Sleepy Hollow (film)

Sleepy Hollow (film)

Infobox Film
name = Sleepy Hollow

caption = Original movie poster
director = Tim Burton
producer = Scott Rudin
Adam Schroeder
Francis Ford Coppola
Larry J. Franco
writer = Washington Irving ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow")
Kevin Yagher (screen story)
Andrew Kevin Walker (screen story and screenplay)
Tom Stoppard (uncredited)
starring = Johnny Depp
Christina Ricci
Miranda Richardson
Michael Gambon
Casper Van Dien
Jeffrey Jones
Richard Griffiths
Ian McDiarmid
Michael Gough
Christopher Walken
music = Danny Elfman
cinematography = Emmanuel Lubezki
editing = Chris Lebenzon
Joel Negron
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = November 19, 1999
runtime = 105 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget = $80,000,000cite news | author=Nashawaty, Chris |title = A Head of Its Time | publisher = Entertainment Weekly | date = 1999-11-19 | url =,,271744,00.html| accessdate=2007-12-25]
gross = $206,071,502
website =
amg_id = 1:181131
imdb_id = 0162661

"Sleepy Hollow" is a 1999 period horror film directed by Tim Burton, interpreting the legend of The Headless Horseman and based loosely around the Washington Irving story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". The third film collaboration between Johnny Depp and Burton, the film also features Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Richard Griffiths and Christopher Walken. The story centers on police constable Ichabod Crane sent from New York City to investigate a series of murders in the village Sleepy Hollow by a mysterious Headless Horseman. The style and themes of the story take inspirations from the late Hammer Film Productions.

"Sleepy Hollow" had been in development since 1994 and was originally intended to be directed by Kevin Yagher. The film labored into development far enough for Burton to direct, who had unsuccessfully worked on "Superman Lives". Filming took place entirely on location in England where the crew built an entire soundstage. "Sleepy Hollow" would be released with box office success and critical acclaim, grossing roughly $206 million worldwide and scoring a 73 percent approval rating at "Rotten Tomatoes".


In 1799, New York City police constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched by his superiors to the upstate hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, to investigate a series of brutal slayings in which the victims have been found decapitated. A frequent user of new, though so far unproven investigative techniques such as finger-printing and autopsies, Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow armed with his bag of scientific tools only to be informed by the town's elders that the murderer is not of flesh and blood, rather a headless supernatural warrior from beyond the grave who rides at night on a massive black steed.

Crane does not believe them and begins his own investigation, until he comes face to "face" with the Headless Horseman. Boarding a room at the home of the town's richest family, the Van Tassels, Crane develops an attraction to their daughter, the mysterious Katrina, even as he's plagued by nightmares of his mother's horrific torture when he was a child.

Delving further into the mystery with the aid of the orphaned Young Masbeth, whose father was a victim of the Horseman, Crane discovers within the Western Woods both the Horseman's entry point between this world and the beyond, the gnarled Tree of the Dead, and his grave.

He finds the Horseman's skull is missing though the murders continue until Crane uncovers a murky plot revolving around revenge and land rights with the Horseman controlled by Katrina's stepmother, Lady Van Tassel, who sends the killer after her. Following a fight in the local windmill and a stagecoach chase through the woods, Crane eventually thwarts Lady Van Tassel by returning the skull to the Horseman, who regains his head and heads back to Hell along with her. His job in Sleepy Hollow over, Crane, Katrina and Young Masbeth return to New York, in time for the new century.


Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane: A New York police officer with an interest in science, sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a string of grisly murders. Although he is squeamish, high-strung, and unnerved by the sight of blood, he is determined to reform law enforcement and the justice system. Ichabod uses innovative techniques such as postmortem examinations and scientific methods, even inventing a few gadgets to examine evidence more thoroughly. As was the case with "Edward Scissorhands", Depp was Burton's first choice for the part, although Burton was still required to examine other options before casting him.Salisbury, Burton, p.176] Brad Pitt was offered the role while Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis were considered. [cite news |author=Hochman, David |title=Brad Pitt |publisher=Entertainment Weekly |date=1998-07-09 |url=,,83590,00.html |accessdate=2007-12-26] Burton was eventually able to persuade the studio to cast Depp.

Producer Scott Rudin once quoted, "Basically Johnny Depp is playing Tim Burton in all his movies,"Salisbury, Burton, p.177-8] though Burton personally disapproved of the comment. Depp, however agrees with Rudin's statement. According to Depp, "Edward Scissorhands" represented Burton's inability to communicate as a teenager. "Ed Wood" reflected Burton's relationship with Vincent Price (very similar with Edward D. Wood Jr. and Bela Lugosi). "Sleepy Hollow" showcased Ichabod's feelings that reflects Burton's battle with the Hollywood studio system.Salisbury, Burton, p.179] For his performance, Depp took inspiration from Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowell and Basil Rathbone. Depp stated, "I always thought of Ichabod as a very delicate, fragile person who was maybe a little too in touch with his feminine side, like a frightened little girl." [cite news |title=Johnny Depp on playing Ichabod Crane in "Sleepy Hollow" |publisher=Entertainment Weekly |date=May 2007 |url=,,20035285_20035355_20039648_4,00.html |accessdate=2007-12-25] Depp initially wanted to play the character with a long prosthetic snipe nose, huge ears and elongated fingers, although his suggestions were turned down by Paramount Pictures as they felt the design to be too outrageous.cite news |author=Bornin, Liane |title=Depp Be Not Proud |publisher=Entertainment Weekly |date=1999-11-19 |url=,,84809,00.html |accessdate=2007-12-26]

Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel: The love interest of Ichabod, she's the only heir to one of the richest farmers of the neighborhood. Burton wanted to cast Ricci as Katrina, thinking that she reminded him to be a fictional daughter of Peter Lorre and Bette Davis.Salisbury, Burton, p.180-1]

Michael Gambon as Baltus Van Tassel: After Peter Van Garret is murdered, he is placed as the leader of the city.

Miranda Richardson as Lady Van Tassel / Crone: Wife of Baltus and stepmother of Katrina.

Marc Pickering as Young Masbath: An orphan who looks towards Ichabod as a father figure. In the act he helps him investigate the murders of the Headless Horseman alongside Katrina.

Casper Van Dien as Brom Van Brunt: A strong and charming man who is somewhat romantically involved with Katrina. He mocks Ichabod at first, but later helps him fight the Horseman.

Jeffrey Jones as Reverend Steenwyck: The reverend of the village.

Ian McDiarmid as Doctor Lancaster: The only Doctor and surgeon in the village; murdered by Steenwyck.

Michael Gough as Notary Hardenbrook: The local banker and possibly the oldest citizen in the village. Burton and Gough had previously worked together on "Batman" and "Batman Returns", with Gough portraying Alfred Pennyworth. During the casting phase of "Sleepy Hollow", Gough was staying in retirement, though Burton persuaded him to join the cast.

Richard Griffiths as Magistrate Philipse: A city official who is the fifth victim of the Headless Horseman.

Christopher Walken as The Hessian Horseman: A brutal and sadistic mercenary sent to America during the American Revolutionary War. He is killed though his spirit lives on through The Headless Horseman (portrayed by Ray Park). Burton claims he based the Headless Horseman off Jon Peters, a film producer whom he personally dislikes as he had an unbearable experience with Peters on "Batman" and "Superman Lives".

Christopher Lee, Martin Landau (previously won an Academy Award on Tim Burton's "Ed Wood") and Burton's then fiancée Lisa Marie are all involved in cameos. Lee is credited as "Burgomaster" and is seen in the beginning of the film as a city official who convinces Crane to transfer to the small village of Sleepy Hollow. Landau portrays Peter Van Garrett with no dialogue, and is murdered by The Headless Horseman in the opening scene. Marie is featured as "Lady Crane," Ichabod's mother in flashbacks who was involved in witchcraft and later painfully murdered by his strict religious father.


In 1994, make-up effects designer Kevin Yagher who had turned to directing with HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" had the notion to adapt Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" into a feature film. Through his agent, Yagher was introduced to Andrew Kevin Walker, a young writer who spec script "Se7en" had recently been well received by film studios, although had yet to be produced. Yagher and Walker spent several months working on a treatment which they subsequently pitched to various film studios.cite book | last = Salisbury, Mark; Burton, Tim | title = Burton on Burton | publisher = Faber and Faber | year = 2000 | pages = p.164-5 | id = ISBN 0-57120-507-0]

The two secured a deal with producer Scott Rudin, who sold the project to Paramount Pictures. The deal called for Yagher to direct with Walker scripting; the pair would share story credit. For a variety of reasons, the project went through the development hell process and looked as if the film would never be produced, but in the summer of 1998 the film was brought back into Hollywood film circles. Tim Burton who had previously worked on the now canceled "Superman Lives" project was looking to direct a horror film for the first time in his career, as he was a high valued fan of the genre. Rudin and his producing partner Adam Schroeder felt the script to be a perfect vehicle for Burton and the deal was signed, as Burton was very much impressed with the script, and the characterization of Ichabod Crane.Salisbury, Burton, p.167-8]

Burton was excited to be working with Rudin, a studio executive he first met when he brought "Edward Scissorhands" to 20th Century Fox. Burton felt him to be "intelligent, eccentric and a good, strong producer that comes in handy". Rudin stated the financial failure of "Mars Attacks!" never crossed his mind when considering Burton, commenting "Sometimes I think it's good to get someone whose last film didn't do well, because they're a little hungrier for a hit. Although "Sleepy Hollow" is a big film, it doesn't need to be "Batman" or "Superman"; no one's life is going to be made or destroyed based on how well it does, which can be creatively freeing." Burton was looking forward to do the film in a manner of stop motion visual effects, rather than use an excessive amount of computer-generated imagery, which he had used for "Mars Attacks!"

For unknown reasons, Tom Stoppard was hired to write a "production polish" and would remain uncredited by the Writers Guild of America. Stoppard's rewrite showcased more comedic aspects of Ichabod Crane and focused more on his romance with Katrina Van Tassel. Walker's previous draft had Ichabod as a schoolteacher for his profession which was similar to Irving's original short story. Although Francis Ford Coppola is credited as executive producer, Burton only became aware of Coppola's involvement during the editing process when he was sent a copy of the film's trailer and saw Coppola's name on it.Salisbury, Burton, p.182-3]

The original intention had been to shoot "Sleepy Hollow" predominantly on location, and towns were scouted throughout upstate New York and the Hudson Valley (including Sleepy Hollow itself), and Sturbridge, Massachusetts.Salisbury, Burton, p.169] According to production designer Rick Heinrichs, the film was to have a $30,000,000 production budget at the time. The idea to film in these areas were dropped as the filmmakers felt " [the locations] were not expressive enough". [cite news | author= Calhoun, John | title= Headless in Sleepy Hollow | publisher=Entertainment Design| date=1999-11-10 | accessdate=2007-12-25] Using a number of Dutch colonial villages and period town recreations was considered as well. But 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, they were forced to look elsewhere. Rudin said, "We came to England figuring we would find a perfect little town, and then we had to build it anyway." Filming began on November 20, 1998 and lasted until April 1999. This included a month-long location shoot at Lime Tree Valley on the Hambleden estate near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where the town of "Sleepy Hollow" was constructed around a small duck pond in a style production designer Rich Heinrichs termed "colonial expression by way of Dr. Seuss". Burton took the idea of filming in Lime Tree Valley as it reminded him of Hudson Valley.Design

The various Hammer Film Productions as viewed by Burton in his childhood were a key inspiration for the design of the film. Mario Bava's "Black Sunday" also was looked upon as well. While the production team was always going to build a substantial number of sets, the decision was taken early on that to fulfill Burton's vision best would necessitate shooting the movie in a totally controlled environment, which meant that all the interiors and virtually all of the exteriors, other than those shot on location at Lime Tree Valley and a few other brief scenes, would be shot on stages at Leavesden. Some studio work took place at Shepperton Studios, where the "Tree of the Dead" set was built. In total, 99% of the film was filmed on sets.Salisbury, Burton, p.170-5]

The cast and crew often said "The feeling one had walking around Sleepy Hollow's sets, and in particular the town at Lime Tree, was almost as if you were walking around the inside of Burton's head." Most of the production and design crew on "Sleepy Hollow" previously worked with Burton on "Batman". The director decided to use the same workers claiming "people from England are true artists who know what they are doing". It was decided to use stop motion animation for most of the visual effects instead of relying upon computer generated imagery. Burton recalled, "One day we wanted a shot of a figure going through the apple orchard. So we had somebody get a doll and the wardrobe department, in fifteen minutes, made up a little cape for the figure and we wired the little figure through the apple orchard."

Burton hired Emmanuel Lubezki as the cinematographer upon viewing his work on "A Little Princess". Initially Burton and Lunezki contemplated shooting the film in black and white and in the old square Academy ratio. When that proved unfeasible, they opted for an almost monochromatic effect which would enhance the fantasy aspect and make the "unreal believable". Production designer Heinrichs had hoped to build the windmill set piece as a single practical structure that could supply both interior and exterior settings. But safety concerns and the desire to maintain a controlled theatrical environment made Heinrichs decide on a combination of several interior and exterior sets, full-scale and miniature.

The crew built a 60-foot-tall forced-perspective exterior (visible to highway travelers miles away), a base and rooftop set and a quarter-scale miniature. The interior of the mill, which was about 30-feet high and 25-feet wide, featured wooden gears equipped with mechanisms for grinding flour. A wider view of the windmill was rendered on a Leavesden soundstage set with a quarter-scale windmill, complete with rotating vanes, painted sky backdrop and special-effects fire. The actors would literally have burning wood exploding towards them. The flight shed interior served as the staging ground for the chase sequence between Ichabod, Katrina and Masbath in pursuit of the Headless Horseman. The hangar's interior walls were knocked down to create a 450-foot run, with a 40-foot width still allowing for coach and cameras. Heinrichs tailored the sets so Lubezki could shoot from above without seeing the end of the stage. Some of the films scenes were shot in Concord, MA.


Ichabod Crane can be seen as an outsider to both the town of Sleepy Hollow, and his counterparts at his profession in New York City. Burton claimed this was another one of many influences to Hammer Film Productions with actors Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. The director said, "You see that they're intelligent, but you don't really know what's going on with them. There's some mystery to who they really are. You feel their aloneness, you feel like they don't socialize much, that they're having some problems, are somewhat tormented, are somewhat living inside their own head. That's why you relate to them."


"Sleepy Hollow" opened on November 19, 1999 in the United States in 3,064 theaters, accumulating $30,060,467 over its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $206,071,502 worldwide. [cite web|url=|title=Sleepy Hollow (1999)|publisher=Box Office Mojo|accessdate=2007-12-26] "Sleepy Hollow" was the twenty first highest grossing film of 1999 in the US. [cite web|url=|title=1999 Yearly Box Office Results|publisher=Box Office Mojo|accessdate=2007-12-26] Based on 102 reviews collected by "Rotten Tomatoes", "Sleepy Hollow" received an average 73% overall approval rating; [cite web|url=|title=Sleepy Hollow|publisher=Rotten Tomatoes|accessdate=2007-12-26] the film was more balanced with the 27 critics in Rotten Tomatoes' "Cream of the Crop", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, [cite web|url=|title=Rotten Tomatoes FAQ: What is Cream of the Crop|publisher=Rotten Tomatoes|accessdate=2007-12-26] receiving a 70% approval rating. [cite web|url=|title=Sleepy Hollow: Rotten Tomatoes' Cream of the Crop|publisher=Rotten Tomatoes|accessdate=2007-12-26] By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 65 from 35 reviews. [cite web|url=| title=Sleepy Hollow (1999): Reviews|publisher=Metacritic|accessdate=2007-12-26]

The film was so criticized for its amount of violence and bloodshed that Burton had to defend the film in a public interview. [cite news | author=Bornin, Liane |title = Little Shot of Horror | publisher = Entertainment Weekly | date = 1999-12-02 | url =,,84834,00.html | accessdate=2007-12-26] To this day, Burton feels he received some of the best reviews of his career on "Sleepy Hollow". Kenneth Turan of the "Los Angeles Times" gave the film a highly positive review, praising the amount of violence which he also felt perfectly suited Burton's style. He also felt the humor was delivered and written with good timing, and praised the production design and Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography. [cite news | author=Turan, Kenneth |title = Sleepy Hollow | publisher = Los Angeles Times | date = 1999-11-19 | url =,0,7199568.story| accessdate=2007-12-27]

"Sleepy Hollow" was nominated for three Academy Awards. Rick Heinrichs and Peter Young won Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. Emmanuel Lubezki lost Best Cinematography to Conrad Hall in "American Beauty" while Colleen Atwood lost Best Costume Design to Lindy Hemming's work on "Topsy-Turvy". [cite web|url=|title=Academy Awards: 2000| publisher= Internet Movie Database|accessdate=2007-12-26] The film dominated its run with The Saturn Awards, while having Danny Elfman and Christina Ricci both winning respective categories. In addition Depp, Burton, Andrew Kevin Walker, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Atwood and the special effects and make-up departments were all given nominations for their work. There, the film was also nominated for Best Horror Film before losing to "Final Destination". [cite web|url=|title=Past Saturn Award Winners| publisher=Saturn Awards|accessdate=2007-12-26]


Further reading

*cite book | author=Walker, Andrew Kevin |title=The Art of Sleepy Hollow |others=Also includes Walker's screenplay (before Tom Stoppard rewrote it) and an introduction by director Tim Burton |format=Hardcover |year=1999|month=November |day=1 |publisher=Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster|isbn=0671036572
*cite book | author=Lerangis, Peter |title=Sleepy Hollow: A Novelization |others=Novelization of the film that also includes Washington Irving's original short story |format=Mass Market Paperback |year=1999|month=November |day=1 |publisher=Simon Pulse| isbn=0671036653

External links

*imdb title|id=0162661|title=Sleepy Hollow
*rotten-tomatoes|id=sleepy_hollow|title=Sleepy Hollow
* [ Sleepy Hollow] at Box Office Mojo
* [ Washington Irving's Original Short Story] at LibriVox

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