This week’s cover story about the offbeat vampire saga Dark Shadows pries open the coffin lid on the longtime friendship between Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton, who have collaborated on eight movies over the past two decades.

Those who work alongside the actor and filmmaker tell Entertainment Weekly that the duo share a kind of secret twin language. “None of us gets their jokes, but they get their jokes and they’re laughing, so whatever,” says Helena Bonham Carter, who should know. She’s as close to the pair as anyone could get, being mother to Burton’s two children, and co-starring in many of their movies, including this one.

Depp agrees with the sibling comparison. “I feel as though he’s my brother,” the actor tells EW. “It’s a weird understanding, this kind of shorthand we have. I truly understand him and know him, I think, just as well as anybody can. He certainly knows me as well as anybody can.”

Burton and Depp bonded years ago over their shared fascination with the abnormal, though the director underplays their much mythologized partnership. “We don’t wear our ‘This Is Our 8th Movie Together!’ t-shirts every day,” Burton says.

Well, not every day, of course. (Sometimes it must be laundry day.)

On Dark Shadows, out May 11, their preoccupation with the peculiar aims to resurrect an eccentric 1966-71 supernatural soap opera that both of them adored as little boys. Set in 1972, it chronicles the life – or whatever you want to call what he is – of 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins, who returns to his hometown after being buried alive for two centuries and seeks vengeance on the jealous witch (Casino Royale’s Eva Green) who originally transformed him into a bloodsucker.

His oddball descendants, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, and their live-in psychiatrist (Bonham Carter) join forces to help him fight her latest advances – and also, maybe win the heart of a nanny (Bella Heathcoat) who may be the reincarnation of his long-lost love.

The crew who regularly turns up on Burton and Depp’s projects are kind of an odd lot, too. “A film family is a family, and it’s a beautifully dysfunctional family,” says Burton.

And like any family, they deal with adversity, newcomers, and yes, even death — sadly, not always the made-up kind.

To find out more, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, May 4.

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Dark Shadows
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes