Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger
Tides sails into theatres May 20 with Johnny Depp at
the helm as the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow.
Making 'Pirates' was a labor of love for Depp, since this film
marks the fourth time he's had an opportunity to step back into
Captain Jack Sparrow's boots, and in chatting up the father of two,
it became evident the character and films are close to his
Did you envision reprising your role as Captain Jack
Sparrow so many times?
After finishing 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,'
somewhere in the back of my head I was thinking 'I sure hope that I
get the chance to play Jack again…
I kind of expected that somebody would come round a couple of
years later and say, 'Hey, we have this idea…' and that's exactly
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer teamed up with writers Terry
Rossio and Ted Elliott to write "On Stranger Tides," and presented
the idea to you.
And this film sees you offer on another adventure, but
this time with adversaries - some old, some new - determined to
The main quest is to find the Fountain of Youth. But Jack's not
the only one interested in finding it; there is King George II,
there's the Spanish and there are other pirates, including
I think the story is more simplified. Things are a little bit
more clear-cut in 'Pirates 4' and it really feels like it's close
to the spirit of the first one. We introduce these characters and
they get from point A to D to Z without too much meandering or
subplot or too many complications.
What is it like to play Captain Jack after so many
There's a great safety and a great comfort in playing Captain
Jack, because you have license to be anything you want to be,
You can be completely irreverent, totally subversive, absolutely
abstract in any and all situations, so there's a real safety net.
There's a real pleasure for me to play Jack and having done it a
few times, I know him so well that he just comes so naturally.
The 107 days shoot saw you travel across Hawaii, Puerto
Rico, Los Angeles and London. With Gore Verbinski, who directed the
first three films, moving on to other projects, was it strange to
have Rob Marshall take the reigns?
Certain names were mentioned, and when Rob's name came up I
thought, 'That's got to be it. Let's just hope he's a nice
I've seen all of his films and he's got a great sensibility.
He's got a great and unique approach to characters; his aesthetic
sense is magnificent and his timing is perfect. So we sat down and
talked, and from the first second I knew he was the guy. I just
I don't think there's anyone better who could have come in and
followed Gore. Rob's approach was very respectful of what Gore
built in the first three films but at the same time he has his own
signature. He gave it a very new angle; he brought a brand-new pair
of eyes and a fresh look.
He was incredibly efficient. It was like 'I don't think we need
this.' Boom, done. His approach was 'let's stay true to the heart
of the story and have fun while we're doing it.'
He has an incredible sense of timing, and his timing, his
delivery, comes out of his knowledge of choreography. But boy, if
you're off just the slightest second in terms of delivery, he was
The film opens with a chase through 18th century London,
where Captain Jack is perched precariously on the back of a
horse-drawn carriage. Did you perform any of your own
I worked closely with a stunt double but filmed many of the
chase scenes myself. It is important because there's a physical
language to the character that I think is important and even though
the stunt double has got it down to a fine science, there are still
times when you have to see Captain Jack's head in there now and
Do you enjoy physical comedy?
Oh yeah, I do. I love it because all my great heroes were
basically silent film guys who didn't have the luxury of words - it
was all body language and stuff.
And the beauty of the specific physical bits in 'On Stranger
Tides' is that we had Rob on board. Coming from that background of
movement and dance he could sense a false note. He was fully and
deeply committed to the work and he was magnificent every single
moment-he didn't miss a trick.
"On Stranger Tides" reunited you with some cast from
previous "Pirates" films, including Kevin McNally who plays
Joshamee Gibbs, and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Jack's arch enemy,
Captain Hector Barbossa.
Kevin is great and Joshamee is Jack's ever-loyal second in
command. And you still have that great dilemma between Jack and
Barbossa. They have like a 'love-hate' relationship, and it's
almost on the level of like an Abbott and Costello kind of thing.
I've always felt that Geoffrey and I were put in the 'Pirates'
films to bicker like a couple of old housewives at a bridge club or
We're just picking each other apart with the tiniest details and
he's definitely a most worthy opponent. In this one Barbossa's
changed quite a bit and not for the better. Everybody is kind of
out for their own thing.
Geoffrey's a fantastic actor who is constantly investigating the
possibilities of a scene, the possibilities of moments. It's always
fresh, always new and it's always interesting with Geoffrey.
Another "Pirates" veteran is rock-and-roll legend Keith
Richards. The Rolling Stones guitarist first made an appearance as
Captain Teague - Jack's wayward father-in the third film and is
back for number four.
Keith was more than ready to come back as long as it made sense
in the context of the story. And I thought the way that Terry
[Rossio, writer] handled bringing him back was wonderful. He comes
in at just the right moment and kind of takes care of his boy - he
takes care of Jack.
I first met Keith back in about 1994 or 1995 and we became
friendly back then and we've hung out together over the years. And
it was great to have him back for 'On Stranger Tides' because he
was wonderful and he was so much fun.
He's a fascinating man, you know. I've known him for a long time
and to get periods like that where it's just him and me hanging
out, sitting around in the trailer yakking about music, movies,
whatever, was a real pleasure.
Penélope Cruz makes quite an impression as Angelica. You
last worked with her on "Blow" - what was it like to work together
Penélope is a serious force to be reckoned with. We did a film
together years ago, and it was wonderful to work with her then and
wonderful to see her on 'Pirates.' She really is a treat.
She is a heavy hitter; you can throw all kinds of stuff out
there into the atmosphere and she'll snatch up something and just
throw a curve ball back at you, so she is very stimulating. She is
someone I adore - one of my best friends and it's been great having
Another new character is Blackbeard, one of the most
feared pirates who ever lived. What was it like to work with Ian
The beauty of the character of Blackbeard is that on the surface
he seems to be a rational man, but then the more you get to know
him the more you realize that he's a stone-cold killer without an
ounce of heart. He would double-cross anyone to achieve his
Historically, Blackbeard was the fiercest of them all-he was the
guy who would stop at nothing and he was totally unpredictable. And
I don't think there was a better actor to play him than Ian
Ian was a gas and an absolute blast to be around. I think
'seasoned' is the right word to use to describe him because he's
done the work and he's been there for a long time. He still enjoys
the process and he loves what he does and he does it really,
well-flawlessly, effortlessly, and seamlessly.
The production filmed at some historic landmarks in
London, including the Royal Naval College. What was it like to have
Jack doing some landlubbing?
I think it's interesting to see Jack wandering the streets of
London. It's interesting to see him in a London pub or for that
matter, in great proximity to the King of England.
I thought it was a great idea to shoot there, and to film at the
Royal Naval College was really, really magnificent - it was like
time-traveling as far as I was concerned. It just looked so
During the shoot in Greenwich you turned up at a London
grade school dressed as Captain Jack. Beatrice Delap, 9, heard you
were filming nearby and wrote asking Captain Jack for some help in
mutinying against the teachers.
"That was nice, and it happened so innocently and that was the
beauty of it. This little letter came from the school and went to
the production; the production passed it on to one of the guys I
work with and I read it and thought 'we have to do this.' And the
school was about 300 yards away. It was just me and a bunch of pals
dressed as pirates and we gave them 15 to 20 minutes of improv. It
was great and those kids were so sweet.
A first for you this time - filming entirely in 3D. How
did it affect your process?
It was my first time shooting in 3D, although 'Alice in
Wonderland' was rendered in 3D. It's different; it's an interesting
For the last 25 years when they re-loaded the camera it was this
giant magazine that they clipped on to the back. And now it's
re-loaded with a computer chip. It's interesting and fascinating
because your relationship to the lens becomes different.
Would you play Captain Jack again in the
When you're done playing Jack there's a real decompression. To
an extent there is with all the characters that you play, but with
Jack, especially, it's like getting out of that skin and it's
semi-unpleasant because I like being in that skin. I really enjoyed
I don't mind the idea of stepping back into Jack's boots again.
I love the character and I don't feel like there's any possibility
of running out of new situations, new stories to tell. So depending
on the scenario, depending on what we can come up with, I would
most definitely consider it.
Looking for a piratical primer? This two-minute vid
condenses flicks 1-4:
The official trailer:
Maria Pilar Clark is a mom times two and Windy City-based writer.
See more of Pilar's stories here.
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