The greatest promise of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street is that it's not like other musicals. After all, the film is about a homicidal barber (played by Johnny Depp) and it is expected to have lots of violence and gore. It's no Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, that's for sure. But a rumor going around yesterday claimed Warner Bros. wants it to be more like those other family friendly kinds of musicals. After screening a cut of the film, during which WB execs were reportedly a tad squeamish, the studio had supposedly ordered a tamer, "PG-13" version. This was all according to The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid. Even if this were true, though, Warners is only the film's overseas distributor (co-producer Paramount/DreamWorks has domestic). So, the call for a cut would probably only be for the British market, which has always had more problems with violence than the U.S. Right now, the film is looking at a British rating of 18, and the studio reportedly wanted it down to a 15 (in case you can't tell, the UK ratings refer to the age allowed to see the film). For some reason, American media translated this to be the same as R and PG-13, which it isn't; British and U.S. ratings are decided by different groups and are based on different criteria.
Anyway, Variety's Anne Thompson got the real story from DreamWorks on Sunday night. The studio stated its intention has always been to release Sweeney Todd with an R rating. Then, on Monday, Thompson added that neither Paramount/DreamWorks nor Warner Bros. has seen the finished film, that they won't see it until at least the third week in September. It is possible that Warners has seen a lot of clips, some of which are rumored to be making a debut at the Venice Film Festival. By Monday evening, Variety had an article confirming that Paramount/DreamWorks is going wider with its domestic release of the film than originally planned. Instead of opening with a limited run on December 21 then going wide on January 11, Sweeney Todd will now bow on more than 1,500 screens on December 21. Apparently the studio is very happy with what it has seen of the film and thinks it has a very wide appeal, even with the fully intentioned R rating. This has to make Burton and producer Richard Zanuck happy; they didn't want the public to think it is too artsy, which could be assumed with a limited, Oscar-run type of opening.
Back to the Daily Mail article, there may actually be some worth to it, as it does get us excited about the definitely still-R-rated version. It discusses the nauseating props that were used in the making of Sweeney Todd, claiming that crew members often had to take fresh air breaks in order to recover their stomachs. The paper also details some of the blood splattering scenes and cites one particularly gory shot that (supposedly) had the WB execs complaining. It involved a young boy slicing up body parts, which were then fed into a meat grinder to fill pies with. Even if this whole part of the report is as false as the other, it has whet my appetite for the dark musical.
In unrelated Sweeney Todd news, the blog "I don't like Renee Zellweger" shared a new poster for the film on Monday. I'm not sure where the blog got the thing -- it could be a personal, fake or otherwise unofficial job -- but it was also posted, without a caption, on The Hot Blog. And today I'm seeing it pop up other places, still without an official claim to it. The definitely real poster, which we saw at Comic-Con is much more interesting, but this is a neat little teaser. Judging by the caption on "I don't like Renee Zellweger" and the comments on The Hot Blog, a lot of people prefer it.