IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'

Friday, 20 May 2011 14:46 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'

Captain Jack Sparrow is back! Opening in theaters today is the long awaited forth chapter of the beloved Pirates of the Caribbean series, this one entitled Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The first film in the series, 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, was based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name and surprised everyone by becoming a financial and critical hit, as well as rejuvenating Johnny Depp’s career and earning him his first Academy Award nomination. The filmmakers followed up on the success of the original movie by shooting two sequels back-to-back, ‘2006s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, as well as ‘2007s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. While both films were financial successes, neither movie scored as well with fans or critics as the first one.

But now, with the series having earned almost $2.6 billion worldwide up to this point, super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (National Treasure), as well as actors Johnny Depp (Rango) and Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine) return once again to the popular Pirates franchise for another fun-packed thrill-ride. In addition to the return of Depp and Rush, the film welcomes several new cast members including Oscar winner Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Jack Sparrow’s love interest, and Ian McShane (TV’s Deadwood), as the film’s dangerous new villain. The series also gets a new director with this installment as Academy Award nominee Rob Marshall (Chicago) takes over the duties from Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three films in the franchise.

In the new movie, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) crosses paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Cruz), with whom he shares a mysterious past. But he’s not sure if he’s in love with her, or if she’s just a ruthless con artist using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a ship that belongs to the legendary pirate Blackbeard (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 (Rush) and his longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally reprising his role), Captain Jack embarks on an unexpected journey that includes zombies and mermaids, in an attempt to escape his doom.

Along with several other members of the press, IRA recently had a chance to attend a press conference with some of the filmmakers and actors from the new movie. On hand was producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Rob Marshall, and actors Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane. Depp actually began the conversation by discussing how he feels about being part of a film series based on an amusement park. “Well, it’s pretty psychedelic, actually. I suppose that you could make it more psychedelic, but we probably shouldn’t go into that now,” joked Depp. “The idea of wandering through this ride and suddenly there you are, three times on the thing. Geoffrey has had 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 object forever.”

Actress Penelope Cruz, who was pregnant while shooting the film, discussed the preparation she had to go through to perform her intricate sword fight scenes with Depp, as well as how much she did herself and how much was actually done by a stunt double. “We did have a lot of preparation. We started a couple of months before the shoot started, with Rob, John DeLuca (executive producer) and a team that they had on the other three movies,” Cruz explained. “They are amazing, and they taught with patience. So, I knew most of the choreography. They put it together like choreography, almost like when (Rob and I) 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,” she said.

Rob Marshall, who is best known for directing musicals like Chicago and Nine, talked about stepping into this franchise and working with the cast. “I’m so blessed to work with this extraordinary cast, and working with Penelope again was a huge, beautiful highlight for me. 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,” he explained. “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.”

“As for the cast, I could talk for seven hours about Johnny Depp,” the director continued. “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 like 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 was extraordinarily fit and, that’s all Geoffrey fighting. It’s extraordinary. This is an incredibly physical group. I was very lucky.”

Depp also took the chance to discuss his experience working with Marshall on the new film. “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,” he said. “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. He knew the 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 also 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. The only problem is that he’s really mean,” Depp joked. “No. He’s the kindest man alive,” he said to correct himself.

Since it seemed for a long time like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was going to be the final chapter in the franchise, Jerry Bruckheimer was asked what inspired him to return to the series for a forth installment. “Buying the book (On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers) gave us a starting place and gave us a lot of ideas to work on. Screenplays are hard to try to get right. They look so simple when they work, but they really destroy your brain cells trying to get them there,” he explained. “So, we took our time and got it right. Johnny was really instrumental in working during the script process with us but you also have to have the cast available 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, answered Bruckheimer. “Then we brought in Rob. 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.”

Marshall also discussed why he chose to cast Cruz in the film. “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.”

“She taught me the raunchiest Spanish that I’ve ever been told,” added Depp about working with Cruz. “It’s so foul that I couldn’t bring myself to repeat it. But going to work with Penelope again, having done the film Blow together over ten years ago, the weird thing was that when we saw each other again, it felt like we wrapped Blow the week before. We 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,” Depp explained. “I knew she would be, not only a worthy opponent, but someone who would just kill the scenes, and she did. She was incredible.”

Academy award winner Geoffrey Rush discussed what he liked about the film’s script, his character’s evolution, and why he chose to return for a forth installment. “I have to thank Johnny because I think in the development of the screenplay, he said that we must keep Barbossa and Sparrow as an old married couple constantly bickering. Because it goes back to the first film, the ownership of the Pearl is at the heart of that conflict. I think it was only on this film that we started to talk about the Black Pearl as a sort of shared girlfriend because it kind of made that plotline a little bit more interesting than taking about a boat,” Rush said. “But they keep shape shifting the character, which is quite good. I started as the outright villain spat out of the mouth of hell. Then in part two and part three, I sort of became more of a diplomat. I think now he’s really landed on his feet, or foot,” the actor joked. “Barbossa’s vain, arrogant and pompous enough to think that he actually does belong in the court, and that gave me a terrific new set of variables to play with which was a lot of fun.”

New cast member Ian McShane talked about joining the cast and how he approached playing the villainous role of Blackbeard. “Well Blackbeard is the biggest, badass pirate of all time. I got the costume, which was this extraordinary leather, biker, rocker, pirate outfit and then they fixed those twelve, black dead cats to my neck making this extraordinary beard,” McShane joked. “It was great. I didn’t miss the swearing,” he said referring to his role on Deadwood. “No, this is a Disney movie … this isn’t HBO. But that was one of the wonderful things that attracted me to it. Jerry and Rob asked me to do it, I read the script and it was literate, funny, quirky, and it was a delight. Shame about the cats, but it was fabulous.”

Next, Depp was asked if there are any similarities between himself and Captain Jack. “We’re totally different. There’s nothing that I can relate to in Captain Jack, whatsoever,” he answered. “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 to shoo him away,” Depp laughed. The actor was also asked if he could envision himself doing this role over several more decades. “Yeah. They’ll have to wheel me in. My dreads will get tangled in the wheels of my chair, he joked. “I don’t know but sure. Interestingly enough, for me, a character like Captain Jack, you feel like you could just continue forever. The possibilities are endless and limitless. There is an endless possibility of madness and absurdity that could commence, so you feel that, with this character, you’re never really done.”

As I mentioned earlier, the last two films in the series were not as widely admired as the original movie and Jerry Bruckheimer discussed that and how they attempted to make this latest installment better. “I think that Pirates 2 and Pirates 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,” explained Bruckheimer. “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 whom we make movies for. We really didn’t have to address anything because we started fresh,” he continued. “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 fewer characters and less plot details 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 fewer characters to deal with.”

Finally, Bruckheimer talked about the timeline for a possible fifth and sixth installment of the series, if On Stranger Tides is a success this weekend. “As far as the timeline, it took awhile to get this script to a place where we all were comfortable with 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 all about quality,” the producer said. “There’s a very clever idea that is being hatched, in terms of Pirates 5 and Pirates 6,” Depp added. “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,” the actor joked.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens in theaters everywhere today, May 20th.

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