Pirates of the Caribbean Posters
Shipload of Characters Both New and Familiar
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
And Captain Jack Sparrow, it can be said with some degree of authority, is the only truly iconic screen character to have yet come out of this new millennium. A wholly original and thrillingly eccentric creation conjured up by a famous shape-shifter named Johnny Depp, this ducking, weaving, highly superstitious pirate captain of equally dubious morality and personal hygiene became the screen anti-hero for a new century. With his long dreadlocks and braided beard adorned with a wild assortment of beads and baubles, various and sundry amulets hanging from his attire, and teeth studded with gold and silver, Captain Jack Sparrow, like the film itself, appealed to audiences that ran the gamut in age, gender and nationality. Depp's performance as Jack Sparrow was recently named one of the 100 greatest performances of all time in the May 2006 edition of Premiere Magazine, which, tellingly, featured the good Captain's visage on the cover more prominently than anyone else (Depp made the list a second time, for the title role of “Edward Scissorhands”).
“If you ask most people what they loved most about the first movie,” says Mike Stenson, “it's usually this completely iconoclastic Jack Sparrow character. In a 500 channel universe, where you have so many different opportunities to be entertained in so many ways, you have to give the audience something that's unique and different. That's exactly what Johnny did with Captain Jack Sparrow in `The Curse of the Black Pearl.' He created this character and had absolutely committed to it, and both Jerry and Gore had to tell the powers that be to trust them on it after they saw the first dailies. At the end of the day, Johnny took a risk, and Jerry and Gore backed him 100 percent.”
“Johnny is one of our greatest actors,” says Bruckheimer. “He invented Jack Sparrow in the first movie, and he's not somebody who wants to rest on his laurels for the second and third. He takes a character to even newer heights. None of us would be back if Johnny had not wanted to play this character again. He loved making the first movie, and audiences loved him right back.”
As for Depp, the actor claims that “It is beyond me how such a character has sort of taken root in some people's hearts. It's still shocking to me. I was handed this opportunity to make something of this character, and I had pretty solid ideas about who he was and what he should be like. There were a number of people who thought I was nuts. But I was committed to the guy, and I think that's what happened to me in terms of finding the character.
“What I set out to do,” continues Depp, “was to try and make Captain Jack appeal to little kids as well as the most hardened adult intellectuals.”
Notes Terry Rossio, “one of the archetypes that is really underused in American cinema is the trickster character. Most American movies tend to celebrate the warrior who does the right thing at the right time. But the fun thing about Jack, who is definitely a trickster, is that he's not particularly good at avoiding getting caught. He will get caught…you just can't hold on to him for very long. Jack knows that if he can just bide his time, eventually the world will come over to his side, and that gives him this sort of supreme confidence that he can handle just about any situation.”
“The other fun thing about the trickster character,” continues Ted Elliott, “is that he basically is just out to have his own good time. He's following his own self interests. The things he does will affect other people-the mortals, if you will-and sometimes it will be to good benefit, and sometimes it will be to their detriment. So that goes back to the whole question posed in the first movie: is Jack Sparrow a good guy or is he a bad guy? Is he a pirate hero or pirate villain? Well, it really kind of depends on the perspective you have.'
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
With “The Curse of the Black Pearl” having been crucial in launching both actors to major international stardom, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley were enthusiastic to return alongside Depp as, respectively, young lovers Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (the fourth member of the original quartet, Geoffrey Rush, is not in the second film, his character of Captain Barbossa having been dispatched to the underworld by Jack Sparrow at the climax of the first film).
Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a knack for discovering young talent before the rest of the world catches on, secured Bloom as a young U.S. Ranger in “Black Hawk Down” before the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was released, and cast Knightley in the first “Pirates” film when she was only 17 years old, and “Bend It Like Beckham”-which was her breakthrough movie in the international arena-had not yet been released.
“We could see that Keira was an extraordinary actress when we cast her in `The Curse of the Black Pearl,' Bruckheimer recalls. “She's not afraid of anything. In the two years between the shooting of the first film and the start of the second, her skills had heightened with the work that she did and the experience she gained.” (This experience, incidentally, included her performance of Guinevere in Bruckheimer's production of “King Arthur”).
“As for Orlando,” continues the producer, “he also did an enormous amount of hard work between the first and second `Pirates,' working with some wonderful directors, like Ridley Scott and Cameron Crowe. Orlando started out as a really terrific screen actor, and has only gotten better with time.”
At the hands of screenwriters Elliott and Rossio, Will and Elizabeth were to undergo considerable development in the story of “Dead Man's Chest.”
Says Bloom, “I wanted Will to be less of the kind of earnest, upright young guy of the first movie, and this time to see his darker shades. Will's real journey throughout the second movie is his concern for his father, Bootstrap Bill, who is an important element of the first film without actually being seen. Will needs to rescue his father from the fate that he's been destined to live on the Flying Dutchman with Davy Jones and his frightening crew. So Will's objective is to reconnect with his father, and at the same time somehow maintain his relationship with Elizabeth. Each of the main characters in `Dead Man's Chest' have their own objectives, which are to some extent in conflict with each other's. There's a real sense of young lovers' tension between Will and Elizabeth.”
Keira Knightley, like much of the rest of the world, had been happily surprised by the massive success of the first film. “We were doing a movie based on a Disney theme park ride in a genre that hadn't been successful in something like 50 years,” she recalls. “But we had Gore Verbinski, whose vision is quite extraordinary, and Johnny Depp, whose portrayal of Jack Sparrow kind of brought the film into a whole new phenomenal world.
“What's nice about this movie,” adds Knightley, “is that the characters have evolved. When we first meet Elizabeth at the beginning of the story, she's on the brink of getting married to Will, which falls to pieces because a character named Lord Cutler Beckett comes into the equation, and he wants to annihilate piracy from the world. He's determined to arrest Will for being a pirate, and Elizabeth for aiding in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow. Elizabeth becomes a woman on a mission, and there are some quite nice undertones to her relationship with Will, as well as to Jack Sparrow…which grows into something very interesting.”
Jack Davenport as James Norrington, British naval officer
Also returning from “The Curse of the Black Pearl” is Jack Davenport as James Norrington, the British naval officer who loses Elizabeth Swann to Will Turner and gets one-upped time and again by Captain Jack Sparrow. “Jack Davenport is such a superb actor that we wanted him back in the party,” says Bruckheimer. “He's fun to work with, and created a wonderful character which becomes more embellished, richer and adds to the story. Jack is a major player in both the second and third films.”
“When we last saw Norrington,” says Davenport, “he was losing big time on all fronts. He was losing girls, he was losing people out of jail, being humiliated in every way. Hopefully, whilst he was being humiliated, you kind of got a sense of him making mature decisions at difficult times. The thing that always interested me about the role in the first film was that you have this character who's a leader of men in a very public role. And at the end of the first story, he's in a situation where he's having to deal with things which are very private in an incredibly public arena, with something like 200 people standing around.
“When I read the script for `Dead Man's Chest' I was delighted to see how they developed his character. Norrington has fallen on hard times. He doesn't look the way he looked before. He's lost his job, his girl and his self-respect. And suddenly, he has a chance to sign up as a crewman with none other than Captain Jack Sparrow. The question is, what's Norrington after? Revenge? Elizabeth? Or something else?”
(Coincidentally, Jack Davenport's father-the distinguished British stage and screen actor Nigel Davenport-was one of the stars of Alexander Mackendrick's “A High Wind in Jamaica,” made some 40 years ago and one of the best examples of the genre before it vanished from theatre screens.)
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones, Ruler of the Ocean Depths
One by one, Bruckheimer and Verbinski began to assemble the major players of a huge cast, including new characters which add so much new life and texture to “Dead Man's Chest.” To portray Davy Jones, who is as much sea creature as he is human, the filmmakers selected the extraordinarily versatile British actor Bill Nighy, knowing that he would find the humanity beneath the character's beastly veneer.
“Davy Jones is a deeply damaged and isolated individual,” says Nighy. “He's wounded so deeply that he determines that he will live a kind of semi-life, as long as it means he doesn't have to feel anything anymore. And so, he's torn out the center of all feeling-his heart-and locks it in a special chest.He also has control of a `pet,' as it's sometimes referred to, which is the Kraken-a sea monster which is the likes of which you've never seen before, entirely malevolent, evil and powerful beyond expression. If you possess Davy Jones' heart, you control not only him, but the Kraken as well, which in effect gives you control of the oceans.”
Nighy's primary challenge would be that because of Davy Jones' astonishing physical appearance, he would be acting throughout the film in what resembles a gray track suit and matching cap with reference marks for Industrial Light & Magic's computer wizards, who would embellish it with the amazing details as imagined by Gore Verbinski and famed conceptual artist Mark “Crash” McCreery. But Nighy was game to take it on. “The first movie was not only successful,” he notes, “but is actually beloved, and has entered the language in a way that I think few movies do. To be part of this was a very satisfying notion. As for playing a character which will be physically embellished by computer wizardry, as an actor you use your imagination. The same things are required of you, generally speaking.
“Of course,” adds Nighy dryly,” “in `Dead Man's Chest' I'm playing a man who has an octopus growing out of my chin, which I must admit, has thus far been outside of my experience.”
Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett
The other new villain of “Dead Man's Chest”-perhaps even more villainous than Davy Jones, whose viciousness stems from his all-too-human heartbreak from a thwarted love from the past-is the cold, calculating and utterly ruthless Lord Cutler Beckett. Invited to inhabit this dastardly soul was Tom Hollander, who so brilliantly portrayed Reverend Collins, the diminutive and hapless suitor of Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet, in “Pride & Prejudice.” Hollander was attracted to playing Beckett because, like the other characters developed for both the first and second films, he was multi-dimensional. “Soft glove, hard fist,” notes the actor of his Beckett. “On the outside, he's very arrogant and charming, but the inside is incredibly hard.” Hollander also saw some similarities between the East India Trading Company, as depicted in the story, and the modern world. “There's a modern parallel to how Lord Cutler Beckett and the East India Company operates in the story, with the pirates-who symbolize absolute freedom-being squeezed out ruthlessly.
“Especially Jack Sparrow,” Hollander continues, “who in Beckett's view is naughty, messy, has dreadlocks, could do with a few more baths, and worst of all, is a pirate. To Cutler Beckett, Jack Sparrow is a stray dog.”
Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill Turner
Stellan Skarsgard, who has been a major star in his native Sweden since the 1970s and has become an international player of considerable reputation and abilities, was pleased to be asked by Verbinski and Bruckheimer to portray Bootstrap Bill Turner…a character much discussed in “The Curse of the Black Pearl” but heretofore unseen. Skarsgard was well known to Bruckheimer, who had previously cast the actor as a marauding Teutonic in “King Arthur.” “Stellan is a world class actor,” says Bruckheimer, “and Johnny and Orlando wanted to work with him. We knew that with Bootstrap Bill, Stellan would create a wonderful, compassionate and interesting portrait of a man who's losing himself bit by bit.”
“You could see in the first film that there was a lot of space for the actors to expand and bloom within scenes,” says Skarsgard. “You also felt like they had a lot of fun doing it, which is very endearing.”
Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, mysterious soothsayer
Another compelling new character in “Dead Man's Chest,” the mysterious Caribbean soothsayer Tia Dalma, is essayed by one of Britain's brightest young talents, Naomie Harris. “Tia Dalma's a gypsy queen, a free spirit, someone who has magic powers and the ability to see through people and understand their deepest desires,” explains Harris. She's a very powerful woman, which I really like. She has associations with the elements of nature, and she's fiery and temperamental.”
David Schofield as Mercer
David Schofield, the noted British character actor cast as Mercer, Lord Cutler Beckett's merciless enforcer, was delighted at the prospect of working with Keira Knightley. The last time he had seen her in person was when she was three years old, and Schofield was performing on stage at the Chichester (England) Festival with her father, actor Will Knightley. Schofield was also amazed at how many of his countrymen (and women) were to be performing in the second “Pirates” film. “It's like there are all these English theatre actors being floated on a very luxurious Walt Disney mattress to exotic places. And they can chat away happily about their English lives and their English feelings about things. But they're supported by this American structure. It's a bit like an English glove with an American hand in it.”
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Wheatherby Swann
Then there are the returnees who have come back to take yet another fantastic voyage on the Black Pearl. “I never expected to be back,” says Jonathan Pryce, who indeed is back as Port Royal Governor Weatherby Swann, Elizabeth's loving if slightly befuddled father. Having missed all of the original screenings and premieres of the first film because of his busy schedule, Pryce finally bought himself a ticket to a cinema in London, “and could barely get a seat, which I thought was ironic. It was four or five weeks after its initial opening, but the cinema was packed. It was a wonderful experience seeing the film with a real audience, watching them laughing and watching the screen in amazement. It was very gratifying to be in a commercial film that audience, young and old, responded to so well.”
Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook as Pintel and Ragetti
Returning as Pintel and Ragetti-who endeared themselves to audiences as a sublime comedic pairing in “The Curse of the Black Pearl”-are, respectively, Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook. “Pintel and Ragetti are marvelous characters to begin with,” says Jerry Bruckheimer, “but Lee and Mackenzie did a brilliant job of taking something that was on the page and amping it to the nth degree.”
True to their roles, the U.S.-born Arenberg and British native Crook genuinely hit it off during the filming of the first “Pirates” film, inseparable off as well as on-screen. “We sort of stick together like some sort of 18th century piratical Laurel & Hardy,” notes Arenberg. “I always say that the luckiest thing that happened to me is that they couldn't find short, bald and crazy in London who was the right match for Mackenzie. So they had an audition for short, bald and crazy guys in Hollywood, and that was a little bit of Kismet for me.”
Adds Crook, “Pintel and Ragetti are pirates who, like most pirates, can swing either good or bad depending on who's paying the best fee. They're the classic double act-one thinks he's intelligent, and the other one appears stupid-plus Pintel and Ragetti had the foresight to stick their hands up and surrender at the end of the first movie.”
Jokes Crook, “We were smiling then because we knew we were making the sequel, and all the other guys fooling around on deck didn't!”
Kevin R. McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
“I don't know what the expectations were for the first film,” admits Kevin R. McNally, whose Joshamee Gibbs has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the lore of the seven seas, and an epicurean taste for rum. “Working on it, I had no idea what I was in, really, until I watched it with a group of friends in the cinema. It came as a pleasant surprise to see just how good it was, adventurous, funny and character-rich. I thought my pirate days were over, but when I was shooting `The Phantom of the Opera' I met Mike Stenson from Jerry Bruckheimer Films, who said `Pack your bags, Kevin, we're going pirating again.'
“I went into a state of bliss when I heard they wanted me back for the second and third movies,” says David Bailie, who portrays the speechless pirate Cotton. “I'm in my mid-60s, and not many actors can round off their career doing three major movies and all that it implies.”
When the filming of “The Curse of the Black Pearl” finished, actor Martin Klebba-who plays his namesake, Marty, a Black Pearl crew member of short stature but tall spirit-recalls that when he heard a second (and third) “Pirates” movie was to be made, “I thought, if they bring me back, cool. If they don't, you know, I had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity. When I got a call asking me to come in for a costume fitting for `Dead Man's Chest' and `Pirates III,' I thought `Wow! How often does this happen to an actor?!'”