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Sleepy Hollow

Original movie poster
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Scott Rudin
Adam Schroeder
Francis Ford Coppola
Larry J. Franco
Written by 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
Christopher Lee
Richard Griffiths
Ian McDiarmid
Michael Gough
Christopher Walken
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Joel Negron
Studio Mandalay Pictures
American Zoetrope
Distributed by Paramount Pictures (US)
Pathé (UK)
Release date(s) November 19, 1999
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80,000,000[1]
Gross revenue $206,071,502

Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 American period horror film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the Washington Irving story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the film stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Sir 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, who had unsuccessfully worked on Superman Lives, to direct. The majority of the filming took place in England where the crew built an entire soundstage. Sleepy Hollow was released with box office success and critical acclaim, grossing roughly $206 million worldwide.



In 1799, police constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched by his superiors to the Hudson Highlands hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, to investigate a series of brutal slayings in which the victims have been found beheaded. 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 is plagued by nightmares he is determined to solve the legend of Sleepy Hollow.


  • Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane: Tim Burton was eventually able to persuade the studio to cast Depp.[2] Producer Scott Rudin once quoted, "Basically Johnny Depp is playing Tim Burton in all his movies,"[3] 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 Béla Lugosi). Sleepy Hollow showcased Ichabod's feelings that reflects Burton's battle with the Hollywood studio system.[4] For his performance, Depp took inspiration from Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowall and Basil Rathbone.[3] 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."[5] 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.[6]
  • Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel: Ichabod's love interest and only heir to one of the neighborhood's richest farmers. Burton wanted to cast Ricci as Katrina, saying that he imagined her to be a fictional daughter of Peter Lorre and Bette Davis.[7]
  • Michael Gambon as Baltus Van Tassel: After Peter Van Garret is murdered, he is placed as the leader of the city, he dies when the horseman drives a fence post through his body- Baltus currently being inside a church, which the Horseman cannot enter-, subsequently pulling him out of the window to behead him.
  • Miranda Richardson as Lady Van Tassel / Crone: Wife of Baltus and stepmother of Katrina, the true main villain of the film, she is the one controlling the horseman as she has his head, which he is looking for; she dies when the Horseman takes her back to hell with him.
  • Marc Pickering as Young Masbath: An orphan who looks towards Ichabod as a father figure after his own father is murdered by the Horseman. In the act he helps him investigate the murders of the Headless Horseman alongside Katrina.
  • Casper Van Dien as Brom Van Brunt: A strong man who is somewhat romantically involved with Katrina. He's hostile to Ichabod upon meeting him, and later ends up dying at the hands of the horseman by being cut in half through the waist while attempting to stop him.
  • Jeffrey Jones as Reverend Steenwyck: The reverend of the village and is shot by Baltus Van Tassel after he kills Lancaster with the wooden cross.
  • Ian McDiarmid as Doctor Lancaster: The only doctor and surgeon in the village and murdered by Steenwyck in the church when he is struck on the head with a cross to prevent him revealing the plot. He was having an affair with servant girl Sarah (murdered by Lady van Tassel)
  • Michael Gough as Notary Hardenbrook: The local banker and possibly the oldest citizen in the village. He dies when he commits suicide by hanging. 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.[7]
  • Christopher Walken as The Headless Horseman: A brutal and sadistic Hessian 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 and stuntman Rob Inch); in this form he is seemingly indestructible since there are no ill effects after getting shot, stabbed, and trapped in a burning mill, although he cannot walk on consecrated ground such as the ground around a church. Burton claims he based the Headless Horseman on Jon Peters, a film producer whom he personally dislikes as he had an unbearable experience with Peters on Batman and Superman Lives.[4]

Christopher Lee, Alun Armstrong, Martin Landau (previously won an Academy Award on Tim Burton's Ed Wood), Peter Guinness 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 Ichabod Crane to transfer to the small village of Sleepy Hollow. Alun Armstrong is credited as "High Constable". Landau portrays Peter Van Garrett with no dialogue and is murdered by The Headless Horseman in the opening scene. Lisa Marie is credited as "Lady Crane", Ichabod's mother; flashbacks reveal that she was involved in witchcraft and later murdered by her husband, Ichabod's father, whom Ichabod later refers to as having hidden "behind a mask of righteousness", even viewing him as the Headless Horseman at a certain angle. Peter Guinness portrays Ichabod's father and is credited as "Lord Crane".


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 whose 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.[8]

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 big 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,[8] and the characterization of Ichabod Crane.[9]

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".[10] 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."[1] 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![7]

For unknown reasons, Tom Stoppard was hired to write a "production polish" and would remain uncredited by the Writers Guild of America.[8] Stoppard's rewrite showcased more comedic aspects of Ichabod Crane and focused more on his romance with Katrina Van Tassel.[1] Walker's previous draft had Ichabod as a schoolteacher for his profession which was similar to Irving's original short story.[6] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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 was dropped as the filmmakers felt "[the locations] were not expressive enough".[12] 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.[11] Although most of the movie's settings were built, some of its scenes were filmed in Concord, MA.


"One of the things we were trying to do was inspire a sense of scary portentousness in the village. I think it's different from Irving's Sleepy Hollow, which is described as a dozing Dutch farm community. If our Sleepy Hollow is asleep, it's a fitful sort of sleep, with nightmares."
Production designer Rick Heinrichs on the design of Sleepy Hollow[13]

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.[14]

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."[14] 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".[2] 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."[14]

The "Tree of the Dead" as designed by Keith Short[15]

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".[2] 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.[13]

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.[13]


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.[9]


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.[16] Sleepy Hollow was the twenty-first highest grossing film of 1999 in the US.[17] Based on 102 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Sleepy Hollow received an average 73% overall approval rating;[18] 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,[19] receiving a 70% approval rating.[20] By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 65 from 35 reviews.[21]

The film was so criticized for its amount of violence and bloodshed that Burton had to defend the film in a public interview.[22] To this day, Burton feels he received some of the best reviews of his career on Sleepy Hollow.[10] 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.[23]

Sleepy Hollow also won many awards. Art director Rick Heinrichs and set decorator Peter Young won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction at the 72nd Academy Awards,[24] and both Heinrichs and costume designer Colleen Atwood were awarded at the BAFTAs.[25] The film also won the Saturn Awards for Best Actress (Christina Ricci) and Best Score (Danny Elfman),[26] five Satellite Awards,[27] and honors from the Art Directors and Costume Designers Guilds.[28][29]


  1. ^ a b c Nashawaty, Chris (1999-11-19). "A Head of Its Time". Entertainment Weekly.,,271744,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-25. 
  2. ^ a b c Salisbury, Burton, p.176
  3. ^ a b Salisbury, Burton, p.177-8
  4. ^ a b Salisbury, Burton, p.179
  5. ^ "Johnny Depp on playing Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow". Entertainment Weekly. May 2007.,,20035285_20035355_20039648_4,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-25. 
  6. ^ a b Bornin, Liane (1999-11-19). "Depp Be Not Proud". Entertainment Weekly.,,84809,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  7. ^ a b c Salisbury, Burton, p.180-1
  8. ^ a b c Salisbury, Mark; Burton, Tim (2000). Burton on Burton. Faber and Faber. pp. 164–5. ISBN 0-57120-507-0. 
  9. ^ a b Salisbury, Burton, p.167-8
  10. ^ a b c Salisbury, Burton, p.182-3
  11. ^ a b Salisbury, Burton, p.169
  12. ^ Calhoun, John (1999-11-10). "Headless in Sleepy Hollow". Entertainment Design. 
  13. ^ a b c Abbott, Denise (2000-02-29). "Nightmare By Design". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  14. ^ a b c Salisbury, Burton, p.170-5
  15. ^ "Sleepy Hollow". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  16. ^ "Sleepy Hollow (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  17. ^ "1999 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  18. ^ "Sleepy Hollow". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  19. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes FAQ: What is Cream of the Crop". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  20. ^ "Sleepy Hollow: Rotten Tomatoes' Cream of the Crop". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  21. ^ "Sleepy Hollow (1999): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  22. ^ Bornin, Liane (1999-12-02). "Little Shot of Horror". Entertainment Weekly.,,84834,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  23. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1999-11-19). "Sleepy Hollow". Los Angeles Times.,0,7199568.story. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  24. ^ "Oscar winners in full". BBC. 2000-03-27. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  25. ^ "Full list of Bafta winners". BBC. 2000-04-09. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  26. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  27. ^ "2000 4th Annual SATELLITE Awards". International Press Academy. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  28. ^ "4th Annual Excellence in Production Design Awards". Art Directors Guild. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  29. ^ "COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS 1999". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 


  • Burton, Tim and Mark Salisbury. Burton on Burton. Faber, 2006. ISBN 0571229263.

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 film based upon the legend of The Headless Horseman and based loosely upon the Washington Irving story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." It was directed by Tim Burton and received the 1999 Academy Award for Best Art Direction.

Heads will roll…


Ichabod Crane

  • Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.

Katrina Anne Van Tassel

  • I think you have no heart. And I had a mind once to give you mine.

Lady Van Tassel

  • Watch your heads.
    • (An Irish take on the expression "Mind your heads")


Katrina Anne Van Tassel: I have shed my tears for Brom, and yet my heart is not broken. Do you think me wicked?
Ichabod Crane: No... but perhaps there is a little bit of witch in you, Katrina.
Katrina Anne Van Tassel: Why do you say that?
Ichabod Crane: Because you have bewitched me.

Ichabod Crane: So... three persons murdered. First, Peter Van Garrett and his son, Dirk Van Garrett. Both of them strong, capable men, found together... decapitated. One week later, the widow Winship. Also decapitated. Now, I will need to ask you many questions. But first, let me ask: Is anyone suspected?
Baltus Van Tassell: How much have your superiors explained to you, constable?
Ichabod Crane: Only that the three were slain in open ground. Their heads found severed from their bodies.
Reverend Steenwyck: Their heads were not found severed. Their heads were not found at all.
Ichabod Crane: The heads are... gone?
Notary James Hardenbrook: Taken. Taken by the Headless Horseman. Taken back to hell.

Ichabod Crane: Gentlemen: murder needs no ghosts come from the grave. We have murders in New York without benefit of ghouls and goblins.
Baltus Van Tassel: You are a long way from New York, constable.

Ichabod Crane: We take the Indian Trail to the Tree of the Dead.
Young Masbath: How will we recognize it?
Ichabod Crane: Without difficulty, I rather fear.

[after escaping the Horseman]
Young Masbath: Is he... dead?
Ichabod Crane: That's the problem. He was dead to begin with.



  • Watch your head!
  • Who will it come for next?
  • Heads Will Roll.
  • Close Your Eyes. Say Your Prayers. Sleep If You Can.
  • You can lock the doors. You can bolt the windows. But can you survive the night?

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