The List: Ranking Johnny Depp in his Tim Burton collaborations
For this week's cover story, Jim Fischer spent some time getting to know Johanna Burton, who started her new role as Director of the Wexner Center in March. While Burton was generous with her time, Fischer wasn't able to log nearly as many hours with her as another Burton — film director Tim — has spent working with actor Johnny Depp. The actor has already appeared in eight of the director's films (though not his most recent, the newly released “Dumbo”). Here's our ranking of the actor's Burton roles from great to inexplicably bad.
“Edward Scissorhands” might be a better, more beloved film, but Depp has never been more captivating onscreen than in his portrayal of director Ed Wood, whose uncanny ability to churn out generally awful, homemade-looking films has endeared him to a generation of cult-cinema fans.
This much-loved film was made in 1990 when Depp was viewed as a charmingly esoteric heartthrob rather than an off-the-charts oddball (revisit the Rolling Stone profile from 2018 for a modern glimpse into his life) and alleged abuser (as ex Amber Heard contends and Depp denies). Somehow the allegations haven't harmed his standing with family studio Disney, though, which continued to trot him out in a series of big-budget, pirate-theme-park-ride-themed films.
Rather than recreating the Ichabod Crane of animated lore (knee-knockingly terrified, goofy and somewhat clumsy), Depp re-imagines him as a budding forensic detective banished to the small town of Sleepy Hollow, where he applies his careful methodology to investigating a series of beheadings. It's a role where the actor's odd mannerisms breathe further life into what could have been a two-dimensional character.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Among the better Burton-Depp pairings is this bloody good musical adaptation, which stars Depp in the title role. Extra props to cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who skillfully captures the dark, grimy feel of 19th-century London's most shadowy corners.
Depp voices Victor Van Dort, who, despite being a stop-animation creation, is among the more human characters the actor has portrayed in a Burton film.
“Alice in Wonderland”
Later-era Depp really has a knack for taking beloved characters from the past — in this case the Mad Hatter, perfectly captured in the animated Disney film — and completely draining the blood from them, turning them into one-note weirdos. (See: the next entry.)
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
You, sir, are no Gene Wilder.
A film — and performance — so bad that it makes the turgid “Charlie” look like a rollicking good time in comparison.