Taglines: You can lock the doors. You can bolt the windows. But can you survive the night?
Washington Irving’s tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman gets a few new twists in a screen adaptation directed by Tim Burton. In this version, Ichabod (Johnny Depp) is a New York City detective whose unorthodox techniques and penchant for gadgets make him unpopular with is colleagues.
He is sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of bizarre murders, in which a number of people have been found dead in the woods, with their heads cut off. Local legend has it that a Hessian ghost rides through the woods on horseback, lopping off the heads of the unsuspecting and unbelieving. Ichabod refuses to believe in this legend, convinced that there must be a logical explanation for the murders.
In time, Ichabod becomes smitten with a local lass, Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), who is the sweetheart of the burly Brom Bones (Casper Van Dien), and he becomes determined to capture the murderer to prove his bravery and win her heart. Christopher Walken, Jeffrey Jones, and Christopher Lee highlight the supporting cast; Lee’s appearance is particularly apt, since Burton has cited the Hammer films of the 1960s as a major influence in making this film. Andrew Kevin Walker and Tom Stoppard contributed to the screenplay.
Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 American Gothic supernatural horror film directed by Tim Burton. It is a film adaptation loosely inspired by the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving and stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, and Jeffrey Jones in supporting roles. The plot follows police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) sent from New York City to investigate a series of murders in the village of Sleepy Hollow by a mysterious Headless Horseman.
Development began in 1993 at Paramount Pictures with Kevin Yagher originally set to direct Andrew Kevin Walker’s script as a low-budget slasher film. Disagreements with Paramount resulted in Yagher being demoted to prosthetic makeup designer, and Burton was hired to direct in June 1998. Filming took place from November 1998 to May 1999, and the film was released to generally favorable reviews from critics, and grossed approximately $206 million worldwide. Sleepy Hollow won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
The original intention had been to shoot Sleepy Hollow predominantly on location with a $30 million budget. Towns were scouted throughout Upstate New York along the Hudson Valley, and the filmmakers decided on Tarrytown for an October 1998 start date. The Historic Hudson Valley organization assisted in scouting locations, which included the Philipsburg Manor House and forests in the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.
“They had a wonderful quality to them,” production designer Rick Heinrichs reflected on the locations, “but it wasn’t quite lending itself to the sort of expressionism that we were going for, which wanted to express the feeling of foreboding.” Disappointed, the filmmakers scouted locations in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and considered using Dutch colonial villages and period town recreations in the Northeastern United States. When no suitable existing location could be found, coupled with a lack of readily available studio space in the New York area needed to house the production’s large number of sets, producer Scott Rudin suggested the UK.
Rudin believed England offered the level of craftsmanship in period detail, painting and costuming that was suitable for the film’s design. Having directed Batman entirely in Britain, Burton agreed, and designers from Batman’s art department were employed by Paramount for Sleepy Hollow. As a result, principal photography was pushed back to November 20, 1998 at Leavesden Film Studios, which had been recently vacated by Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
The majority of filming took place at Leavesden, with studio other work at Shepperton Studios, where the massive Tree of the Dead set was built using Stage H. Production then moved to the Hambleden estate at Lime Tree Valley for a month-long shoot in March, where the town of Sleepy Hollow was constructed. “We came to England figuring we would find a perfect little town,” producer Adam Schroeder recalled, “and then we had to build it anyway.” Filming in Britain continued through April, and a few last minute scenes were shot using a sound stage in Yonkers, New York the following May.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Lisa Marie, Christopher Walken
Screenplay by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Production Design by: Rick Heinrichs
Cinematography by: Emmanuel Lubezki
Film Editing by: Chris Lebenzon, Joel Negron
Costume Design by: Colleen Atwood
Set Decoration by: Peter Young
Art Direction by: Ken Court, John Dexter, Andy Nicholson, Kevin Phipps, Leslie Tomkins
Music by: Danny Elfman
MPAA Rating: R for graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 19, 1999