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.
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“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.