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Memoirs of a Film Groupie: The European Premier of Sweeney Todd

By Kirsty OUP-UK

How jealous am I? Last night Judith Luna, Commissioning Editor of the Oxford World’s Classics series was lucky enough to go to the European premiere of Tim Burton‘s film version of Sweeney Todd in Leicester Square in London last night. She has very kindly written about her experience as a film groupie just for the OUP Blog. Allow me to hand over to her…

sweeney-todd-depp.jpgLast night I attended the premiere of Sweeney Todd at the Odeon, Leicester Square, courtesy of Warner Brothers, and it has to count as one of the most memorable occasions I can remember. Perched by the window upstairs in Bella Italia for a pre-film snack, we had a grandstand view of the Square, bedecked with blood red lanterns and laser beams, with crowds of fans waiting in the rain behind barriers for the stars to arrive. There were cameras and film crews everywhere and a parade of people walking through the square and along the elevated red-carpeted walkway into the cinema. When the time came, we began our walk down the red carpet just as the people carrier bringing Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter drew up, to mad screams from the fans. Sadly we were not accosted for our autographs, and instead watched the stars arrive on a live feed inside the cinema. They took to the stage before the screening, and went on to the after-show party at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand (and so did we!).

The film is terrific. Filmed throughout in subdued blues and greys, against surreal backdrops of London, it combines dialogue and singing seamlessly. Depp and Bonham-Carter can really sing, and all the principals put in compelling performances, including a bravura turn from Sacha Baron-Cohen as a rival ‘Italian’ barber. It is not for the faint-hearted, as it is very gory, but the blood and violence is very much part of the gothicky, Grand Guignol aspects of the work and it is, after all, a pretty violent story.

The after-show party was one long celebrity-spotting night: Paul Whitehouse was on the Warner Bros coach transport with us from the cinema, and also spotted were Mark Gatiss of League of Gentlemen (and Dr Who) fame, Ruby Wax, and Janet Suzman. I had a short conversation with the charming and very pretty Jayne Wisener, who plays Todd’s daughter Joanna in the film, and we both agreed that the sound of brains hitting concrete is the worst bit to watch. Alan Rickman, Jamie Campbell Brewer (who plays Anthony, who falls in love with Joanna) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Todd’s wife) all signed a copy of the OUP edition of Sweeney Todd, though sadly I didn’t get hold of Depp, Burton or Bonham-Carter. There were hundreds of people, and the champagne and cocktails, not to mention the meat pies, were flowing till the small hours. I have concluded that publishing doesn’t hold a candle to film-making when it comes to glamour!

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