It’s quite obvious that Johnny Depp loves playing the role of Captain Jack Sparrow, as much as the audience loves seeing him do it. Taking that into consideration, along with the fact that the first three films brought in $2.6 billion worldwide, it’s really no surprise at all that everyone signed on to do Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, opening in theaters on May 20th.
At the film’s press day, Johnny Depp and co-star Penelope Cruz, who’s new to the franchise, along with director Rob Marshall and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, talked about reigniting the Pirates films, being sure to get the screenplay right before going into production, working in 3D, and where they would like to see things go for Pirates 5 and 6. Depp and Bruckheimer also hinted at what audiences can expect from The Lone Ranger, in which Depp will play Tonto. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
When Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penelope Cruz), with whom he shares a mysterious past, he’s not sure if it’s love, or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. 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 adventure, in which he doesn’t know whom to fear more, Blackbeard or Angelica. With the help of the indestructible Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally), Captain Jack embarks on an unexpected journey that includes zombies and mermaids, in an attempt to escape his doom.
Johnny, this movie is a based on a ride at Disneyland. What is your reaction to being a part of something like that? Have you ever gotten to see your likeness on the ride?
JOHNNY DEPP: Well, it’s pretty psychedelic, actually. I suppose that you could make it more psychedelic, but we probably shouldn’t go into that now. The idea of wandering through this ride and suddenly there you are, three times on the thing. Geoffrey [Rush] has a 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 that something that you took part in creating becomes this forever object.
Penelope, was there a lot of preparation for you to do an action movie? Did you really get to fight 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 Rob [Marshall] and (executive producer) John DeLuca and a team that they had on the other three movies. They are amazing, and they taught with patience. So, I knew most of the choreography. They put it together like choreography, almost like when we were doing Nine together. It was very helpful that I knew most of it before we started shooting. We did everything that was safe because of my situation (being pregnant) then. They were really protective at every moment, and that meant so much to me.
Rob, what was it like to step into this franchise and work with this cast?
ROB MARSHALL: I’m so blessed to work with this extraordinary cast, and working with Penelope again was a huge, beautiful highlight for me. It’s interesting. This is a very different genre for me, but when I actually began working on it, it felt very akin to things that I’ve done before because of the rhythm. When you’re doing an action set piece, it’s very similar to choreography because it’s shot that way. It’s meticulous, in how it’s rehearsed. You have no idea. I could talk for seven hours about Johnny Depp. There’s no one like him. He has this amazing ability to watch something and then pick it up and do it, within seconds. He’ll hate me for saying this, but I don’t care. I’m going to say it anyway. He’s Fred Astaire. He’s this genius dancer. He says that he can’t dance, but he can. He’s extraordinary, physically, as the entire cast was. Ian [McShane] was extraordinarily fit. I’ve never seen anything like Sam [Claflin], who plays Phillip in this movie, in my life. He’s like a stuntman. And, that’s all Geoffrey fighting. It’s extraordinary. This is an incredibly physical group. I was very lucky.
DEPP: What a gift, to have someone of his caliber and someone of his talent to come in and drive this beast, and shape this strange animal into something. It was incredible to experience. Some filmmakers go into a film and it’s already 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. It was rhythmic. And, he knew tempo and a way to finesse the sound, which became visual as well. It was an incredible experience. His timing, and not just his choreographic timing, but his sense of comedic timing is impeccable. He would have us just shave an eighth of a millisecond off of a beat and it would change the whole dynamic of the scene. It would quite something. The only problem is that he’s really mean. He’s really mean! No. He’s the kindest man alive.
Jerry, can you talk about Pirates, in terms having two years between the other films and four years before this film? What made you want return to the franchise with this one?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Buying the book gave us a starting place and gave us a lot of ideas to work on. 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 and got it right. Johnny was really instrumental in working during the script process with us and actually created Sam’s character. But, you also have to find the cast availability, too. Johnny is busy, and a lot of our other cast members were busy. We’re very lucky that we finally found a time when they were all available together to make the picture. Then we brought in Rob [Marshall]. It was a real coup to get him. We’re fortunate that he agreed to do this. It’s shocking that he did, but we’re thrilled because he’s an ultimate master at what he does. We got very lucky.
Penelope, what was the key thing for you, in terms of creating this character – the clothes or learning the sword play?
CRUZ: For shooting 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 shot for two or three months in Hawaii. Then, they built a beach at Universal Studios. When they told me that, I thought that it was my English and that I didn’t understand what they said. Then, I went there and there was really a beach at Universal Studios. Then, we went to Puerto Rico, to this deserted, private island. And then, we ended up in London at Pinewood Studios. All of that helped me a lot, to try to imagine what the pirate world at that time was, because it’s so far from our reality to create a character like that. It’s all about your imagination, and I think it really helped to be in those beautiful places.
What were some of the challenges on this film, from doing it in 3D to directing a new cast?
BRUCKHEIMER: The most difficult thing was getting the screenplay right. That was the hardest thing we tried to do. That’s what worries everybody. Had we not had (screenwriters) Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, I don’t think any of the people involved would be here, starting with Rob [Marshall] first because he got attracted to the material. The same thing with Penelope [Cruz]. If it’s not on the page, it’s not going to be on the screen. So, the most difficult thing for producers is to have a script that attracts this kind of talent.
Rob, how important was it for you, as a director, to have authentic Spanish actors and extras?
MARSHALL: It was so lovely. Actually, it was also Johnny’s idea to bring the Spanish element into the film. He is an amazing writer as well, and an incredible collaborator. We felt we needed a whole other faction, racing to the Fountain of Youth, to really help the urgency of the journey for everybody. And, with the help of Penelope, we found these incredible Spanish actors for our film, which was spectacular.
MARSHALL: Penelope is an international star, and not just a Spanish actress. She can do everything. 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 we thought of, for even half a second, because she can do everything. She is extraordinary.
Johnny, how was it to work with Penelope Cruz? Did she teach you any Spanish?
DEPP: She taught me the raunchiest Spanish that I’ve ever been told. It’s so foul that I couldn’t bring myself to repeat it, here and now. It’s a bad idea. I would carry that on my back for the rest of my days. Going to work with Penelope again, having done the film Blow together, 10 or 11 years ago, the weird thing was that, when we saw each other again, it felt like we’d wrapped Blow the week before, or a few days before. It just clicked instantly. Whatever exists, in terms of chemistry, was just instantly firing on all cylinders. It felt completely right. It was Rob’s brilliant idea to bring her in, and when he brought up the idea to me, I went, “Great idea!” I was very, very excited to have Penelope come into this film. I knew she would be, not only a worthy opponent, but someone who would just kill the scenes, and she did. She was incredible.
Can you talk about doing the London street scene, jumping on the heads and the carriages? How much choreography and rehearsal went into that, and how much fun was that to shoot?
DEPP: It was horrible! It was grueling. It’s a very strange little sequence. I’ve thought of doing many things in my life, under the influence of life, and I’ve never actually thought of straddling two carriages while they’re moving before. That was an interesting experience. And then, I was jumping on people’s heads and onto another cart, and then the thing catches fire. It’s all a bad dream, isn’t it? And, this is how daddy brings home the bacon.
DEPP: It’s not my fault. I did my best, even to the point of trying to get fired from the first [Pirates], but they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it. It’s interesting to experience that kind of ride, after essentially 20 years of enjoying a career based on failures. Suddenly, something clicks. The weird thing is that 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.
Do you see yourself carrying on with this role for decades?
DEPP: Yeah. They’ll wheel me in. My dreads will get tangled in the wheels of my chair. I don’t know. Sure. Interestingly enough, for me, a character like Captain Jack, you feel like you could just continue. The possibilities are endless and limitless. There is any possibility of madness and absurdity that could commence, so you feel that, with this character, you’re never really done.
CRUZ: I hope she’s not going to die of hunger! I have the hope that, because she finds the doll of Captain Jack, that she has some of those voodoo powers from her father, and maybe she’s going to be able to get him to come back. She can’t die alone out there!
Jerry, since the last two movies were criticized a fair amount, what was the balance you wanted to strike between using too much exposition and explanation while making sure the audience understood what was happening?
BRUCKHEIMER: I think that Pirates 2 and 3 get bashed a little bit, but you have to understand that Pirates 2 was the biggest of the bunch. It was an enormous success. Pirates 3 reached almost $1 billion. So, they were enormously successful movies, even though the media didn’t understand them as much as the audience did. That’s who we make movies for. We really didn’t have to address anything because we started fresh. We finished our trilogy, and we paid off all of our characters, so we started introducing new characters, which makes it much easier to not have as long of a movie. We have less characters and less plot lines to deal with. That was something that Rob accomplished very well, by the end of the picture. It was shorter, not quite as complicated and there were less characters to deal with.
Johnny, what are the similarities between you and Captain Jack?
DEPP: We’re totally different. There’s nothing that I can relate to in Captain Jack, whatsoever. No, with every character that you play, there’s a part of you that 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 keeps showing up at odd times. In fact, he arrived this morning when I was getting my kids ready for school. I had shoo him away.
What are your dreams for your future, both as an actor and as a family man?
DEPP: Smooth sailing! That’s what I hope for. I’m okay with no big ups and no big downs. That’s all right. I’m just full steam ahead, with all things well and good. As a family man, all you want, as a dad, is pure happiness for your kids. That’s a parent thing. That’s my dream – happy kids.
If you decide to direct again, would you take a lead role in the film?
DEPP: No, no. I tried that once. The first one’s free. No, no. If I ever thought of directing again, I don’t know. The idea of directing a film is a strange one for me. I feel anti-mathematical, in a way, in that sense. 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. Maybe I’ll just make little films at home with my phone, never to be released.
BRUCKHEIMER: Well, the success part is up to Disney. We’re all hoping it makes a lot of money.
What’s the timeline for Pirates 5 and 6, especially when you already have a draft of the script and you have all of these actors’ schedules to deal with?
BRUCKHEIMER: As far as the timeline, it took awhile to get this script to a place where we all were comfortable wit it. We just got a very rough first draft in (for Pirates 5), so that will take some time. We hope that we can bring it to you quicker than we have in the past, and we hope that happens. We’ll see if we can get you a great piece of entertainment that everybody will enjoy. It’s about quality.
DEPP: There’s a very clever idea that is being hatched, in terms of Pirates 5 and 6. We’re going to actually shoot them on the ride, just going around in circles, non-stop, kind of like Andy Warhol’s Sleep. It’ll just be close-ups on everyone.
What kind of movie can audiences expect with The Lone Ranger? Will it be funny, like the Pirates films?
BRUCKHEIMER: I think it’ll have its own tone. It’s going to have a whole different feel to it than what we’ve done in the past, but it’ll be special because Johnny [Depp] is in it. He’s got a real interesting take on the character of Tonto.
DEPP: I feel like what we’re creating within these story meetings and script meetings, and in terms of character and story, I couldn’t say that you could compare it to Pirates, but I suppose that, tonally, there is a relationship because there’s a fascination with the absurd that’s involved in The Lone Ranger as well. There’s an irreverence, but you need that. You have to have that.
Jerry, can you confirm any of the casting rumors for The Ranger that have been going around lately?
BRUCKHEIMER: There’s nothing new yet on the casting. We’re in the process of meeting people right now. It’s just starting for The Lone Ranger.