Johnny Depp as a vampire. A minor joy in my life for the past year and a half has been getting to tell someone the news. Turns out, Depp (like yours truly) was a huge fan of the gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows" and his production company bought the rights to it. Now Tim Burton is slated to direct, with Seth Grahame-Smith ("Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer") as screenwriter, Colleen Atwood ("Alice in Wonderland" "Silence of the Lambs" etc.) designing costumes and Bruno Delbonnel ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" "Across The Universe") as director of photography. The schedule says filming begins in April, with a release in 2012 -- by which time we'll have had one more "Twilight" movie, another season of "True Blood" and be watching a third season of "The Vampire Diaries."
With luck, this will be such a hit the Hillywood Sisters might do a parody. We can only hope!
Casting and location scouting remains underway. The Cornish town of Ifracomb, for example, received a visit by Tim Burton in January. While clearly not a fishing village in Maine, who can deny its ability to double as one? Look at the photo! Those cliffs alone!
What we do know is that Johnny Depp himself plays Barnabas Collins, the two-hundred-year-old vampire released by accident from his grave and trying to find a place for himself in the modern world. Depp in an interview recently praised the actor who created the role, Canadian Jonathan Frid. "For me, even the conversations I’ve had with Tim, what Jonathan Frid did with that character and that classic look he created, I find it very difficult to stray very far from that," Depp revealed in an interview with MTV. Several other actors went on to play the part, including Ben Cross in the 1991 revival and Alec Newman in the 2004 aborted pilot. Still others have played the part Off Off Broadway as well as in audio dramas for Big Finish.
Jackie Earl Haley has been cast as Willie Loomis, originally portrayed by John Karlen (of "Cagney and Lacey" fame) and Jim Fyfe. Haley's initial claim to fame was as the foul-mouthed pitcher in "Bad News Bears" but recently won raves as Rorschoch in the film adaptation of "Watchmen."
Eve Green will be playing Angelique, mistress then wife of Barnabas, a witch who cursed the man she loved to become a vampire. In the original series (played by Lara Parker) she famously proclaimed that all who loved him would die. The rivival saw Lysette Anthony ("Without A Clue" "Dracula, Dead and Loving It") take on the role while later Ivana Milicevic (Riley's wife Sam on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer") took it on in the unfinished pilot for the WB. Green, unlike previous Angeliques, is actually French. She played the very first Bond Girl up against Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale" as well as essaying another witch, in "The Golden Compass." Before then she might have been best-known in this country for Bernardo Bertulucci's "Dreamers."
More puzzling is Bella Heathcoate. Although listed in IMDB, no confirmation exists (as of this writing) that she's taken the part. Various sources note she's in negotiations. Still more puzzling is her role. One gathers she's supposed to be Barnabas' love interest, but who might that be precisely? In the original series, which lasted over three years, he had several. First came Josette DuPres, his 18th century fiancee. Next was Victoria Winters, the governess at Collinwood (the huge estate of the local land barons). When first introduced, Victoria herself seemed a nice enough young woman whose parentage remained an unsolved mystery. In the 1991 revival, it was made virtually explicit that Josette had reincarnated as Victoria. Not so in the original series! There he met a Josette lookalike named Maggie Evans, a waitress with no other connection than her looks to Barnabas' long-lost love. The WB pilot went with the same choice. In the feature film "The House of Dark Shadows" Maggie become Collinwood's governess! Again, no reincarnation, just a resemblance. In the series, Barnabas also fell for a lovely girl named Roxanne, who upon learning of his condition was not afraid.
So who is Heathcoate playing? We'll all have to wait and see.
Heathcoate herself is probably best known from the t.v. series "Neighbours."
More updates will follow as information reveals itself. Will Helena Bonham Carter play a role? Sir Christopher Lee? Is Danny Elfman doing the music? What will the film look like? Who will play Julia, Roger, Liz and Carolyn? Stay tuned!
Update: While writing this, two other bits of casting came out. First, Helena Bonham Carter will be joining the cast, probably as Dr. Julia Hoffman. So will Michelle Pfeiffer--who worked with Burton before as Catwoman in "Batman Returns"--as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, matriarch of the Collins family.