Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the action-packed adventure, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.
This latest installment of the hit franchise captures the fun, excitement and humor in Disney Digital 3D as Captain Jack crosses paths (and swords) with the enigmatic Angelica (Penélope Cruz). When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected journey to the fabled Fountain of Youth. Along the way Jack must use all his wiles to deal with the barbarous Blackbeard and his crew of zombies, Angelica, the ravishing pirate with whom he shares a dubious past, and the beautiful, enchanting mermaids whose masterful cunning can lure even the most seasoned sailor to his doom.
The international cast includes franchise veterans Geoffrey Rush as the indestructible Captain Hector Barbossa and Kevin R. McNally as Captain Jack’s longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid.
MoviesOnline sat down with Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, director Rob Marshall and producer Jerry Bruckheimer at a press conference in Los Angeles to talk about their new film. They told us how the storyline evolved and expanded to include new characters, what it was like shooting with a new director at the helm, and why they enjoyed being part of the next installment of the hugely successful Pirates franchise. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: How does it feel to be a part of this virtual Disneyland and live forever in the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Johnny Depp: Well, it’s pretty psychedelic, actually. I suppose you could make it even more psychedelic but we probably shouldn’t go into that now but, yeah, the idea of wandering through this ride and suddenly there you are three times, and Geoffrey’s similar experience there. He has to go in and see his head in there as well. It’s quite an honor in a weird way. It’s a great honor. Some sort of thing that you took part in creating becomes this forever sort of object.
Q: Penelope, what was it like for you doing this action movie? Was there a lot of preparation, and did you actually get to go mano a mano with Johnny or was that all a stunt double?
Penelope Cruz: We did have a lot of preparation. We started a couple of months before the shooting started with Robert [inaudible], our teacher. The actors of the other three movies are amazing and they taught me with a lot of patience. So I knew most of the choreography because they put them together like choreographies almost like when we were doing “Nine” together. It was very helpful that I knew most of them before we started shooting, and then we did a lot of it together. Of course, everything was safe because of my situation then. They were really protective at every moment and that meant so much to me.
Q: Rob, can you talk about working with Penelope again? She talked about how it’s close to “Nine” and the musical feel of it. Do you think this movie has any interesting kind of rhythm to it in that way?
Rob Marshall: Well, listen, I mean, I’m so blessed to work with this extraordinary cast and working with Penelope again was a huge, beautiful highlight for me, and it’s interesting. This is a very different genre for me, but actually when I began working on it it felt very akin in a way to things I’ve done before because of the rhythm. I mean when you’re doing an action set piece, it’s very similar, as Penelope just said, to choreography in a way because it’s shot that way. It’s meticulous how it’s rehearsed. I mean, you have no idea.
Listen, I could talk for seven hours about Johnny Depp but, please, there’s no one like him. And to watch him, he has this amazing ability to watch something and then pick it up and do it within seconds and he’ll hate me for saying this, but I don’t care, I’m going to say it anyway. Because he’s Fred Astaire, he’s this genius dancer. For me, he is. And he says he can’t dance, but he can. He’s extraordinary physically as the entire cast is. I mean Ian was extraordinary. I mean I’m telling you right now, Sam, as Philip in this movie, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. You’re like a stunt man. And Geoffrey has, I mean, that’s all him fighting, it’s extraordinary. This is an incredibly physical group, I was very lucky.
Q: Jerry, there were two years between the other Pirates films, and there’s four years now. What was it that made you want to go back in and sort of reinvent the wheel with this one?
Jerry Bruckheimer: I think buying the book gave us a starting place, and gave us a lot of ideas to work on it, and screenplays are the hardest thing to try to get right. They look so simple when they work, but they really destroy your brain cells trying to get them there. So we took our time, we got it right, Johnny was really instrumental in working on the script process with us, and actually created Sam’s character. So, Sam, you can thank him for that. But you also have to find the casts’ availability too. Johnny’s busy and a lot of our other cast members are busy so we were very lucky that we finally found a time when they were all available together and we could make the picture. And we brought in Rob, and it was a real coup to get him. We’re so fortunate that he agreed to do this. Shocking that he did, but we’re thrilled because he’s an ultimate master at what he does, so we got very lucky.
Q: Penelope, what was the key thing for you in creating this character? Was it the clothes or learning the sword play, and did you have anyone that inspired you in the way that Keith Richards inspired Mr. Depp?
Penelope Cruz: For sure in a character like this it really helps to have those costumes and to be in the real locations. It was very helpful that we didn’t go into a studio until after we’d already shot for two or three months in Hawaii, and then they built a beach at Universal Studios. When they told me, I thought it was my English, that I didn’t understand what they said, but then when I went there, there was really a beach at Universal Studios. And then we went to Puerto Rico and we shot on a deserted private island, and then we finally ended up in London. But all of that helped me a lot to try to imagine what the pirate world in that time was [like] because it’s so far from our reality. To create a character like that is all about your imagination, and I think it really helped to be in those beautiful places.
Q: Ian, when you were cast as the bad, evil villain, how did you approach your role in this movie?
Ian McShane: Well the biggest, badass pirate of all time, Blackbeard, well by the time I got a costume which Penny Rose devised this extraordinary leather, biker, rocker, pirate outfit and by the time Penny fixed those twelve, black dead cats to my neck making this extraordinary beard – no, it was great. I didn’t miss the swearing. No, this is a Disney movie, this isn’t HBO. But I think Terry Rossio – that was one of the wonderful things that attracted me to it when Jerry and Rob asked me to do it and I read the script and it was so literate, funny, quirky, and it was a delight. Shame about the cats, but it was fabulous, thank you.
Q: Johnny, we’ve interviewed you for many years and I remember going way back when you said, none of my movies will ever make any money. Do you feel really guilty now?
Johnny Depp: It’s not my fault. I did my best, even to the point of trying to get fired on the first one and they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it. No, it’s kind of interesting to experience that kind of a ride after well, essentially 20 years of enjoying a career based on failures and then suddenly something clicks. The weird thing is, I never changed a thing. The process is still the process as it ever was. The fact that people decided to go and see a movie that I was in was probably the most shocking thing that I’ve ever been through.
Q: Do you see yourself hanging on, doing this for decades, or…?
Johnny Depp: Yeah, I think they could wheel me in, yeah. Might have my dreads get tangled in the wheels of my chair. I don’t know, I mean, sure. Interestingly enough, for me, a character like Captain Jack, you feel like you could just continue. The possibilities are endless, limitless, you could – there’s any possibility of madness and absurdity that could commence. So you feel with this character that you’re never really done.
Q: Jerry, this is a very successful franchise with clear audience expectation, what were some of the challenges that you faced?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Well the most difficult thing that I think I spoke about earlier is getting the screenplay right. That is the hardest thing that we try to do and that’s what lures everybody here. Had we not had Elliott and Rossio, I don’t think any of these people would be here, starting with Rob first because he got attracted to the material and the same thing with Penelope. If you read a part that you want to play, and you already know you have actors you want to work with but it’s not on the page, it’s not going to be on the screen. So that is the most difficult thing to do for a producer, is to get a script that attracts this kind of talent.
Q: Geoffrey, this is your fourth time. What is it about this particular script and taking your character forward that really attracted you to come back?
Geoffrey Rush: I have to thank Johnny because I think in the development of the screenplay, he said we must keep the Barbossa and Sparrow as an old married couple constantly bickering. Because it goes back to the first film, the ownership of the Pearl is at the heart of that conflict, and I think it was only on this film that we started to talk about the Black Pearl as a sort of shared girlfriend because it kind of made that plotline a little bit more interesting than talking about a boat. But they keep shape shifting the character which is quite good. I started out as the outright villain spat out from the mouth of hell. And then in 2 and 3 he sort of became more of a diplomat, and I think now he’s really landed on his feet, or foot. Barbossa is vain and arrogant and pompous enough to think that he actually does belong in the court, and that gave me a terrific new set of variables to play with which was a lot of fun.
Q: Rob, you have a huge audience of Latinos and Spanish people following the film and Penelope Cruz. How important was it for you to have authentic Spanish people cast in this particular film?
Rob Marshall: I mean it was so lovely. Actually I think it was also Johnny’s idea to bring the Spanish element into the film. He’s an amazing writer as well and he’s an incredible collaborator and we felt we needed sort of a whole other faction racing for the Fountain of Youth. It really held the urgency of the journey for everybody, and we found these incredible – with the help of Penelope, by the way — Spanish actors for our film which is spectacular. Listen, I mean, having Penelope in this film, to me she’s an international star not just a Spanish actress. She can do everything. And looking for someone who could play opposite Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is a huge, huge undertaking and to tell the truth, she was the only person we thought of. There was no one else even thought of for even half a second because she can do everything, she’s extraordinary.
Q: Johnny, you’ve lived like both a super star and a pirate which many men sometimes dream of. What dreams do you have left now and what do you hope for the future, both for your career and as a family man?
Johnny Depp: Well, smooth sailing. That’s what I hope for. No, I’m okay with no big ups, no big downs, it’s all right. Just go full steam ahead, all things well and good, yeah. I mean as a family man, all you want is, as a dad, pure happiness for your kids, that’s a universal parent thing. Yeah, that’s it, that’s my dream, happy kids.
Q: Penelope, where would you like to see this go for your character in the future? You have the doll and you have Captain Jack’s memory with you. Where would you like to take the character in future installments?
Penelope Cruz: I mean at least I hope she’s not going to die of hunger. But I have the hope that because she finds the doll and she has some of those voodoo powers that come from her father, that maybe she’s going to make him come back. But she can’t die alone there, no.
Q: Jerry, what was the balance you had to strike to make sure everything was clear without using too much exposition so that the audience understood what was happening?
Jerry Bruckheimer: I think that 2 and 3 get bashed a little bit, but you have to understand that 2 is the biggest of the bunch. It was an enormous success and 3 reached almost a billion dollars. They were enormously successful movies even though the media didn’t understand them as much as the audience did, and that’s who we make movies for. I think one of the things we tried to address but we didn’t really have to address because we started fresh, we finished our trilogy and we paid off all our characters so we started introducing new characters and it makes it much easier to not have as long of a movie because you have less characters and less plot lines to deal with, with each character. This is something that Rob accomplished very well by making a picture that’s shorter and not quite as complicated because you have less characters to deal with.
Q: Astrid, you make a great mermaid, what was it like walking into this incredible Pirates world here for you, as a mermaid?
Astrid: Well, unreal. When I went to the first audition, I didn’t even speak English so it was quite unreal and I think I learned so much, and I felt so lucky. It was an extraordinary experience to work with Rob, with Jerry, with everyone around this table, and it was amazing for me to act this very interesting character because the moments in the movie are very different than every moment we have seen before, and the mermaid I play is different from the others because she meets Philip, and I think that relationship symbolized something really great and powerful like kind of two cultures meet, and try to trust the other one, and take up all the protection, and it was just a pleasure.
Q: Was it a pleasure for you, Sam?
Sam Claflin: Even now my heart’s beating. I mean right from the get go really, I never kind of imagined that this was even possible. I mean the moment my agent called me to say, you have an audition today for “Pirates of the Caribbean,” I was like, oh, what’s the point? It’s never going to happen, it’s impossible. And then two days later flying myself out to LA to meet Rob and Jerry, and even getting dressed in Rob’s office. John Palucko kind of got me dressed for the audition, and from the get go I’ve been so nervous the whole way through and so anxious to see what people think about it and [it’s] my first sort of step on the ladder. It’s nerve wracking but at the same time there’s a very fine line between nerves and excitement, so I think it’s a bit of both. Or huge amounts of both, I think, actually. I mean, it’s a true honor to be working with the ensemble that we have. We really became like a family unit, especially when we were in LA and in Hawaii. We were all away from home and it was nice to have everybody be so welcoming. I actually felt like I belonged there as opposed to living a dream. So I’m very thankful for everyone.
Q: Johnny, do you see any similarities between the real you and your character, Captain Jack? Also, if you have a chance in the future to direct, would you also consider playing a lead role in that movie?
Johnny Depp: Would I consider playing a lead role? Oh, yeah. No, no, I tried that once. Yeah, first one’s free. No, no, if I ever thought of directing again, I mean – I don’t know, even the idea of directing a film is a strange one for me, because I feel kind of anti mathematics in a way in that sense. Anti – I don’t like when things make sense, I prefer if they don’t, so if I made a film, it wouldn’t make any sense and no one would see it. So maybe I’ll just make little films at home with my phone, never to be released.
And in terms of any connection to the character of Captain Jack, no, we’re totally different. There’s nothing that I can relate to in Captain Jack whatsoever. With every character you play, as these guys will tell you, there’s a part of you goes into that in terms of the ingredients of making this stew. There’s most definitely a part of me in Captain Jack and now, fortunately or unfortunately, there’s a great part of Captain Jack in me as well. Basically, I can’t shake him. He won’t leave me alone. He just sort of keeps showing up at odd times. In fact, he arrived this morning when I was getting my kids ready for school. I had to shoo him away. Yeah, thank you.
Q: Johnny, how was it working with Rob? Also, it’s been a few years since you worked with Penelope, what was that like and did she manage to teach you some Spanish finally?
Johnny Depp: I’ll start with the last one first. She taught me the raunchiest Spanish. I mean, it’s so foul that I couldn’t bring myself to repeat it here and now. No, no, I think it’s a bad idea. I’d carry that on my back for the rest of my days. I mean, going to work with Penelope again, having done the film “Blow” together ten, eleven years ago, something like that, was – well the weird thing, it felt like when we saw each other again, it felt like we’d wrapped the film “Blow” just the week before or a few days before. It just sort of clicked instantly so that this, whatever exists in terms of chemistry, was just instantly firing on all cylinders. It felt completely right, and it was Rob’s brilliant idea to bring her in and I think when he brought up the idea to me, he maybe got out the consonant and I went “Great idea!” So I was very, very excited to have Penelope come into this film. I knew that she would be not only a worthy opponent but someone who would just kill the scenes and she did. She was incredible. So, yeah, no, that’s all in very good shape. And then Rob Marshall, what a gift to have someone of his caliber, someone of his talent, to come in and drive this beast and shape this strange animal into something. It was incredible to experience because some filmmakers go into a film, and they’ve got it all, it’s already shot in their head, it’s cut. It’s shot and cut in their head. I didn’t get that feeling from Rob. What I got from Rob was that he heard it as music in a weird way or rhythmic, and sort of new tempo, and a kind of way to finesse the sound or a way which became obviously visual as well, but it was an incredible experience. He’s unbelievably – his timing, and that’s not just to say choreographic timing or anything like that. But his sense of comedic timing is impeccable. He would have us just shave like an eighth, just an eighth of a millisecond, just a tiny little sliver off of a beat, and it would change the whole dynamic of the scene, it was quite something. The only problem is he’s really mean. He’s really mean. Look at him. Look at how mean he is. He’s the kindest man alive.
Q: Jerry, we’ve heard that you’ve already gotten the script for the next film so what’s the timeline for 5 and 6? Also, in regards to “On Stranger Tides,” what’s your barometer for success once it opens when you’ve got a sequel to a franchise that’s made billions of dollars?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Well the success part is up to Disney. If it makes them a lot of money, it’s a success and we’re all hoping it makes them a lot of money. As far as the timeline, it took awhile to get this script to a place where we all were comfortable with it, and we just got a great rough first draft in and it’ll take some time, and hopefully we can bring it to you quicker than we did in the past. We hope that happens but it’s going to depend on getting a great piece of entertainment that everybody will enjoy, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about quality.
Q: Rob and Johnny, can you talk about the London escape sequence? How much choreography and rehearsal went into that and how much fun was that to shoot?
Johnny Depp: It was horrible. It was grueling. No, I mean, that’s a very obtuse, very strange little sequence. I’ve never quite – I thought of doing many things in my life under the influence of, well, life. And I’ve never actually thought of – yeah, straddling two characters while they’re moving before, and so that was an interesting experience. And then jumping on people’s heads and onto another cart and then the thing catches fire, and – it’s all a bad dream, isn’t it? And this is how daddy brings home the bacon. What I was going to say before is there’s a very clever idea that is being hatched in terms of Pirates 5 and 6 where you’re going to actually shoot them on the ride just going around in circles, nonstop, kind of like Andy Warhol’s “Sleep” — just close-ups on everyone.
Q: This is the best movie of the summer and I know some of this team is going to bring us “The Lone Ranger” too. What kind of movie can we expect from that? Will it be funny like this, and can you confirm, Jerry, any of the casting rumors we’re heard recently for “The Lone Ranger”?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Nothing new yet on the casting. We’re in the process of meeting people right now, so it’s just starting for “The Lone Ranger.” I think it’ll have its own tone, it’s going to have a whole different kind of feel to it than what we’ve done in the past but it’ll be special because Johnny’s in it, and he’s got a real interesting beat on the character of Tonto.
Johnny Depp: I mean I feel like what we’re creating in these story meetings and script meetings in terms of character and in terms of story, yeah, I couldn’t say you could compare it to Pirates, but I suppose tonally there is a relationship because there is a kind of fascination with the absurd that’s involved in “The Lone Ranger” as well, some semblance of a reverence. But you need that, right, you’ve got to have that.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” opens in theaters on May 20th.