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Tim Burton sets
sights on Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd

Tim Burton sets
sights on Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd

Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey has decided to exchange one big-budget Tim Burton movie project for another. Grey has sent Believe It or Not, based on exploits of adventurer and oddities collector Robert Ripley, back into development, while Stacey Snider, chief of Paramount's DreamWorks studio, is putting Sweeney Todd on the fast track with Burton at the helm.

DreamWorks will now need to assemble and cast that movie, which is being adapted by out screenwriter John Logan (The Aviator) from the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical. The stage production of Sweeney Todd won John Doyle the Tony award on Sunday night for best director of a musical. Burton already is talking with actor Johnny Depp about taking the lead role in the feature film version as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Paramount sources said.

Burton and producers Richard Zanuck, Sean Daniel, and Jim Jacks had been fighting the battle of the budget bulge on Believe, starring Jim Carrey. But Grey refused to give the project a green light for production until the ambitious project fell into the $150 million range, copresident of production Brad Weston confirmed.

Burton, whose previous credits include Edward Scissorhands, Batman, and Big Fish, already had scouted locations in China and devoted months to preproduction in London for Believe. He is returning from London to meet with Carrey. Grey made the decision to rework the script and visual effects sequences with the budget in mind, Weston said. "In a world where we wanted to do more work on the script, this seemed to make more sense," he said.

Believe marks the second Carrey project to fall apart in recent months. He also had been slated to star in Jay Roach's Used Guys with Ben Stiller for 20th Century Fox. Paramount executives insist that Believe will go forward in another year. "We love this project and look forward to making it with Tim and Jim--just later than originally planned," Paramount production president Gail Berman said. (Sheigh Crabtree and Anne Thompson, Reuters)

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