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Why Tim Burton Casts Johnny Depp In So Many Of His Movies

Tim Burton has cast Johnny Depp in eight movies over their 30-year friendship, citing specific reasons for why he so often works with the actor.

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton‘s movie collaborations have been entertaining audiences for decades, and there are several reasons why the director continually casts the actor in his movies. Indeed, with Beetlejuice 2 confirmed to be in the works, another classic horror-comedy could soon be added to the long list of movies that the two have worked on together. Indeed, while there are various actors whom Burton has relied on throughout his career – including Winona Ryder and former spouse Helena Bonham Carter – his work with Depp has provided his longest and arguably most successful filmmaking partnership. Why is Johnny Depp always in Tim Burton movies? Properly answering this question entails looking back at the pair’s long history as creative partners.


Burton and Depp 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.

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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.

Tim Burton And Johnny Depp’s Creative Partnership Explained

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.

Related: Beetlejuice 2 Can Finally Repeat Tim Burton’s Classic Success Trick

Have Depp’s Recent Controversies Affected His Relationship With Burton?

amber heard issues statement on johnny depp verdict

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have not worked on anything together since Dark Shadows in 2012 – the same year Depp and Amber Heard started a relationship – leading many to wonder whether Depp’s controversies affected his creative partnership with Burton. Rumors about Johnny Depp joining Beetlejuice 2 certainly suggest that the pair could already be working together again, supported by Tim Burton’s listing as the sequel’s director on IMDB. It’s not been made public whether Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are still friends, but the most likely answer is yes. Following the jury of the Depp vs. Heard trial ruling in favor of Depp, Burton hasn’t spoken publicly regarding the matter. Prior to the televised case, though, when Burton was asked about Depp’s controversies, the director always commented on how he loves and trusts his creative partner. In short, the two are likely still friends, and this means that Burton and Depp may reunite for a film or television project soon enough.

Tim Burton Movies Without Johnny Depp

Michael Keaton's Batman with grapple gun in Batman Returns.

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s movies are products of a long-term creative partnership that has helped define mainstream cinema in the 20th century, but it’s fair to say that they’re not for everyone. For his faithful, anticipation is high for Johnny Depp’s next movie, but not everyone is scrambling to see Depp’s return to the screen post-trial. Here’s a list of every Tim Burton movie that does not feature Johnny Depp:

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