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John August Says His Unmade ‘Godfather’-Esque ‘Dark Shadows’ Is One Of The Best Scripts He’s Written

John August Says His Unmade 'Godfather'-Esque 'Dark Shadows' Is One Of The Best Scripts He's Written

With “Frankenweenie” hitting theaters this weekend, and already riding on some very good reviews, it seems Tim Burton will be able to wash away the foul taste left in the mouths of his fans by “Dark Shadows.” This summer’s vampire comedy tale, based on an obscure TV show, ultimately did decent business (over $230 million worldwide) but couldn’t crack $100 million at home, which is not what you want from a movie starring Johnny Depp. An odd mashup of fish-out-of-water comedy and horror, the movie never tonally gelled, and kind of went out of control in the last act. But had things gone a different way, we would’ve seen an entirely different movie.

Burton’s regular collaborator John August (“Corpse Bride,” “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory,” “Big Fish,” “Frankenweenie”) was actually the first one to put his pen to paper on the script for “Dark Shadows,” but was replaced by new Burton buddy Seth Grahame-Smith (who is writing the “Beetlejuice” sequel) who did a rewrite. And while August retains a credit on “Dark Shadows,” he tells Shock ‘Til You Drop that his vision of the movie was vastly different than what ended up on screen.

“Dark Shadows, when it came to me, it was before ‘Twilight‘ had come out and before ‘True Blood.’ They said, ‘Let’s make a big gothic, vampire drama.’ I pitched that and I wrote a ‘Godfather‘-like saga of the Collins family and Barnabas was at the center of it all,” he explained. But as the movie developed, those other vampire franchises came and went, so the direction changed and the idea became to make it a comedy. But as August tells it, his version would have been much more straight-faced. He also says it was one of his finest screenplay efforts.

“It took itself seriously. It was set in ’71 too and leaned on that for a bit of the comedy, but it played itself straight and not a comedy. I was excited to make that movie and, honestly, I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve written,” he says. “But I totally get why, at the time they went off to make it, they didn’t make that version. It was frustrating to see other things coming out doing what was there, like ‘True Blood,’ but that’s going to happen.”

August has been in the business for a long time, hence his acceptance of how it all played out. But what do you think? Should Burton have stuck with August’s vision? Let us know below. 

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Can we see it please??????? I would LOVE to read it.


The script that ended up on the screen exhibited little understanding of basic storytelling. Characters disappeared for long periods, motivations (even for the key characters) seemed murky and undeveloped, and the film utilised two contradictory story structures (the oddball vampire as a fish-out-of-water is contrasted with the babysitter as a fish-out-of-water character, as well. Why??????????????????). The film wasn't edited well at all (why was the editing in the trailer better than the film's?), but it must have been difficult to try to construct some sense of narrative from that mess of a script. I like August's work, and would like to see what he came up with.


Me too.


Agreed with everyone here, let the script leak John, it can't harm the film now.

Colin Biggs

I'd love to give that draft a read.


this guy's the best. I would've seen that.


I would have actually seen the movie if they stuck with August's draft.


I am also hoping that the script will become available to us. This is the movie we wanted to see. I have a feeling we will soon see another DS project w/o Depp and company.

will mapes

John August rocks! I love his movies.


Is the script available online? Would love to read it.

Steven Packard

I Hope that dark shadows will be revived again on the big or small screen with the respect it deserves. The Burton/Depp film is an abomination.

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