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Moriarty Reports On Tim Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW

On my recent journey to Hollywood Land, I was abducted by Moriarty at my hotel. He took me to what I can only call his buddy's DR EVIL's chain of Big Boy restaurants and stuffed gargantuan amounts of ground cow into me. MMmmmmm Ground Cow. Then he threw me into the trunk of his Souped-up Tucker Hearse. The third eye beam cutting through the brown smog like a gas-lit lantern in the cobblestone streets of London. Moriarty hasn't come as far as he thought. From time to time I still hear his cackling in my mind, and this time, here's what the voice said...

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

It recently occurred to me that the reason all my henchmen are so bloody stupid (aside from the fact that I'm comparing their intellect to that of myself, an Evil Genius), is because their brains don't work. In an effort to fix the problem, I have been doing my best to genetically create a strain of henchmen that come without heads, thereby eliminating the whole brain problem.

Oddly enough, while I was in the middle of beta testing one of these new Headless Henchmen (all rights reserved, patent pending), someone delivered the script to Tim Burton's new SLEEPY HOLLOW project to my doorstep. Being a Burton fan from FRANKENWEENIE on, I had to immediately rip through the entire thing.

As we all know by now, VARIETY has reported that Johnny Depp will play Ichabod Crane. It also stated that Christina Ricci was likely to play Katrina Van Tassel. In their initial reports, they went on to describe Ichabod as a schoolteacher who battles Brom Bones for Katrina's hand.

Um... no.

That plot summary works for the original Washington Irving story, but it has nothing to do with the new film. The script was written by Andrew Kevin Walker (SE7EN), based on a story by Walker with Kevin Yeagher. For those of you who don't know Yeagher, he's a makeup FX artist turned director. He was one of the contributors to HELLRAISER: BLOODLINES. It reads to me like this script was written for Yeagher to direct. Trouble is, it also reads like a $75 million film. A damn good one.

I must say -- it's a marvelous read, edgy and intoxicating. It's a full-fledged horror film. There is indeed a Headless Horseman, and he's been haunting Sleepy Hollow, having claimed three heads already.

Ichabod Crane is a constable in New York City. The year is 1788. Ichabod is disgusted by what passes as "justice" and "police work." He sees his fellow cops beat and torture false confessions out of prisoners. He believes that science can be applied to turn police work into something that is precise, based on logic, deduction. Although Ichabod's ideas aren't original, they are damn near heretical. He is given the Sleepy Hollow job because his superiors want him out of New York, out of their sight. They tell him to solve (and stop) the beheadings using his "science," or not to come back.

What unfolds is a genuinely freaky and scary horror rollercoaster, with a heck of a likable hero at the heart of it. I'm going to go on record and say that this will finally be Johnny Depp's first big, big, BIG commercial hit. The Headless Horseman is a fantastic villain, the Terminator from Hell (literally), with a great backstory. He's not the main villain, though, since we learn early on that he's under the control of someone from Sleepy Hollow. The question of who is the film's main focus. Yes, that's right, the film is a mystery, one that actually challenges the viewer to keep guessing. It's also blatantly supernatural.

Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones are both in the film, but their roles are profoundly different than in Irving's story. This will no doubt shock and offend some purists, but let me assure you -- it's a great story on its own, and it is a case of radical revisionism resulting in something exciting and new. Anyone who's looking for the famous midnight ride should go ahead and start kicking and screaming now. This is not going to give you what you expect. What it will give you is a unique new chapter in Tim's filmography. Personally, I am very, very excited about this project and am thrilled he's doing it instead of SUPERMAN. I'll be there first show.

Right now, though, one of my even-more-retarded Headless Henchmen is trying to work his way through the whole hat conundrum, thereby obligating me to go take care of him. Until next time...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 26, 1998, 12:19 p.m. CST

    Good for Tim

    by jalora

    I like the idea of a revision of the original "Sleepy Hollow" story. I always felt it was too thin. Burton has created a whole new genre with his films - the live-action cartoon - which, IMHO, suits the world of Sleepy Hollow beautifully.

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 1:09 p.m. CST


    by pj3

    Why call it Sleepy Hollow? Why call the protagonist Ichabod Crane? Why set it in 18th century NY? Sounds like a thoroughly '90s cop-horror flick. Grafting Washington Irving's setting etc. onto it is a lazy way of getting initial attention for a derivative tale. Daviscourt's comparison to "Scarlet Letter" is apt.

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Christina Ricci is in this...

    by gurghi

    because Winona Ryder is too old to be quite so pure and vicious as Tim Burton requires. Besides, he's got a thing for death-club brunettes, ain't that obvious? Anyways, I'm stoked- rocks over Supes any day.

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 4:46 p.m. CST


    by kendall

    hey kids, well the idea of havin Christina Ricci workin with Tim Burton is a very exciting concept as he is a magical director and she is a gorgeous babe...also Johnny Depp,the ultimate poster boy and a great actor too,that Pumpkin Joker who said that Christina shouldn't be in it is obviously unaware of her genius and a big deakon.... xxx

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 5:23 p.m. CST

    sleepy hallow

    by jokerguy

    ahem..first of all..NO!! NOT TIM BURTON!!! this piece movie maker is good, but this project is not for him, i would go with someone like david fincher(seven) make it dark, not dark humored. this is a get piece of american literture and shouldnt be fucked with by a man who thinks nic cage would be a great superman. Johnny depp i can see in the part cause he is so great in anything he does. Christiana Ricci? i can think she can pull it off. i saw her in casper and i saw talent grow with well as her breast!

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 6:28 p.m. CST


    by me

    Tim Burton - don't Fuck with Wahington Irving, bitch. BTW: There were headless henchmen in Ultima a long time ago.

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 8:01 p.m. CST

    What the HELL was wrong with the original?

    by Bones

    Umm...No... When are people going to learn that when you adapt a classic story, you might want to oh, I don't know, FOLLOW THE STORY???!! The Washington Irving story is called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow...LEGEND, i.e. a story told over and over until everyone knows it. Tim, please don't screw too much with a good thing!

  • Aug. 26, 1998, 8:09 p.m. CST




  • Aug. 26, 1998, 9:12 p.m. CST

    will it ever stop?

    by Consigliere

    Its great that we have an open forum for debate here. People have their opinions and should voice them - its the american way damn it!!!! Depp, Burton, Walker, Ricci - Olvier, welles, Mamet, Kelley, - Reeves, Wood, Smithee, the Olsen twins, (ad nauseum) You'd all find something to cry about - Its great!!! - Anyway this project sounds great to me, and the original would not translate to anything better than a TGIF cartoon or an afterschool special - read it again people!!! then see if you feel the same way

  • Aug. 27, 1998, 1:45 a.m. CST

    Don't call it a duck when you know it's a chicken

    by Squirk

    Irving's story is, for the most part, just a good campfire ghost story. But just because the original text is simple doesn't mean you have to completely abandon the underlying story. I'm sure Walker's script is good - nice and dark. But Ichabod Crane as a NY cop using science to track the Headless Horseman??? Why not call it "X-Files: The Early Years"? Not to mention the character is almost exactly the opposite of Irving's prissy, superstitious schoolteacher. Call this film whatever you want. Just don't call it "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

  • Aug. 27, 1998, 7:34 a.m. CST


    by Kubrick

    I have a great love of Tim Burton's movies and this sounds great! As for the re-working of the original Sleepy Hollow story by Irving, I'm disappointed they changed it, but the changes I guess where needed to up-date the story to modern audience and the premise of the Headless Horseman is still intact. Above all else, the story description makes me want to see the movie because of just how well-written, great characterization, and mystery plus romance and great actors who've I always wanted to see in a Burton film such as Ricci makes this film one of the most highly anticipated films I want to see! I'm glad Burton turned down Superman...Superman wasn't Burton but this sounds like classic Burton that's sure to put him back on Hollywood's A-list (though it probably won't win him the praise of any major film critics such as Roger Ebert-who cares ? Ebert also hated The Frighteners and Full Metal Jacket!!) and finally make Johnny Depp the kind of movie star he always deserved to be since first saw him in Edward Scissorhands, a wonderful fantasy film which greatly touched my heart. It was beautiful and haunting, one of 1990's best films.

  • Aug. 27, 1998, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Hmm..a conundrum

    by shaman

    Ok..on one hand I like that Burton is attached to the vehicle. His visions a very versatile and with a little tweaking scare the crap out of someone with a horror mode. If he really does want to give someone the willies he could very well, especially with a good version fo the headless horseman and some great scenes of him taking heads. But..on the other hand. Burton has a certain strange clarity to where he may royally screw up a story. Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a great scare when first written and I agree if you tired to do it purely by the book, there is going to have to be a lot of filler. But still, a total change from knock-kneed school teacher to a now deductive cop from NY ousted for his thoughts. I just don't know. I take Mars Attacks as example. Tounge in cheek yes, Scary, hell no. Sure it was based on some cards but there was a rightous freaky comic book before it came out. With some great stuff that should have been included in the movie. Sure, the humans were idiots in it. But consistent idiots? Somewhat far fetched. The reason I bring it up is that Burton can drive a good movie, his designs and looks are wonderful (Batman sets, Scissorhand sets, character designs) but with the wrong belief in what the movie should be about and you got a wierd ass movie that mauinstream america will have a big ? over their heads. Like I said, he turned a pretty cheesy but engaging sci-fi story into a farce but then again he made Gotham unbelievably gorgeous in dark and a lil guy named Keaton the best dark knight of the bunch. Bite me Clooney! You couldn't save that show even if you promised to make Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman get into a big nude mud wrestling fight/orgy (Ok..maybe I would go see it if it had that)

  • Aug. 30, 1998, 10:31 p.m. CST

    Sleepy Hollow revisited

    by stillwater79

    This movie sounds really intriguing. So what if it's different slightly from the book? And Christina Ricci is one of the better actresses under 25 in Hollywood today. Her in a Gothic-style old-fashioned ghost story . . . Where do I get my tickets? And Grendel, what was the point? This is a legit forum for views and opinions relevant to the topic, which last time I checked was movies. All you little 12-year-olds who are using this as an excuse to say all the words your mommies and daddies told you not to say need to get a life. Horrorboy

  • Sept. 5, 1998, 2:17 a.m. CST

    Burton - legend of sleepy hollow

    by NiK

    Overall this sounds like a rather cool movie, however it also appears to be another escape goat for the Hollywood people who cant produce original work and thus just re-creating an old story thats been used so many times before. Oh and Grendel I dont even think 12 year olds are as sad and lonely as you.

  • Nov. 8, 1998, 12:57 p.m. CST

    Sounds pretty neat, except Casper Van Dien.

    by Tommy

    I have been waiting years for Tim Burton to do a horror flick, and even better, this one takes place in the 1700's. Depp and ricci I think are perfect roles, they can act, and they look funny. What does upset me though is Casper van Dien, who starred in such accidents as Starship Troopers, and Tarzan and the Lost City. Maybe the boy can act, but there is just something unsettling about having him in this movie. Well, I am really looking forward for this project <giddyness, pure shrill and giddyness> -Tommy aka San_Hoser aka CLEESE!!

  • Dec. 19, 1998, 5:11 p.m. CST

    legend of sleepy hollow

    by olivia

    the great thing about legends is that, not only do they contain 'timeless' elements and archetypes, but that they also adapt and change with to reflect the current societal atmosphere. that you shouldn't 'mess with' a legend seems to me to be counterproductive to what legends are all about. if a story is no longer valid and vital to *you* and *your* life, what use does it have (other than as an historical curiosity)? i'm all about tim burton being involved in this. i'm a huge fan, and much of what he does speaks to me on a very primal level. i'm also pleased to hear johnny depp will be involved; he's not only a very tasty bishonen, but a good actor. :)

  • July 21, 1999, 2:01 p.m. CST

    The trailer

    by butterfly13

    Okay, last night i went to see south park and was fortunate enough to see the Trailer for Sleepy Hollow. OMIGOD! Tim Burton is a god that's all i can say. This movie looks scary as hell and i can't wait to see it. For anyone who had doubts about depp and ricci's roles or just even the story, if you're lucky enough to catch the trailer, your minds will be changed. it's too bad we have to wait until thanksgiving to finally see this project but it's going to be worth the wait.

  • July 13, 2005, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Just spazzed back to post 1976

    by kuryakin

    People seem much friendlier here back in the day None of that first business Would anyone like a peanut?