Burton: Venice Golden boy

Career award presented by Depp

Longtime collaborators Tim Burton and Johnny Depp provided the star power Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival as the director received a career Golden Lion award and his frequent leading man handled presenting duties.

Burton and Depp drew most of the attention on the Lido after Quentin Tarantino canceled his visit. Tarantino was the ceremonial head of the Venice festival's spaghetti Westerns sidebar but dropped out because of a back injury, he told the festival in a letter.

"My heart is broken not to be able to see all the spaghetti Westerns scheduled for the festival," wrote Tarantino, a well-known fan of the genre.

Still, the crowds found much to cheer about with the arrival of Burton and particularly Depp, who chatted with fans, signed autographs and posed for photographers for more than 10 minutes before heading in to give Burton his prize.

"It's a very big honor to present Tim with this award," Depp said. "He is my favorite director and a very close friend."

At 49, Burton is among the youngest recipients ever presented with a career Golden Lion. "I am charmed by this award, which will serve as an inspiration for me forever," he said.

Depp has starred in several of Burton's films, including "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), "Ed Wood" (1995), "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005).

He also stars in Burton's upcoming musical thriller "Sweeney Todd." Burton used the occasion of the ceremony to introduce a seven-minute clip from the film, which is slated for a December release.

Based on the Broadway musical, the film also stars Helena Bonham Carter, Burton's longtime girlfriend, who arrived at the ceremony several months pregnant. The couple walked in holding hands and kissed for the paparazzi.

After the ceremony, the updated version of Burton's 1993 film "A Nightmare Before Christmas" screened in 3-D, the first 3-D feature to play the storied Venice event.

Also premiering Wednesday was Johnny To and Ka-Fai Wai's thriller "Mad Detective," a quirky, fast-paced thriller about a rookie cop in Hong Kong who teams with a veteran detective to solve a murder case.

The film was the festival's surprise competition entry, and it screened twice Wednesday, both to packed houses. "Mad Detective" is the 22nd and final competition entry.

Surprise films are becoming a tradition under artistic director Marco Mueller, who also had one last year — Jia Zhangke's "Still Life," which film went on to capture the Golden Lion for best picture.