Written by one of my favorite team of writers, the Shrek masterminds Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl promises to be an exciting summer adventure. Imagine the Caribbean Sea in the 17th century, where evil pirates roam the seas in an attempt to reverse an ancient curse that leaves them torn between life and death. They are led by the wicked Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). But along with a young man named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), rogue pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) takes on the world's most treacherous pirates in order to save Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, Bend It Like Beckham), the love of Will's life. This may sound like the adventure of a lifetime, but have the stars of the film enjoyed making the film as much as it looks like we'll enjoy watching it?
"It was criminal. It was a ball. Hard work, certainly. Really hard work� But everyday was a gas. I loved being Jack Sparrow," says Johnny Depp about his experience on the set. And although Depp admits that it was quite fun to dress up like a pirate everyday, he blames it on the five-year old within him: "It struck a chord with the five-year-old kid still inside of me. I can remember being five or six years old, and every single little boy probably feels that moment where they want to be a pirate, or a swashbuckler, with the romance and the high seas. All that stuff. When I was five, before school, I used to have the record album of Blackbeard's Ghost with Peter Ustinov and Dean Jones. I'd never seen the film until last year. But, I knew that record album so well; I had the dialogue memorized verbatim. It was a great worry to my parents�I guess that's why."
Actor Orlando Bloom also recalls some "pirating" during his youngster days, "I used to play pirates in the back yard when I was a kid. In the garden." But actress Keira Knightley was not as lucky as some of the others in terms of living out her pirate fantasy. The writers just wouldn't give her a sword. "We were really lucky, because the writers were on set practically every day. And they were always coming up saying, �If you've got any ideas, if you want anything, come and talk to us.' My only idea, the only thing I wanted, was a sword. And every single day I'd go up to the producers, I'd go up to the director, I'd go up to the writers and say, �Give me a sword.' They'd say, �Yeah-yeah-yeah. Whatever.' I never got a sword. Six months later, never got a sword. Am I angry? Yes, very." Can't a gal get a break around here?
Nonetheless, Knightley had a blast working on the film, which also happens to be her first major role is a big studio picture. The differences between working on this film and an indie, low-budget film such as BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM are staggering. "They're polar opposites, really. I mean, with Beckham, there was practically no money to make it. There's no point in even talking about a budget. Because there just wasn't one. You do a small film like that, and you become really close. Because it's a really tiny, tiny crew. Everybody knows everybody. It's all very much, �We have today to shoot this. We can't re-shoot it. There's no money to re-shoot it. We have to get it done now, before the sun sets. That's it.' With a film like this here, if something hasn't gone well, we can re-shoot it later. We can take three weeks to shoot an action sequence. I go in, in the morning, and they're exploding another boat. It's just a normal day, isn't it? You know? It's crazy. Both were great experiences."
But seeing as to how this is a pirate movie, have some of the PIRATES team members ever felt cursed? To my great dismay, Johnny Depp says that he has never felt cursed but rather "quite blessed actually." Darn! Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a little more helpful, "Pirate movies are cursed. They haven't ever done well. That's why we have the curse. That's it." Close, but no cigar. They could have at least made something up? Are these guys lucky or what?
Movie PictureORLANDO BLOOM
Q: You're career has blown-up since Lord of the Rings. How is that? Suddenly you're in a place where you're getting all these offers.
A: It feels great. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work. I'm an actor, and that's what we love to do. It's kind of weird when your dreams are realized. I never really thought it was possible. Only one in a million get to do what I'm doing. The idea that I could be one was not something I thought about. But it's been awesome. It's slightly overwhelming and unnerving, because there's a lot of stuff that goes on along with it. It's great to work with Johnny, and see how he's dealt with that type of thing. I'm still trying to figure it all out.
Q: Are you going to continue doing epic blockbusters?
A: I'd like to downscale a bit and do more human, dramatic, character driven pieces where you get to see less of a show and more of an act.
Q: Any upcoming plans?
A: I'm hanging on for that movie about a bunch of guys, sitting around a table, playing cards. I think it would be really good for me to do something like that. Just to show that I'm not an action-reaction one-liner type of guy. There's more to me than that.
Movie PictureJOHNNY DEPP
Q: How aware were you that this would be a family movie? That kids would be watching it?
A: Well, I certainly hoped that kids would watch it. That was the thing early on. There were some in the position of power that weren't greatly enthusiastic about the choices I made for Captain Jack early on. I had a very strong opinion about the guy. I thought, if they left me alone and let me do my work in creating this character, I could do something that kiddies would like. I could create a character that kiddies could have fun with. I wanted to entertain them.
Q: Keith Richards, Pepe LePew, and a Rastafarian are what we read you combined to create your character. Is any of that true?
A: Oh, yeah. It's all true.
Q: Why Pepe LePew?
A: Pepe LePew is actually a skunk that believed he was a ladies man. He believed it wholeheartedly. I kind of had that same feeling about Jack. No matter what the actual reality were, he would only see his reality. He would only believe in his version of the story. A guy who's two main objectives are getting his ship back, which really represents his freedom so that he can move forward to his horizon, and number two is to propagate the myth. He was a guy that understands legend is infinitely more important than the truth.
Q: How early on do you decide what to do with your character? The writers said they originally pictured you as a seedy Burt Lancaster.
A: Yeah. Oops. Silly guys. I'm glad they didn't tell me that early on. I knew pretty early on. Right away, when I read the script. The whole challenge, even before the script came, was coming up with a pirate that hadn't been done before. I had to come up with a pirate character that was fun and interesting. There was a lot going on in his past. He had to be dangerous, but at the same time, funny.
Q: There was a scene where they cut you loose and actually let you steer the ship by yourself. Was that scary and did you know you were going to do that?
A: No I didn't. [It was] Pretty weird. The first time was really scary. Someone was trying to explain it to me, but I didn't really get it. We were out on the ocean, and the camera was filming us from another ship, a larger ship. We were coming up right along side of it. As they rolled camera, I suddenly noticed that everybody aboard my boat suddenly hit the deck. Including the guy that was steering. So, there I was. I just grabbed a hold of the thing and did my best. I remember, after Gore yelled cut, the next piece of direction was, "Try to come closer to the bigger ship." I'd never steered one of those things before.
Movie PictureJERRY BRUCKHEIMER
Q: What interested you first in doing this movie?
A: You know, they called me up and said they were doing Pirates of the Caribbean, and they wanted me to read the script. I read the script and said, "Man, I don't know how to do this." But when Ted and Terry talked about these cursed pirates, I got excited. I hadn't seen that before. It sounded fun. I wanted to make it fresh. Something unique. This isn't Country Bears.
Q: On the production side, how much influence did you have on the film directly?
A: None�No, I'm kidding. I went out and got Johnny. My company got the writers, the same guys that wrote Shrek. They came up with the idea of cursed Pirates. I liked that idea. That's what made me want to do the movie. I talked to Orlando when he was doing Black Hawk Down for us. We chased Geoffrey Rush and convinced him to do the movie. Keira just walked in during an interview. I can't take credit for that. She's great. I thought we should hire her. Everything comes across my desk. From costumes, to locations, to sets.
Q: Johnny said that some people higher up weren't happy with what he was doing. Can you talk about that?
A: Sure, here's how it works. First of all, he had the look. He had those gold teeth, and it really freaked them out. I was the one that convinced him to pull a couple of gold teeth out. In truth, they were right. You start looking at his mouth rather than the performance. It's very subtle now. They're there. You know they're there. But when you have two big gold teeth in front, the light hits them, and that's all you're watching. Those gold teeth. We didn't want him to do that. What happens in the studio, they higher ups are too busy to watch dailies, so the junior executives are in there watching them. You've got a kid that's 26 years old, he sees Johnny's flamboyant character right out there, and he's like, "Oh, my God, I've got to tell somebody. This is outrageous." He doesn't know what they're going to except. Then, when they look at it, they're fine with it. But, still, I get a call asking me to have him tone it down.
Q: Can you talk about Johnny Depp's character choices a little bit?
A: Johnny knew what he wanted to do, and he told us about it afterwards. He was playing Keith Richards. Then there's a movie that Lee Marvin was in, where he played the whole movie drunk. This is a little combination of the two. What Gore wanted from him was that this was all an act. When you saw that Johnny wanted something, he got very serious. There was no drunk; there was no gay�He was just there. That's what we wanted, and tried to get through.
Q: How do you keep this PC, considering that Pirates are not very PC?
A: What we tried to do was make the costuming as realistic as possible. Then, we took it to different levels as far as the fantasy aspects. It's kind of a movie-movie. And we promised Disney that we wouldn't give them an R rated movie. There's another label they could have put it out on, which is Touchstone. They wanted it to be PG. I told Gore to make it the best movie he could. There are no bad words in the movie. There's no sex in the movie. And we balanced the scary parts. There are only two instances where you actually see blood.
Q: What is your history with the Disney ride? Had you been through it?
A: Oh, many times... It's just an amazing ride.
Q: How much influence did the studio have in keeping this ride-oriented?
A: They're not like that at all. The references to the ride all came from the writers and Gore. Nobody said, "We want you to put in a bunch of references." Basically, they said, "Make a really entertaining movie." And they liked the script a lot. They were very supportive during the process.
Q: The writers tell us there are two more stories for Jack Sparrow. This looks like it might lead to a franchise. Is that a possibility?
A: Well, we had a scene at the end where the monkey comes out of the water, runs up on the chest, and pulls the medallion out. He then turns into a skeleton and runs out, into the audience, just screaming. It scared the audience half to death. So, it still might be in the movie, but way at the end of the credits, so we don't scare everybody to death. I don't know if that's going to happen.
Q: Do you think you'll be able to get Johnny Depp to come back?
A: I think so. He's asked about it. I've been with other media groups that have asked him that question, and he says he might do it.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: King Arthur, but not the King Arthur you're familiar with. We're doing a take on the real King Arthur. It's the dark ages... It's going to be a hard R.
Movie PictureKEIRA KNIGHTLEY
Q: Had you ever seen the ride at Disneyland?
A: Yes. I had. I'd been on it about five times. I went to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I went to that one when I was eleven. I loved it. It was one of the best rides I'd ever been on. Then, when I got to LA, I was doing the film, I was working for Disney�"Can I have some free passes?" So, maybe I went back about four times with a very large group of friends and family. Obviously, because you can't do research on your own. So, I know it intimately.
Q: Did they stop the ride to let you walk around in there?
A: No. No, I had to cue up. They wouldn't�I desperately tried. "I'm doing the film." They're like, "Yeah. Get back to the cue." So, it didn't work. I couldn't pull any strings.
Q: Did you learn anything from the actors you were working with?
A: At the beginning of this experience, I felt great. I'm going in, I'm working with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Price. These are Titans, really. I'm going to go in. I'm going to learn how to be rather fabulous and get all their secrets. I can safely say I've learned absolutely nothing. I've come out of the experience, and, you know�Johnny, particularly�He chats, he has a cup of tea, he does the scene, he has another cup of tea, he giggles a lot�You think, "Where did it come from?" I haven't got a clue. It's just talent, I guess.
Q: Did he have those gold teeth the whole time?
A: Oh, yeah. That was the first thing I said to him, ever. We had the read-through in the back room of his club, and I was kind of star struck being in there anyway�He walks in, and I see him over there, and I'm like, "Johnnydeppjohnnydeppjohnnydepp!" We sit down at a long table, and he sits down next to me. I'm like, "Oh, my God." He says, "Hi, Keira." I'm like, "Shit, look at your teeth!" It kind of broke the ice right there. That was our relationship from then on.
Q: What is your reaction to Bend It Like Beckham's success in the States?
A: It's phenomenal. It was a very, very, very low budget film. It took 8 weeks to shoot. It was a great summer. It was very sunny. It was almost like being in the Caribbean. I hung out with a load of girls. We had a very girly time. We played some soccer. We got a suntan. And that was that. We thought it would do all right in England and in Europe, because David Beckham is such an idol. And soccer is the only sport, really. We thought people would be curious about it, and go and see it because of that. When it went to number one for three weeks in England, you think, "Okay, this has gone beyond curiosity." Then, when it comes out here, to a country where soccer is not anything, really, and David Beckham�You don't know who he is. It really makes you proud to be a part of it. You think, "Okay. It's a good film. It makes people smile. And that's great."
Q: Did anything from this carry over to the next film that you're doing, King Arthur? It's sort of another period piece.
A: It is. But this is 450 AD, so it's very, very different from Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm working with the same production team, It's Jerry Bruckheimer again. It's Disney again. I know a lot of the guys. It's the same costume designers, and stuff. That's very nice. It's going to be more raw. I don't think it's going to be a family film. It will be amazing.
Q: How is King Arthur darker? You said it's not a family film.
A: I think we're going for reality. So don't think Camelot. Or Excalibur. Think more along the lines of Gladiator. It's going to be fascinating. Thank you very much.
Q: Okay, so how did you like filming out in the CARIBBEAN?
A: It was amazing. I did start to get cabin fever towards the end of two months. But it was really incredible. On my days off, I'd be lying on a beach, or snorkeling. Do you feel really sorry for me yet? You know, it was incredible.
Dont't forget to also check out: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl