From directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment in the hugely popular Pirates film franchise that blends fantasy, humor and action into a new tale involving Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). This time around, the down-on-his-luck captain is being pursued by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is hell-bent on killing Jack, and his only hope of survival is teaming up with a brilliant astronomer named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and a young sailor named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) to recover the legendary Trident of Poseidon.
At the film’s press day, producer Jerry Bruckheimer spoke about what makes him want to keep coming back to the Pirates franchise, finding their place among the line-up of Disney releases, how this movie is different from the previous ones, what makes these films so complicated, expanding and more deeply exploring the origins of the characters, working with different sets of directors, his favorite action sequences, and his hope that Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) might return. He also talked about his next release, Horse Soldiers, and developing Gemini Man with Ang Lee.
Question: What makes you want to keep coming back to this franchise?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Jack Sparrow. It’s a Pirates family. A lot of us hadn’t been together for 13 or 14 years. It was nice to have (some of the old cast) back, Geoffrey [Rush] is always with us, and we added Javier [Bardem], as a fantastic cast member. And of course, Captain Jack Sparrow is the best. We love making movies with him.
How is this movie different from all of the previous ones?
BRUCKHEIMER: They’re always a tough proposition. What’s different about this one is that we filmed it so far away. We were in Australia, which is a long plane ride. That was hard. But, it was a great place to film. The weather is beautiful, the people are great, and we had great cast members out of Australia. It’s a beautiful country, so we were lucky to be there, but it was a long shlep to get there.
This script has gone through quite a few changes, over the past three years. How did you know that this was the right script, and were there things from the previous scripts that you really wanted to make it in, but it didn’t?
BRUCKHEIMER: I can’t remember the stuff that we cut out because it’s been a long process. These stories are hard to tell. You’ve gotta make sure it makes sense and that there’s a through-line. That’s the hardest thing to get right. They’re complicated. The previous ones were much more complicated. This one is a much easier storyline to follow, and we did that on purpose. This movie is 10 to 15 minutes shorter than the previous ones and it cost less money, and yet, on screen, it’s a much bigger movie. As a filmmaker, you’re always trying to make movies that are cost effective, but bigger than you made before, as far as spectacle and storytelling. This one hits a lot of notes. It hits the adventure button, it hits the emotional button, and it hits the humor. And the through-line works. You understand the story, you understand what their quest is, and you understand why they’re doing it. And father-son stories are always fun. Disney is famous for making those stories, forever, so we added it to Pirates.
What’s it like to be able to expand all of the old characters while introducing all of the new characters, who could take to the seas, in the future ?
BRUCKHEIMER: (Screenwriter) Jeff Nathanson, our directors (Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg) really honed it, along with Disney and myself. We worked really hard on it. We spent about three years, trying to get the story right. The reason it took so long to get this done is that you have to get the story right, and you have to try to get these actors to be available because they’re busy and do a lot of other movies. That’s why we did Pirates 2 and 3 back-to-back. We booked them, so that we didn’t have to wait three years to do Pirates 3. The other thing is that Disney has so many huge franchises that it’s like a runway. You’ve got Marvel up front, you’ve got Pixar, and you’ve got Star Wars somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of movies, and we’re the caboose, waiting there to try to get our turn to get up there. All of those things are billion dollar franchises. Not that we’re not, but those are huge movies. We’ve just gotta wait in line. That’s why we had to wait a year to get the movie released, but it took about a year to get all of the effects on Javier right. The undersea sequence also took a long time to get right. This was difficult to make.
Why was now the time to more deeply explore Barbossa’s story?
BRUCKHEIMER: He’s such a great actor and a good buddy. What’s great about him is that he thinks about the movie, 24 hours a day. He dreams about it. So, whenever you sit down with him or he walks by, he says, “I have an idea!” He’s always got something new for his character, for the movie, and it’s just so great to work with him. A lot of actors, you give them the script, they read it, do their lines and go home, but not Geoffrey Rush. Geoffrey Rush is constantly inhabiting the character.
Why was this the right origin story for Captain Jack Sparrow?
BRUCKHEIMER: I think we settled on this because it worked with Javier’s character, and he loves his backstory. He worked on it himself. He was instrumental in creating his own backstory. He’s such a great guy to work with. He’s on the set, even when he’s not working. He goes through three hours of make-up, every day. He’s just cheerful and fun to be around. It’s so great when you actually have an actor who cares and who adds things to his character and storytelling, just like Geoffrey. We’re really blessed with those three big actors, that they all add stuff to their characters.
How has it been to work with three different sets of filmmakers on this franchise?
BRUCKHEIMER: We’re very fortunate. Gore [Verbinski] created the franchise and did the first three. And then, Rob Marshall was a fan of the franchise. He was a theater director, and he understands orchestrating big things and moving people around. And Joachim [Rønning] and Espen [Sandberg] showed such deft storytelling. They made a movie, called Max Manus, which was basically a character study, and then they did Kon-Tiki on the water, with interesting characters. And their vision of what they wanted to do was very much in line and even expanded what we thought we could do with the franchise. With all of those big sequences, they did pre-vis and storyboards on them. It comes out of their imagination. They’re really gifted.