Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment in Disney’s Pirates franchise. Jack Sparrow and Barbossa are joined by some new faces, as well as some returning favorites, on a high seas adventure against Captain Salazar and his ghostly crew.
The Cast of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg and Jerry Bruckheimer) joined us in a round table discussion on the character of Jack Sparrow, the story and filming the movie.
Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg talk about their inspiration on filming.
JR: It’s a dream come true. We grew up together. We’ve been making films together since we were ten years old. Watching Hollywood adventure family movies and being very much inspired by those kind of movies. It made us want to be filmmakers. Being fans of the franchise and loving the characters of Jack Sparrow and Barbossa, I think going into this it was important to analyze why we love it so much. We went back to the first movie in the franchise, trying to analyze what makes it what it is and I think it is a combination of things. It’s the spectacle and the adventure. It’s very funny. It’s great comedy. It’s scary and most of all it has got heart. It’s that mix of elements that is the huge attraction for us.
ES: It’s a unique mix that this franchise has, with the spectacle, the action, the humor and the heart, and you just need to get that balance right. It’s quite complex to hit that tone. For us, it was very important to make it really funny and we worked hard on the physical aspect of that. Johnny’s great and the characters have great lines but we also wanted every action piece to be fun and to have a story. To make everything work you need great character arcs. You need an emotional connection. So we wanted to give all the characters an emotional journey that was interesting and surprising people.
The most challenging set piece to film.
JR: Think the one we had the most fun and most proud of is the scene where Jack Sparrow is strapped to a guillotine. That’s something that was an action sequence that was a gag that inspired Johnny Depp’s character of Jack Sparrow, like the old Buster Keaton-Charlie Chaplin movies, with that kind of physical humor. Gore Verbinski did it brilliantly in some of the first movies in the series. That’s part of making a big movie like this, is that you dream up something, then six months they built this thing. Spent millions of dollars and then you get Johnny Depp, strap him in there and you get it… it’s fun.
Balancing characters and screentime.
JR: You have this young couple that are the leads, and that are the driving story, and they can have an arc. Sort of a serious, even though fantastical, pirate story and then you have Jack Sparrow crash the party. But he doesn’t have an arc. He’s sort of the spice of the story. We wanted to give something to the audience, so we created his backstory about how he becomes Jack the Sparrow. And in that we also tied in Salazar to make sure we had a villain and a conflict that was personal, so that was also a way to get the balance right.
What didn’t make it into the film.
JR: We’ve been on this for over three years, there’s so many ideas that will never make it into the film. For instance, Jack Sparrow’s backstory, we had at least 15 different variation on that. There’s a very complex mythology in the franchise and in the series that we wanted to honor. That’s probably where we had the most ideas that didn’t make it into the film because of that.
How Paul McCartney came to be in the film.
JR: Keith Richards played his dad and he couldn’t do it, so we sat down with Johnny and made a very short list of potential substitutes. We wanted a cameo. Since we were fans of the franchise too, we want those little things that we love about it. Makes Jack Sparrow’s family tree even cooler. Sir Paul McCartney was at the very top of our list. The next thing was how should we do this and get in contact. Johnny realized that he had his number on his phone, so he texted him and he texted back. It became funny over the next couple of days, like they went more and more over the pirate lingo and we knew that we got him. He was fantastic to work with. Such a pro and so eager and a great actor. It was fun to transform him into a pirate.
Jerry Bruckheimer discusses why he comes back to this franchise.
JB: Jack Sparrow. This one in particular is like a pirates family. A lot of us hadn’t been together in 13-14 years, so it was nice to have Orlando and Kiera back. Geoffrey’s always with us and then adding Javier.
The difference in producing this movie from the others.
JB: What’s different about this one is that we filmed it so far away. We were in Australia. It was a great place to film. The weather is beautiful. People are great. Great cast members. Great actors. It’s a beautiful country, so we were luck to be there.
On ending Barbossa’s storyline
JB: You never know with us. We can always bring characters back if you love them and we love him. He’s such a great actor and good buddy. What’s great about him is 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 in the movie.
Revising the script over the course of three years and what didn’t make it into the film.
JB: I can’t remember the stuff that we cut out. It was a long process. These stories are hard to tell. You’ve got to make sure it makes sense. That’s the hardest thing to get right. The previous one was much more complicated. This one’s a much easier storyline to follow and we did that on purpose. It hits a lot of notes. It hits the adventure button. It hits the emotional button. It hits the humor.
The introduction of Jack’s backstory.
JB: I think we settled in on this because it worked with Javier’s character and he loves his backstory. He worked on it himself and 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 makeup everyday and he’s just cheerful and fun to be around. It’s so great when you have an actor that actually cares and adds things to his character. Really blessed to have those three big actors that can all add something to their characters.
Javier Bardem discusses why he joined the franchise.
JB: Many things. As a moviegoer I enjoyed the franchise and also has one of the most iconic characters of all time. Jack Sparrow is up there in movie history. Johnny has an amazing charisma and he has talent, that we all know. What he brought with his character is extraordinary. As an actor, I wanted to see that first hand. I wanted to be there. I wanted to play with that, knowing that he’s a great player.
JB: It’s not that I’m drawn to playing villains, it’s that they call me to do it and then I take a look and I go… what is there on the page. And as an actor I found it interesting to play this character for me because he belongs to this franchise and there is something there to play with, which is this character seen by two different lights. The light of the success when he was alive, full of pride, full of honor and command and then there’s the other side taken by darkness and rage and pain. So I thought it was interesting to go there, knowing it’s a Disney movie at a different level.
On finding inspiration in playing his characters.
JB: It comes from the page. It comes from what is written by the writer, then you see if it fits in the story and then the fun begins for and actor. You imagine who that person is and why is he doing what he is doing. In this case, what made him the monster he became and that’s the fun part.
The makeup process.
JB: What you see on the face is the real thing. Those guys from Australia who won the OSCAR for Mad Max did it and it is all handmade. Pretty amazing. That’s three hours long, which is not that long for such great detail work. The hair was all pulled back. It wasn’t there. I saw some drawings and ideas, but it’s only until I saw the movie that I realize how powerful it was. I think they did a great job because it didn’t kill the performance. Surrounded by so many special effects, they did a good job really respecting the actor’s job and helped it with the special effects.
How Penelope Cruz’s experience inspired him to take on the role.
JB: I was there on Pirates 4, on the set, and I saw how good everything worked out. Starting at the fact that she was pregnant when she was shooting and they respected that. I saw the production quality of the detail. In this movie I was walking around my boat, and there was a plate, and I lift the plate, and there was handcarved things on the wood that the art department did that no one would ever see. But it was there and you have to respect that. Then I knew that was a great and important value in the production. It helped me to say yes.
Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario discusses relying on each other during the filming.
KS: It’s great when you have mutual chemistry. You understand each other and professional and how you work. I knew I had that with Brenton, where if I was making a choice for the character he could roll with it and he could understand the scene the same way as I did. We could experiment with each other. There was no pressure. In scenes with Johnny sometimes, you can feel nervous suggesting a new idea. Knowing that we were both the newbies and on the same level and we have that trust in each other. That for me was really cool. We could just learn as we went along.
BT: Kaya wasn’t afraid to share her ideas. The confidence to say something, the conviction and kind of fearlessness, saves a lot of time so we get to the meat of the scene and what’s happening. I feel that was kind of nice to work like that.
Working with three major actors so early on in their careers.
KS: Amazing! If you look around on set, three OSCARs, etc, etc. It’s crazy! I know other actors that I was really excited to be involved with, Stephen Graham, who plays one of the pirates is one of my favorite British actors of all time. So for me it was a real honor to get on set with him. Also the directors, they come from an indie background like I do. That felt really safe and reassuring and exciting that we could really make the most of these actors because they respond well to that. Everyday was just like a lesson in acting, like going to the best drama school ever for six months and it happened to be on a beach.
Discussing the action scenes in costume.
BT: Mine was a pair of pants and a t-shirt.
KS: I had a corset and 17-layers, but you kind of get used to it. It’s weird. The first thoughts, I remember thinking, how am I going to do anything in this dress because you are just not used to it. i don’t actually dress like this all the time, I’m pretty much a jeans and t-shirt girl. So I was quite nervous about all of that, but you kind of adapt and you go with it.
BT: I found that the high heel on the boats were pretty…
KS: There was a day where all of the men were complaining about the little heel they had on their boots. Wearing these cha cha boots and their backs were killing them. Are you kidding me? [Laughter]
BT: I know… I know. Respect to the ladies out there. [More laughter]
What inspired them to join the franchise.
BT: Just that I am a fan. I was a fan since I was a young kid and they brought so many colors to the screen that we hadn’t seen back in 2003. They were funny, filled with adventure, action, romance, supernatural. In a ways, at the forefront… right at the cutting edge of CGI technology. The first one, i remember seeing Geoffrey pop out of the moonlight and into the moonlight. That simple effect, well it wasn’t simple at the time, but now it’s like a simple effect of all the pirates turning to ghosts was amazing. It was phenomenal vision. He would guzzle the wine and it would go straight into his gizzards and come out one side. Was scared, excited and fascinated by that.
What it was like working and seeing the special effects.
KS: It was weird. That’s the risk you take with CGI. You have to let your imagination decide it for you. I remember thinking Javier’s hair was the coolest thing I have ever seen. It was the creepyiest hair you could ever imagine.
Playing a strong female in the Pirates franchise.
KS: For me, personally, I think she’s the most progressive one we’ve ever seen. She is just a simple woman in this time, who doesn’t want to be put into a box. She isn’t a pirate. She isn’t a superhero. She is just an intelligent young woman, who’s determined and on a mission, and she sticks to it. I picture her being alone at the age of 13, just wondering the world and going through the Caribbean and trying to find her identity.
Geoffrey Rush discusses the character of Barbossa.
GR: There’s the excitement of the familiarity… I thought, in the first Pirates film I get shot. I thought this is going to be a great ride. I’ll be living the ride and it’s a nice trajectory and I die at the end. Then working with Johnny Depp because he was a kinda of independent film hero from Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And he took the originality of how he created Jack Sparrow to a Best Actor OSCAR Nomination. Then they decided to create a trilogy and they said we’re bringing you back. But I died. had to tell them this was bad plotting. But that was tied with voodoo and for a very good reason, I had to gather all the nine pirate lords to break her curse. Then he became a sort of politician. He got to work for the King and i loved how that expanded his superiority and his vanity.
Why he returns to the Barbossa character.
GR: Pirate films were dead in the water, maybe since the 50’s… Earl Flynn and Burt Lancaster era. It really caught people’s imaginations and I think part of that is the originality of how Johnny led the company and created a pirate that had none of the traditional tropes. He liked the idea of looking at… cause he does have a tangental, warped, kind of absurd mind… creative mind, He looked at the idea that they all drank rum because the water was awful and they were always in the sun. He said Geoffrey, man their brains are fried. Then he started talking about pop stars from the 60’s and the identity, the kind of flamboyant clothing… and then came up with this idea, which I thought was really clever. He said in the script sometimes I’m on boat, sometimes I’m on land and I just want to play around with never getting my sea legs and my land legs in order, i thought that gave him so much scope.
GR: I don’t know about the end of the franchise. Certainly the end. I think it would undermine the kind of impact it had on me and my own daughter, because she was working on the film. it was interesting. She was so proud of me being on the anchor. It was great. I think the emotion of the selfless sacrifice, you cheapen that if you suddenly went and bring him back.
On a line that didn’t make the final cut.
GR: Johnny did have a great line that didn’t make the final cut. It’s when he’s tied up on the mast and I’ve just found out the news. Johnny starts going on about a Margaret Smith and he is taunting me trussed up against the mast. Really digging up the dirt that Hector says, “We take this to our graves.” He did have a line and he says, “I remember that night. We were in a tavern, You were an appaling sight. You were naked. You were dancing on a table, drunk.” I always love that image of Jack and Hector being just wild boys in their youth.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is rated PG-13 and sails into theaters, Friday, May 26th.