Johnny Depp goes deep undercover for Burton’s “Dark Shadows”

Finding Halloween costumes is probably not a problem at Johnny Depp’s house. Since his early days in the business, the actor has had it written into his contracts that he’s allowed to keep his wardrobe from movies. He stores the clothes in a personal archive that’s “properly cataloged, as much as any archive at any studio,” says Colleen Atwood, an Oscar-winning costume designer who often works with Depp and director Tim Burton. Their latest collaboration is Friday’s “Dark Shadows,” a new spin on the gothic 1960s TV soap opera about 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins, who is freed from a coffin in 1972 and helps his family restart their fishing busines. As in other Burton films, Depp almost disappears beneath layers of fabric and makeup.

“At our first fitting,” Atwood recalls, “we all got together, and we put the fingers on and the costume and the wig, and then Johnny started gleefully running around the house hiding in dark corners, and Tim was taking pictures of him.”

Like the character in the original series, Depp’s Barnabas is always impeccably dressed.

“He wasn’t a casual guy,” Atwood says. “He was a gentleman from another time, so he wasn’t someone who hung around in a T-shirt and jeans.”

The character’s boots were custom-made, a rarity in Hollywood because of the expense. One pair can cost between $2,000 and $3,000. The production had three to four pairs made, because some filming took place outside in wet weather, and dry pairs were kept on standby. Atwood based the footwear on a 1970s-style boot she found at an LA vintage store. The wig was inspired by the Barnabas from the original series (played by Jonathan Frid). On days requiring heavy action, Depp’s bangs were held in place using glue. The dark rings around his eyes, which were designed to make the character look more cadaverous, were a combination of five overlapping colors.

Depp’s skin paint is not white, but a combination of three colors of foundation thatare actually off-yellow, but appear white onscreen after the film is desaturated. Harlow needed a color that would seamlessly match the nose and ear prosthetics Depp was wearing. Multiple sets of fangs were made for Depp: some shorter, some longer, some curved. One set worked by dropping into place whenever Depp opened his mouth.

Burton thought it was crucial that Depp have long fingernails. “Tim wanted Barnabas to be tactile,” Harlow says. “His hands sort of lead the way, like they’re feeling things out.” Onto the ends of Depp’s fingers was glued a cap, similar to the shape of a golf tee. A fake tip made out of silicone was placed over the top, and a gnarly fake nail was glued on to complete the look.

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