The director behind the whole series talks about this latest (possibly not last?) installment coming to DVD
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is coming to DVD on December 4. I recently had a chance to participate in a virtual junket for this upcoming DVD, and our questions were fielded by none other than director Gore Verbinski! The helmer had plenty to say about this third Pirates movie, and much more, and here are the highlights from this online event.
The beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is awfully grim, were there any creative struggles with Disney to open the film that way?
Gore Verbinski: It is interesting to me that Disney as a brand is somehow equated with 'happy meals and soccer moms.' Yet Walt Disney was well aware of the necessity of drama within a narrative. He made Bambi and " Old Yeller" both of which had their grim moments that were essential in creating the emotional stakes of those pictures. I think we have remained true to the brand and the folks running the studio today were kind enough to let me stand by these principles.
Could you talk about the development of this trilogy? Was it always in the back of your mind to have multiple films, or did the idea of the trilogy come about after the success of the first film? In which case, what were the challenges that the screenwriters faced, and what "guidelines" were they given?
Gore Verbinski: The first film was originally designed as a "one off." We were so under the radar because honestly I don't think anyone thought we could resurrect the genre. After the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl we set about reverse engineering a trilogy. Some loose ends from the first film became assets in the process: Bootstrap Bill for instance, the 'P' brand on Jack's arm, the mention of the East India Trading Company etc. other ideas like the Kraken and Davy Jones were discussed during the development of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl but abandoned as that film took shape, and resurrected for the subsequent films once we knew were making them. Yet whenever you set out to make a film, I think you have the obligation to create characters that feel as if they come from other stories -- even Pintel and Ragetti have their own origins and destinations. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are well versed in mythology and I enjoyed collaborating with them all the way up until each scene was photographed.
Was the making of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End as hectic as was portrayed in the DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest?
Gore Verbinski:Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had to be in theatres 10 months after the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Hectic? How about insane? Fortunately the cast and crew found their stride enabling us to work intuitively throughout the madness.
What a hoot it was to see Keith Richards in pirate garb. Who's idea was it to bring him onboard?
Gore Verbinski: That was all Johnny. He and Keith are great friends and I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet and work with the legend. Keith is a unique species in every possible way. But as far as making him into a pirate, we didn't need to do much. Keith makes the rest of us look like we are pretending.
What was it like when you finally got Keith Richards on set? Was he well behaved?
Gore Verbinski: Well behaved? Let's just say everything you have heard is true.
Of all of the special features on the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End DVD, is there one featurette or one segment that stands out to you as being your favorite or the most interesting?
Gore Verbinski: Yes, the making of the Maelstrom gives you a small window into the complexity of creating and executing a sequence that has never been accomplished before. Months in planning and 8 weeks of shooting required a synergy between stunts, camera, practical effects and visual effects. Day after day we were operating amid 100 miles per hour winds, cascading rain and debris, deafening cannon fire with 150 sword wielding stuntmen battling across two undulating vessels on the largest gimbals ever constructed for filming. Although artificially created, practically speaking, we were filming a battle within a massive storm. I think the viewer will get a good sense of what everyone went through to bring this to the big screen.
The Maelstrom scene proved to be a major success, but also offered up major effects obstacles. Was there ever a moment you didn't think it was going to work out?
Gore Verbinski: Definitely, the biggest issue hit us about 8 weeks prior to the release. We were suffering from a scaling issue that seemed insurmountable. The physics of a whirpool this size overwhelmed the team at ILM. The path we were heading down was not achieving the desired results so it all had to be reworked. The initial rendered backgrounds were used as out of focus plates for closeups which bought us time by getting 100 or so shots in the pipeline and allowed us to completely rethink and re-render the maelstrom for all of the wide shots. This is the exact opposite of how you would normally go about producing this sequence. John Knoll and the team at ILM ultimately pulled it off, but it was a real nail biter.
How much planning goes into "The Making of..." Extras and how deeply are you involved?
Gore Verbinski: It is really an issue of documenting the madness. There must be a million hours of digital video that the 'making of folks' are combing through. (Someone was on set videotaping every day.) They show me the cut footage and most of the time I just have this sort of Vietnam flashback moment and then say, 'sure why not?' I do believe the process of this production is just about as mad and bold an adventure as the narrative itself.
Were there times that you had to hold back Johnny Depp a little, or did you just let him do his Jack Sparrow thing?
Gore Verbinski: Johnny and I love pushing Jack as far as he can go, but we are also aware that keeping him unpredictable rerquires an constant oscilation between the dramatic and the abusrd. So, it's both spurs and reigns -- constantly.
Do you have any visual dreams that are technically still impossible to do but can be done in the near future?
Gore Verbinski: I think Hollywood invention has always been somewhat limitless. You may have relied on a bit of claymation, filmed lizards for dinosaurs, or depicted Chuck Heston parting the seas but what continues to change is execution: design aesthetic and photo realism continue to evolve. For me the limits have always resided with our imagination. The struggle is to conceive something unique. If you can achieve this, then the underlying concept or idea even badly executed, will always outshine the polished cliche.
You've been featured on Premier's most powerful list. Do you feel powerful these days?
Gore Verbinski: Only when I wear my eyepatch.
Are you planning on doing a 4th part?
Gore Verbinski: I think the trilogy is now complete. All of the stories set in motion by the first film have been resolved. If there ever were another Pirates of the Caribbean film, I would start fresh and focus on the further adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End hits the DVD shelves on December 4.