A DreamWorks Studios representative confirmed reports that the ghost characters — including Lee's "Gentleman Ghost," as a previous release titled his role — have been cut from the film.
The new "Gentleman Ghost" character raised many inquisitive eyebrows when Tim Burton's film cast was announced, since the stage musical does not employ such a character. Lee, speaking to London's Telegraph who broke the story, saw the bright side: "It would have been worse if I had done the scenes, but I never got to film them. It's a shame as the lyrics were wonderful, but these things happen."
The film would have marked the actor's fourth collaboration with director Burton — following his work on "Sleepy Hollow," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and, in voice, on "Corpse Bride."
The DreamWorks Studios/Warner Bros. film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical is penned by John Logan ("The Aviator," "Gladiator"). Work is underway at London's Pinewood Studios for the film, which is slated for a Dec. 21 limited release with a wide opening on Jan. 11, 2008.
"I've always wanted to do a musical and Sweeney Todd is my favorite," said Tim Burton in the release. "Stephen's blend of humor, horror and emotion is something that has always connected with me."
Sondheim joins the director in his enthusiasm. "Sometimes a story or stage production has to wait a long time until the right people come together to turn it into a motion picture. That's what has happened with Sweeney Todd and I'm excited as well as confident that it will be a first-rate and startling movie."
Sweeney Todd follows the story of a wrongfully imprisoned barber in Victorian England who sets out to seek revenge on the judge who imprisoned him. The stage work features a score by Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler based on the play by Christopher Bond.
Burton returns to his familiar casting pool with Depp (the duo have previously teamed on "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood," "Sleepy Hollow," "Corpse Bride" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") and Carter (seen in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Big Fish," "Planet of the Apes" and in voice on "Corpse Bride"). Depp takes on the title role with Carter as piemaker Mrs. Lovett.
The film will also feature Alan Rickman (Private Lives, the "Harry Potter" films) as Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall ("Harry Potter") as Beadle Bamford and Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat," "Talladega Nights") as Signor Adolfo Pirelli.
Rounding out the cast are Laura Michelle Kelly (Fiddler on the Roof) as the Beggar Woman, Jamie Campbell Bowen as Anthony, Jayne Wisener as Johanna and newcomer Ed Sanders as Toby. "All the stars will do their own singing from Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics," according to the announcement.
The production team includes Tony Award winners Jonathan Tunick (orchestrator) and Paul Gemignani (musical supervisor) as well as director of photography Dariusz Wolski ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), production designer Dante Ferrati ("The Aviator"), costume designer Colleen Atwood ("Memoirs of a Geisha," "Chicago"), hair and make-up designer Peter Owen ("The Lord of the Rings") and editor Chris Lebenzon.
The film is produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and John Logan.
Sweeney Todd originally opened on Broadway in 1979 starring Len Cariou (as Sweeney) and Angela Lansbury (as Mrs. Lovett) — both earned Tony Awards for their performances. Harold Prince directed the production, which took home the 1979 Tony for Best Musical. Subsequent revivals have starred Beth Fowler and Bob Gunton (1989 on Broadway), George Hearn and Patti LuPone (2001 concert), Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski (2002 - Kennedy Center) and the recent revival with Michael Cerveris and LuPone.
The score includes such tunes as "The Worst Pies in London," "Johanna," "Pretty Women," "A Little Priest," "By the Sea" and "Not While I'm Around."