Inside 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' with Johnny Depp

And Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Rob Marshall & Jerry Bruckheimer

Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush is back as Captain Barbossa, and Kevin McNally returns as Joshamee Gibbs, but for the most part the rest of the main cast of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film of the Pirates of the Caribbean blockbuster franchise, are newcomers to the Pirates series. Ian McShane gets into the action as the most dangerous pirate to roam the seven seas, Blackbeard. Penelope Cruz plays the franchise's first fully-realized female pirate, Angelica, an expert swords woman who is fully capable of going toe-to-toe with Captain Jack. Also joining the franchise are Sam Claflin as Philip, a missionary who sees the best in everyone, and Astrid Berges-Frisbey, a beautiful mermaid who figures prominently in Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Blackbeard's quest for the Fountain of Youth.
Together for a press conference in Los Angeles to promote Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the cast, director Rob Marshall and producer Jerry Bruckheimer talked about the process of bringing this fourth Pirates film to life, the new cast, Blackbeard as the film's villain, and handling the film's many action scenes.

Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Rob Marshall and Jerry Bruckheimer Press Conference

Johnny, what do you think about your likeness being part of the ride at Disneyland?
Johnny Depp: "Well, it's pretty psychedelic, actually. Yeah. 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... I mean, Geoffrey 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. Some sort of thing that you took part in creating becomes this forever sort of object."
Penelope, was there a lot of preparation for you in doing an action movie? Did you get to go one on one 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 and John DeLuca and our teachers, 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 because they put them together like choreography, almost like when we were doing Nine together. So it was very helpful that I knew most of them before we started shooting. Then we did a lot of it together, and of course, everything that was safe because of my situation then. But they were really protective at every moment, and that meant so much to me."
Rob, can you talk about working with Penelope again?
Rob Marshall: "Well, listen, 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 actually when I began working on it, it felt very akin in a way to things that I've done before because of the rhythm. When you're doing an action set piece it's very similar - as Penelope just said - to choreography in a way because it's shot that way. It's meticulous to how it's rehearsed."
"Listen, you have no idea. I could talk for seven hours about Johnny Depp. I mean, please, there's no one like him. But to watch 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. For me he is. He says that he can't dance, but he can. He's extraordinary physically, as the entire cast was. I mean, Ian [McShane] was extraordinarily fit. I'm telling you right now that Sam [Claflin] as Philip in this movie, I've never seen anything like it in my life. [...] And Geoffrey, that's all him fighting. It's extraordinary. This is an incredibly physical group. I was very lucky."
Jerry, can you talk about Pirates in terms of there had been two years between the other films and four years until this film? What made you want to go back in with this one?
Jerry Bruckheimer: "I think 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, got it right. Johnny was really instrumental in working during the script process with us and actually created Sam's character. So, Sam can thank him for that. But you also have to find the cast availability, too. Johnny is busy and a lot of our other cast members were busy. So 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. 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. So 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? Did you have anyone who inspired you in the way that Keith Richards inspired Johnny Depp?
Penelope Cruz: "For shooting a character like this it really helps to have those costumes, to be in the real locations. It was very helpful that we didn't go into a studio until after we shot all ready for two or three months in Hawaii. Then they built a beach at Universal Studios and when they told me that, I thought that it was my English, 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. But 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."
Ian, when you were cast as the villain, did you miss being able to swear like Swearengen from Deadwood? Were you concerned about being in a kid’s film?
Ian McShane: "The biggest bad-ass pirate of all time is Blackbeard. By the time I got in costume, Penny Rose devised this extraordinary leather biker/rocker/pirate outfit, and I had this extraordinary beard. That was great. I didn’t miss the swearing. This is a Disney film. But, (screenwriter) Terry Rossio was one of the things that attracted me to it. When Jerry [Bruckheimer] asked me to do it, I read the script and it was so literate, funny and quirky. It was a delight."
Johnny, you once said, “None of my movies will ever make any money.” Do feel really guilty now?
Johnny 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?
Johnny 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."
What were some of the challenges on this film, from doing it in 3D to directing a new cast?
Jerry 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."
Geoffrey, what was it about this particular script and taking your character forward that really attracted you to come back?
Geoffrey Rush: "I have to thank Johnny because, in the development of the screenplay, he said, 'We must keep Barbossa and Sparrow as an old married couple, constantly bickering.' It goes back to the first film. The ownership of the Pearl is at the heart of the conflict. Early on this film, we decided to talk about the Black Pearl as a shared girlfriend, which made that plotline a little more interesting than talking about a boat. But, they keep shape-shifting the character, which is quite good. I started out as the outright villain, spat out from the mouth of hell. And then in Pirates 2 and 3, he became more of a diplomat. Now, he’s really landed on his feet, or foot. Barbossa is vain, arrogant and pompous enough to think that he actually does belong in the court. That gave me a terrific, new set of variables to play with, which was a lot of fun."
Rob, how important was it for you as a director to have authentic Spaniards in the cast as the extras and why did you want to have Penelope in the film?
Rob 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 he is 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 we found these incredible -- with the help of Penelope by the way - these Spanish actors for our film, which is spectacular."
"Listen, having Penelope in this film -- to me she 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."
Penelope, where would you like to see the next movie go for your character in the future?
Penelope Cruz: "At least I hope she's not going to die of hunger! I have the hope that because she finds the doll that she has some of those voodoo powers from her father that she got from him. And maybe she's going to be able to come back! But she can't die alone out there! No."
Jerry, what were some of the things that you wanted to address that maybe were criticized in the last two movies that might have been confusing? And what was the balance you wanted to strike between using too much exposition and explanation and making sure the audience understood what was happening?
Jerry Bruckheimer: "I think that 2 and 3 get bashed a little bit, but you have to understand that 2 was the biggest of the bunch. It was an enormous success. 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! I think one of the things we tried to address -- we really didn't have to address 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, because we have less characters and less plot lines to deal with each character. And so this is 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?
Johnny 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."
If you decide to direct again, would you take a lead role in the film?
Johnny 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."
Johnny, how was it to work with Penelope Cruz? Did she teach you any Spanish?
Johnny 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 filmBlow 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."
What was it like to work with Rob Marshall?
Johnny 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."
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?
Jerry Bruckheimer: "As far as the timeline, it took a while 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."
Johnny 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."
Can you talk about doing the London street scene, jumping on heads and the carriages? How much choreography and rehearsal went into that, and how much fun was that to shoot?
Johnny 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."
I know that some of this team is going to bring us The Lone Ranger. What kind of movie can we expect in that? Will it be funny like this and can you confirm, Jerry, any of the casting rumors we've heard recently for The Ranger?
Jerry Bruckheimer: "Nothing new yet on the casting. We're in the process of meeting people right now. So it's just starting for The Lone Ranger."
And what kind of movie will that be compared to this film?
Jerry Bruckheimer: "I think it'll have it's 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 is in it. He's got a real interesting take on the character of Tonto."
Johnny, can you talk about it?
Johnny Depp: "I feel like what we're creating within these story meetings and script meetings and in terms of character and in terms of story, yeah, I couldn't say that you could compare it to Pirates. But I suppose tonally there is a relationship because there's a kind of fascination with the absurd that's involved in The Lone Ranger as well, somewhat of an irreverence. But you need that. You have to have that."


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