A Head for Horror
May 1999
David Kamp
Photography Director: Susan White


Who better to film Washington Irving’s famous tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman than Tim Burton, whose Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks! marked him as a master of gothic dark comedy? Wrapping up Sleepy Hollow, Burton and his cast -Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, and Casper Van Dien- give photographer MARY ELLEN MARK an otherworldly take on “the first American horror story.”

Love Hurts Co-stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci as Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel, the lovers in Tim Burton’s dark thriller, Sleepy Hollow.

Burton holds the Horseman’s head on the film’s set at the Leavesden Studio in Hertfordshire, England, January 14, 1999.

Mark Pickering as Young Masbeth


Jeffery Jones as Reverend Steenwyck.

Michael Gambon as Baltus Van Tassel.

Richard Griffiths as Magistrate Philipse.

Miranda Richardson as Lady Van Tassel.

Photographed on the Sleepy Hollow set, January 14-18, 1999.

Tim Burton’s mind is a spidery attic, cluttered with 50s-creepshow influences, gothic organ music, and howling-wind sound effects. So it seems plausible that his forthcoming film adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” due later this year, was a long-aborning pet project.  Washington Irving’s famous short story about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, published in 1820, was, Burton says, “the first American horror story”- and, in its prevailing lightheartedness, an antecedent to just about everything Burton has done, from the terrifying-but-uproarious “Large Marge” vignette in Pee-wee’s Big adventure to the more fully realized horror-comedies Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Mars Attacks!
For the Ichabod Crane part, Burton cast Johnny Depp, who is fast shaping up to be the De Niro to Burton’s Scorsese, having already played the title roles of the director’s Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. Katrina, the farmer’s daughter and object of Ichabod’s affections, is played by Christina Ricci, the porcelain-complexioned Goth Girl of contemporary filmdom, who only seems to have been in Tim Burton’s movies before.  “She’s got a good silent-movie quality,” Burton says. “She looks right in winter in England.”

Though Burton considered shooting Sleepy Hollow in its real-life setting of North Tarrytown, New York, he ultimately found damp, chilly England more conductive to what he had in mind.  This same rationale was applied to the assembly of his supporting cast, which includes a wonderful assortment of misshapen British character actors -Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective), Richard Griffiths (Withnail and I), and Ian McDiarmid (the Star Wars movies)-the English beauty Miranda Richardson, and Christopher Walken as a mysterious soldier.