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Dark Shadows - Trailer

An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

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When it comes to being obsessed with the dark side, nobody does it better than Dark Shadows director Tim Burton.

With films such as Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd, Burton has become synonymous with doom and gloom, and he even has a few theories why.

I've seen a lot of therapists but I don't know how much help they gave me - Tim Burton. 

''When I was a child, I had a bedroom with two normal windows and for some reason my parents walled up my room so I had to stand on my desk to see out,'' the quirky director recalls, looking appropriately gothic in a black shirt and pants, with unshaven face and sporting dark sunglasses inside a bright Los Angeles hotel suite. ''It was this Edgar Allan Poe problem, like the story where he walls up his wife, so I think it's probably little incidents like that which … make you start thinking about strange things.''

Doom or bust ... Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in <em>Dark Shadows</em>.

Doom or bust ... Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows. Photo: AP

Burton's latest strange thoughts turned into a long-awaited film adaptation of Dark Shadows, the 1960s soap opera and cult classic about Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a wealthy playboy in 1772 who breaks the heart of the witch Angelique (Eva Green) when he falls in love with innocent beauty Josette (rising Australian star Bella Heathcote).

Angelique turns him into a vampire and buries him, and, when he is accidentally set free 200 years later, Collins discovers his family, now run by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), needs his help.

''Johnny, Michelle Pfeiffer and myself were of that generation that we all rushed home from school to watch the original show, because there had never been anything like it,'' the 53-year-old filmmaker recalls. ''It was a serious show but there was a slight absurdity to it and the humour in the film comes from the fact the guy has been locked in a box for 200 years and, of course, he's going to act weird when he gets out and it's 1972.''

Bella Heathcote as the "innocent" Josette.

Bella Heathcote as the "innocent" Josette.

It's the eighth time Burton and Depp have collaborated on a film but Burton says his close friend still surprises him.

''I never feel like I'm working with the same person twice,'' he insists.

''When you work with anybody more than once you always like to keep an edge going, to keep it feeling like it's fresh and new, and Johnny has that quality as a person and an actor.''

Tim Burton with his wife, Helena Bonham Carter.

Tim Burton with his wife, Helena Bonham Carter. Photo: Getty Images

For 24-year-old former Neighbours star Heathcote, Burton was not the aloof boss she anticipated. ''He was more effusive than I expected and had a really great sense of humour,'' she admits. ''I remember one day I came to do a scene in the wave tank and I'd mentioned to Tim I was a bit nervous about it but that I'd be fine when I psyched myself up, and when I walked on set he had Eye of the Tiger blasting through the speakers, so I definitely didn't expect that!''

Burton seems at peace with his fascination with all things dark. ''I've seen a lot of therapists but I don't know how much help they gave me,'' he says with amusement. ''I had one therapist who just sat there looking at me for an hour every day and finally I said, 'You're not helping; part of my problem is I don't communicate with people and you don't talk to me for an hour so I'm leaving' … so I stopped analysing all that stuff after that.''

Born in Burbank, California - a stone's throw from Disney Studios - Burton was an only child who spent most of his childhood alone, drawing cartoons and watching monster movies. A scholarship from Disney Animation led to study at the California Institute of the Arts and, in 1985, he landed his directorial debut for comedian Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, followed by the 1988 comedy hit Beetlejuice. Now living in London with English actress and Dark Shadows co-star Helena Bonham Carter and their two children Billy, 8, and Nell, 4, Burton chuckles about those early years.

''When I worked for Disney, I used to look out and could see the hospital where I was born and then the cemetery where my family was all buried, so it was like this Bermuda Triangle for me and I had to move out.''

While his children have introduced him to tamer TV shows such as Dora the Explorer, he's not about to lose his edge. ''I draw the line at making The Wiggles Movie,'' he says with mock horror. ''I'd only go so far for my kids!''

 

DARK SHADOWS

GENRE Dark comedy.
CRITICAL BUZZ
Major box-office take expected from fans of the original TV show, Burton and Depp.
STARS
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer.
DIRECTOR
Tim Burton.
RELEASE
Thursday.