Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many projects over the years, and there are several reasons why the director continually casts the actor in his movies. There are various actors whom Burton has relied on throughout his career, including Winona Ryder and former spouse Helena Bonham Carter. However, his work with Depp has provided his longest and arguably most successful filmmaking partnership.

They first met in 1989, when Depp was cast in the lead of Burton’s romantic fantasy Edward Scissorhands. Although Burton was quickly making a name for himself as a Gothic auteur following the success of Beetlejuice and Batman, Depp was still best known for cheesy police show 21 Jump Street. John Waters gave him an early chance to subvert his teen pin-up image in the delightfully camp musical Cry-Baby, but it was Burton who rejuvenated Depp’s love of acting and provided the roles that brought him critical acclaim.


Tim Burton and Johnny Depp instantly connected, going on to make eight films together, including Sleepy Hollow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Their last collaboration was 2012’s poorly-received Dark Shadows, with later efforts failing to recapture the magic of their early work. Still, it’s endearing to see an actor and director place so much trust in one another. Burton doesn’t cast Depp as his friend, but because he possesses distinctive physical and creative attributes that complement Tim Burton’s directing sensibilities.

The pair have remained close over the last 30 years, offering each other a great level of creative freedom without ever infringing on the other’s work. Depp seldom watches his own films, an aspect praised by Tim Burton in an interview with The Los Angeles Times: “You’re not having to sit there and go through the angst of somebody looking at the monitor.” It’s easy to see why this would benefit Burton, free of the constraints of vanity that accompany many movie stars. To have an actor who has complete faith in their director’s vision provides a great level of trust, meaning it’s little wonder he would rely on Depp for multiple projects. The pair also have a great deal in common, having bonded over their decidedly non-mainstream artistic intentions and a love of vintage horror, particularly the silent era.

Tim Burton has compared Johnny Depp to the star of 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera: “He is Lon Chaney. And that’s what always got me into movies, that kind of actor, that kind of person, that’s the DNA and energy of making film.” Dubbed “The Man of a Thousand Faces”, Chaney was renowned for his portrayals of tortured characters and makeup designs. Naturally, Burton would love working with Chaney’s modern-day successor, and Depp prefers to hide behind prosthetics and costumes, evidenced by the Mad Hatter or Captain Jack Sparrow. Continuing the silent film connection, Burton admires actors able to convey emotion without speaking. Per Young Post, he works with Depp due to his terrific understanding of movement and physical humor, and especially his expressive eyes. One example would be Johnny Depp as the shy, sensitive Edward, requiring subtle gestures over heavy dialogue.

That’s not to forget the mounting fear beneath the optimistic façade of notorious director Ed Wood and the sorrow filling the weary eyes of vengeful barber Sweeney Todd. Whether it’s biopics, musicals, or adaptations of Roald Dahl and Washington Irving, Depp knows how to deliver the misunderstood outcasts that inhabit Tim Burton’s worlds. Their collaborations haven’t all been successful, but with the right project, they have elevated each other to deliver the best work of their careers. With Burton helming Addams Family spinoff Wednesday, it’s obvious why many are calling for him to reunite with Johnny Depp once again.

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