‘Sweeney Todd’: Q&A with Alan Rickman

[IMG:L]After nearly 30 years in show business, it’s surprising to learn there’s something Alan Rickman hasn’t done: The movie musical. That is until now. Tim Burton enlisted the genre jumping actor to portray Judge Turpin in his new film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. No stranger to villains, Rickman plays the man responsible for putting Sweeney behind bars for 15 years on a trumped up charge so he could steal his wife and daughter.

“He’s amazing, because he can be unbelievably creepy and then, in the same shot, turn his head and be super-sweet and have these puppy dog eyes,” says costar Johnny Depp who plays Sweeney Todd in the film. 

Rickman proved to be “super sweet” in person too when Hollywood.com met up with him in London to find out more about his first time singing on screen, his take on Tim Burton and more.

[IMG:L]On learning to lip sync:
“Once you’ve kind of got it recorded then there’s a big sigh of relief because you know your then just going to be miming it all day … you couldn’t do it any other way because as soon as the shot gets cut or changed and you’re carrying on singing they’d never be able to match it … It would be wonderful to sing live, but also I think that if you were singing live for eight hours by the end of the day it would be a bit ragged.”

On why musicals are making a comeback:
“Well, maybe they have to find themselves again every so often. I mean, they certainly were [popular] in the ’30’s and the ’40’s and I suppose the ’50’s too…there weren’t too many around in the ’60’s and the ’70’s. So what was that about? I suppose that like Hair and all those were looking at the ’60’s. Maybe that was such a kind of particular time where young people were taking over the world a bit and the musical is not often a revolutionary form. That’s why it’s great that this has been made now because this would never have been made in any of those other periods. So musicals somehow have to reflect what’s happening. Hairspray is also looking back at a particular time, isn’t it?”

[IMG:L]On genre jumping:
“I think the thing about film is, as it gets proved by a lot of young filmmakers now, that the medium will just go on reinventing itself and so you just hope to be a part of that and not a part of some kind of endless regurgitation or ‘Here I am doing what you know I do’ kind of thing. Film has to be reflecting the world that we live in and that’s all you want to be a part of. Actors inhabit the same planet as everyone else. It’s a weird thing that happens when you’re an actor because people hold you up because you somehow embody in parts groups of people or people’s hopes or something. So I don’t know what it must be like to be Johnny Depp.”

On film versus theater:
“You can do a play, as I have done, that’s six months in London followed by six months in New York. By the end of a year of making it fresh every night that’s a different kind of assault on your stamina. So making movies, there’s something very refreshing that takes place when they say, ‘Okay, moving on.’ And you won’t have to say those lines ever again and it’s there forever. Whereas you can screw up onstage and go, ‘Well, shit. I’ll just do it in the next scene or tomorrow.’ So it’s a kind of checks and balances thing and I love them both for those reasons.”

[IMG:L]On reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
“Finally I know what the ending is. I’ve never known before. It’s all been guess work…I was with the family [when we bought the book] and I have a little 12-year-old who’s obsessed. So it wasn’t necessarily ceremonious…but it was quite touching because she was allowed to go and cue up at midnight and to watch her at one o’clock in the morning wrapped up in her dressing gown–it’s the power of storytelling.”

On director Tim Burton:
“He’s a measurably great director. He directs with the most minimal of means. He’d come up to me after a take and just go like that (gestures with hand) and it meant, ‘Yeah, but less.'”

Sweeney Todd opens wide Dec. 21, 2007