IT'S usually the actors of films, not the directors, who are the stars and attract the majority of the attention.

But one definite exception to this case is Tim Burton. Most people know of the eccentric director of brilliantly gothic fairytales, doomed romances and sweet ghost stories.

The intriguing auteur attended the press conference for his most recent release Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Here's what he had to say.

What was the appeal of Sweeney Todd for you, Tim? Why did you feel it would transfer well to film?

Well, I was still a student when I first saw it so I didn't know if I would be making movies or working in a restaurant. I had no idea what I'd be doing and I didn't go to the theatre much and I didn't even know who Stephen Sondheim the writer/composer behind Sweeney Todd was.

I didn't know anything about the show, I just wandered into the theatre and it just blew me away because I'd never really seen anything which had the mixture of all those elements. I went three nights in a row because I loved it so much.

Having already worked together many times, in a wide variety of projects, do you and Johnny still surprise each other on set?

Obviously seeing Johnny sing, I've never seen that in the many years we've worked together. So yeah, it's always something new. A journalist told us in America we've been working together for 10 decades. So we're a lot older than we look! We've actually known each other since before the invention of cinema; we have quite a long, good relationship that way.

What are your thoughts on the awards such as the Golden Globes being cancelled, due to the writers' strike?

I have to answer that one! I don't know, I haven't spent much time there and it's different just hearing about it from over here, so I'm not really in tune with what's happening. The only thing I can say is awards shouldn't have an impact on a film in terms of people seeing it, though in some cases if films are different or fall into strange categories like this one, awards probably helps awareness of a film. So that's, I guess, the sad part about it. Maybe films which are different won't reach as many people but I don't really know what to say.

Because a lot of things are changing and while the strike's going on and people aren't writing and things aren't being done, people then just go and watch YouTube, so in some ways I wonder if something shouldn't be worked out quickly because otherwise the thing that everyone's worried is going to happen is going to happen anyway. I find it very complicated and I really don't know what to make of it all.

Tell us something about the creation of the blood for Sweeney Todd. Is it true it was actually orange?

Well the blood, as everyone here can attest to, especially Alan Rickman, is our own recipe, very sticky, very sweet and burns your eyes.

I think it took Alan a couple of weeks to get it out of his underwear. But it's our own secret recipe.

What is your interpretation of the Sweeney Todd character? Because no matter how many people's throats he slices or how cold he is towards Mrs Lovett played by Tim's partner Helena Bonham Carter you never quite hate or dislike him.

We always just saw him as a sad character. We didn't see him as a villain or anything. He's tragic. When you meet him he's basically a dead person. The only thing that is keeping him going is one single-minded thing, which is tragic and you don't see anything else around him.

What draws you to such dark tales?

Well, I thought this was a light-hearted comedy musical. I guess I'm the wrong person to ask because I thought it was quite funny.

You've assembled a fairly impressive cast for this film. What were they like to work with?

All I can say is, this is one of the best casts I've ever worked with. All of these people are not professional singers and to do a musical like this, which is one of the most difficult musicals, well, they all went for it. Every day on the set was a very special thing for me because hearing all of these guys sing wasI don't think I can ever have an experience like that again. So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all.

How important do you think the music is in Sweeney Todd?

One of the things I love about a musical is you listen to a soundtrack and it tells you the story and we didn't want it to be what I call a traditional musical where there's a lot of dialogue and then singing.

It felt like a silent movie with music. That's why we cut out a lot of choruses and extras singing and dancing down the streets because each of the characters is repressed and has their emotions sort of inside and through the music was the way to let them express their feelings and was sort of the structure we used for it.

When I first saw the show, the imagery which is quite dark and harsh set with the music which is quite lush and beautiful was something that I'd never seen before and was the reason I wanted to do it.

What was it like to have your actors singing on set?

Very painful for the crew. You can't just lip-synch because you see the breath and the throat. Every take had to be belted out.

It was very enjoyable for me to have music on the set and to see them walking around and see them act in a way I've never seen before. Just walking across the room, sitting in a chair, making a pie, using a razor, whatever, they all did it in a way that you could sense was different if there hadn't been music.

Helena said it was odd to be paid by her boyfriend to fall in love with his best friend in this film but that you all handled it ok

It's a very incestuous business to be in!

Your book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy has a huge following. Do you have plans to do anything else like this?

I still do little things, I have a backlog of stories and when I get enough of them I'd like to do another book like that because it was quite fun to do. So between projects I'm working on it.

There aren't many, if any, 18-certificate musicals. Was there ever a possibility is might have been something else?

It was an amazing thing for a studio to do. We were going to do an R rated musical with lots of blood, with no professional singers, about a serial killer and cannibalism and they go, Great!' That was unheard of. I've never had that happen in my life before. That gave me hope there are still people in Hollywood willing to try different things. So that was a very positive thing.

The first meeting I went into I said, Blood is a part of the story' because I'd seen productions where they try to scrimp on it, be more politically correct and the productions really lost something, so it was one of the first things I said to them and they accepted it.

The show's three hours long and we weren't out to film the Broadway show, we were out to make a movie so we try to keep the pace like those old melodramas and because it's such a simple story you kind of get what the story is, so I felt the pace had to be more what it is. Sondheim himself is not a real big fan of movie musicals so he was really open to trimming it down and honing it down.

Helena said she was thankful you live in neighboring houses so you couldn't hear her rehearsing

And I had to soundproof the door as well.