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The Film

Sleepy Hollow (1999) is a historical horror-fantasy film directed by Tim Burton interpreting the legend of The Headless Horseman.


  • The scene where Ichabod Crane crosses the covered bridge and hears the frogs underneath croaking “Ichabod” and “Headless Horseman” is a tribute to Disney’s 1959 animated version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (featured in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)), in which Ichabod Crane, crossing a bridge, hears the frogs croaking the same words. Director Tim Burton, a former Disney animator, has cited the Disney version of the tale as his main inspiration for the look and style of his film. The scene of Ichabod Crane riding the Horseman’s horse backwards is also taken from the earlier film.
  • Christopher Walken, who plays the Headless Horseman, played a schoolteacher in The Dead Zone (1983), in the beginning of which he tells his class to read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
  • There are 18 decapitations in this film.
  • The town Sleepy Hollow was created from the ground up in three months. At the time of filming, it was the largest set built in England and was put up in record time. The last set that held this record was built for Billy Elliot (2000).
  • The Western Wood was built on a sound-stage so everything, the weather, light, could be controlled.
  • The Windmill was too large to be constructed on a sound-stage because it was over five stories high. The sails alone weighed over 2 tons.
  • The final chase sequence on the coach in the Western Wood took three weeks to film.
  • It was really Johnny Depp who was being dragged after the coach. He wore a type of protective armor under his costume.
  • The Horseman’s horse is named Daredevil, the same name of Brom Bones’ (Brom Van Brunt’s) horse in Irving’s original short story; the horse was purchased in Seville, Spain.
  • The scarecrow in the scene where magistrate Phillips gets his head cut off by the headless horseman is the opening pumpkin/scarecrow from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
  • Christopher Walken’s character has no speaking lines, aside from a couple of “HAA”s to his horse and “shhhh.”
  • The dress worn by Katrina Anne Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) in the last shot of the movie has the same pattern as Michael Keaton’s outfit in the climactic scene of Beetle Juice (1988) also directed by Tim Burton.
  • Tim Burton and the crew of the movie built the small town Sleepy Hollow complete with rooms, floors, and stairs. The town was dismantled after filming was completed.
  • Historically, Ichabod Crane was a very unattractive man. Johnny Depp wanted to add prosthetics to his face to make himself look ugly, but Tim Burton wanted to base the character on Crane’s more unattractive personality traits – his reported squeamishness and eccentricity.
  • Although Tim Burton claims the windmill scene was a reference to Frankenstein (1931), a stronger link can be made to Will Hay’s Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) which also featured a windmill but not a headless horseman.
  • Star Johnny Depp adopted Goldeneye, the horse that played Gunpowder, Ichabod Crane’s horse in the film, when he heard it was going to be put down.
  • Ichabod Crane faints six times in the movie.
  • At the start of filming the three-way axe battle with ‘Ray Park’ , Johnny Depp and Casper Van Dien, Van Dien broke the index finger of his left hand. Although extremely painful, he carried on without telling anyone as he didn’t want his part cut short.
  • Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel were, reportedly, real people.
  • Michael Gambon wanted to keep his severed head and send it via proxy to interviews and dinner parties.
  • The production notes on the DVD reveal that Johnny Depp based his characterization on the late Roddy McDowall (Fright Night (1985)), Angela Lansbury (The Mirror Crack’d (1980)) and Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) and others).