trying to work around the deficit of...

[/rant]

Anonymous said...

Jim Broadbent was definitely dubbed in 'Moulin Rouge'. A guy named Anthony Weigh sang his parts. Jim Broadbent only sang a tiny bit, and that was more like talk-singing than real singing. He also rapped. :)

I have no problem with dubbing in principal. Of course, when it's Johnny Depp, a guy everyone's so familar with, if the voice match weren't perfect everyone would notice. Still not the end of the world though, as far as I'm concerned.
The only question I would have about it is concerns how much of the performance in Sweeney Todd is the singing. If Depp isn't singing his own part, that means somebody else is doing half his characterization for him. Doubt that'll happen, especially since Johnny Depp has stated that he was going to attempt to sing for this movie...

Anonymous said...

"but with this casting it just looks like 'here's another tim burton picture...you like those' kind of approach to moviemaking."

I understand what you're saying, but I really prefer another Tim Burton masterpiece than a Sondheim-Burton co-authorship, since the best of Burton only happens if the movie is all about what he represents as a director.

- cal roth

adam k. said...

Well, to Cal: I have a personal connection to this issue (and maybe be biased) since I happen to be an actor who sings, and as such I believe that it's important for actors to actually sing their parts. It's not just that I "really like drama"... though of course I do. Why would I always be on a film/oscar website if I didn't like drama?

And I think Nathaniel makes a good point about how musicals will never have consistent respect as a genre until there are REAL musical stars again. What makes musicals special is the singing. The singing is how the actors express their souls. And when the people doing the singing are not the ones onscreen getting the credit, something is clearly wrong.

And I agree about Burton being best when he's really being Burton, but in this case, his sensibility seems incompatible with the sensibility of the show, and that might be disastrous. But that said, I want it to be great, and it still might be. I am rooting for it.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Adapting Broadway musicals to the screen is just like adapting books. If they say too strict to the stage version they feel like the director just planted a camera on stage and rolled, but if they defer too much from the original it feels wrong and disjointed.

If Burton decides to adapt a famous Sondheim Broadway musical, he has to realise that it's a big deal to fans and if he gets it wrong then there'll be hell to pay.

Kevin Laforest said...

EVERYone is dubbed in Bollywood, and these movies are still awesome, so...

Anonymous said...

Point taken, Adam. I really want it to be good because I think Burton is great. It has to be great, even if it has nothing to do with Sondhiem. But will people recognize it, if it happens - a great Burton, not Sondheim-ish?

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I really think that it is important that you remember that the genre of musicals has moved on (and quite rightly so!). I am a working actor who happens to sing and I have noticed a great deal of change (even in the last six years)in the attitude of directors in the uk to how they approach a role. It is characterisation first and the singing is fitted to the characterisation, this leads to a much grittier performance and is a step away from the slightly stilted caricature performances of past days and leads to an entire package. I think Helena Bonham Carter will be amazing and I have to say was routing for her to be cast!

Anonymous said...

Helena Bonham Carter has ALWAYS had to audition for anything Tim Burton directs, she's always said she would hate to think she got a part purely because she is the directors girlfriend. She had to audition for Stephen Sondheim as well as Tim, and last time I checked, she wasn't HIS girlfriend.

Shes very good in the role, she acts it very well, even the parts were she has to show she's attracted to Sweeney. I can imagine acting that your in love with your boyfriends best friend is awkard anyway, never mind the fact that said boyfriend is filming it.

She does a fantastic job, she acts Mrs Lovett withthe right mix of evilness and warmth. One of my favourite films ever.