Disney has laid on a pretty serious Dorchester ballroom press junket for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean adventure romp, with the entire main cast, director and producer lined up to take questions from the international press. They all look impossibly glamorous and cool (Penelope is red-carpet worthy), and as they talk about how much they admire each other and enjoyed working together, there's some dry humour and a relaxed honesty that almost convinces us that this is how they really feel...
There's a shift in tone from the last film to this one
Jerry Bruckheimer: Yeah, we finished our trilogy four years ago and now we're starting a whole new set of adventures for Captain Jack Sparrow. The trick was of course to get Johnny back. He is very difficult to commit to something, because he doesn't want to disappoint his fans. We were also lucky to have Geoffrey back, and we started with getting Penelope Cruz — who's beautiful and an amazing actress, an Academy Award winner — to add to the excitement of the movie. And of course Ian McShane — a great baddie in this one. And even our new kids — Astrid and Sam — who are beautiful and very talented.
After four films, do you feel that Captain Jack is a role you were born to play?
Johnny Depp: Well, it gives me the opportunity to wear women's undergarments, which you don't get every day. When you get to take the chance, grab it! You know, it's funny how the films and the character have been accepted. Back when we first started Pirates 1, it was like any other character: you just sort of grab bits and pieces and out comes this kind of weird little stew you've created. And then boom! Along comes this character, and it's just so much fun to get away with things you're not normally allowed to do. He's totally irreverent, played as absurd as you like. So yeah, it's a very special opportunity.
Is it difficult to get back into his skin?
All the characters Ive played are pretty close to the surface.
Johnny: Well, all the characters I've played are pretty close to the surface; each one is relatively accessible. Some of them you have to kind of work up to, and other ones come a little bit easier. With Captain Jack, I've played him now four times, so yeah, he arrives pretty quickly. He arrives a little too quickly, in fact. He arrives in life a lot. I'm dropping my kids off to school, and he'll show up.
Astrid, you're one of the newcomers, and you had to spend a lot of time in the water.
Astrid Berges-Frisbey: Well, Rob was always worried about how I, and everyone else too, would be the most comfortable. I think it was a challenge to create this character, she's not just a creature. And the way we worked with Rob was really interesting, because he directs the actors really well, and he really takes care of the physical aspects of each scene.
You're new too, Sam. Did you have to do a lot of training with swords?
Sam Claflin: I did some sword-fighting in drama school, but that was pretty much the be all and end all of my fight training. Luckily I didn't have too much swashbuckling in this picture. Being a man of religion, I'm a lover not a fighter. Nonetheless it was amazing to watch the stunt men and fellow actors doing their swordplay. It's definitely something I truly enjoyed, so I'd love to have a dab hand in that.
Rob Marshall: I have to say that Sam is an extraordinary athlete. He took so many falls, and he is amazing physically.
Sam: I have three stitches that prove that I worked hard! It's like a nice little tattoo to remind me of this film.
And you've never done this much action either, Penelope.
Penelope Cruz: Yes, this was the first time I've touched a sword. I had no idea. But I had wonderful teachers, and they taught me for a couple of months before the movie started to shoot. And then I did what I could, but obviously very safe.
Rob: Penelope is also amazing physically. She's a dancer, as I know well, and she knows how to time things brilliantly. She's just physical, and that's one of the millions of things that Penelope can do that a lot of people can't. It's one thing to be an actor at that level and then also be so physical and so funny and so beautiful — an amazing combination.
Penelope: Thank you!
Meanwhile Ian, you seem to have cornered the market in movie villainy.
If I wasnt acting now, Id probably
be in jail.
Ian McShane: It's thanks to my early life. If I wasn't acting now, I'd probably be in jail! No, it was fabulous to be asked to play an iconic character like Blackbeard. The script was terrific: literate, funny, it has a linear line. They've gone back to the first one, actually, more in terms of simplification of the plot and the characters. And who the hell doesn't want to play Blackbeard? Is Penelope his daughter? I often wonder because all the characters lie to each other. I'd love it if you hadn't been my daughter!
What happened to the scene where Blackbeard goes into battle with his hair on fire?
Ian: Well, we tried that. Over many months, Jerry would say we're going to try to do the flames in the beard. Of course we couldn't do it because of safety reasons; we're not allowed. So we tried a rig that produces smoke. On top of the 200-pounds of leather coat — which I think Keith Richards is now wearing around London, he nicked that I think — I had this rig up my back and went out on the bow for the big scene, and smoke came out and everyone thought I was having a crafty fag. So that magic line came up: "We'll do it in post."
Speaking of which, Barbossa now sports a peg leg.
Geoffrey Rush: In the first film there was a memo from head office saying we're not going to have any eye-patches, and no one's allowed to say "Argh!" But I slipped in one as a kind of post-modern quote. And in the third film Ragetti [Mackenzie Crook] loses his wooden eyeball and puts on an eye-patch. We like that to be seen as maybe the first pirate that ever wore an eye-patch. Similarly, no one's had a peg leg so far, so somewhere between parts 3 and 4, Barbossa's lost a limb. I did work with a prosthetician who works with genuine amputees, because I was going to do that old Robert Newton [1954's Long John Silver] thing of strapping my leg up the back and walking on the peg. But he said it takes up to two years to train your muscles to find the proper restructuring and balance. So I went to the costume designer and said, "You know what? I think I can act the leg." And I knew that the CGI guys could work with a blue stocking and paint it out.
This is a new genre for you, Rob.
Rob: Listen, for me to get a chance to work with Johnny was the thrill of my life. And so to be asked by him was extraordinary. I've always wanted to do an action piece for families, and as a director I like to change it up and do different things. Working with Jerry was exquisite — he's an iconic producer and there's a reason why: he's the best there is. And Johnny is unbelievable in every way: as a collaborator, a person, there's no one like him. So to have that opportunity was huge.
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