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It's a pirate's life for Johnny Depp and Disney's other seaworthy stars, scifi.com, July 6, 2003
by Cindy White

It almost goes without saying that the grand Hollywood tradition of the pirate action-adventure has taken a beating in the recent past, both critically and financially. Add to this the abysmal failure that was The Country Bears, and it is only natural for many moviegoers to greet to a film based on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction with a healthy amount of skepticism. But one need only take a good look at the cast list to assuage any doubts as to the exciting potential of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, which opens July 9.

Johnny Depp, one of the most enigmatic and interesting actors of his generation, takes a break from a string of serious roles to ham it up as the notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. Once Depp was attached to the project, it wasn't difficult to attract high-caliber talent in the co-starring roles. Orlando Bloom, who gained notoriety as the elvish archer Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, soon signed on to play lovelorn blacksmith Will Turner. In the film, Turner hits the high seas with Sparrow to rescue the object of his undeclared affections, Elizabeth Swann. For the role of Elizabeth, the producers looked to lively British actress Keira Knightley, best known to American audiences as a tomboyish-yet-sexy soccer player in Bend it Like Beckham. The film also stars renown actors Geoffrey Rush as a cursed pirate captain and Jonathan Pryce as Governor Swann, Elizabeth's father.

Depp, Bloom and Knightley took a moment recently to talk to Science Fiction Weekly about their experiences filming on location in the Caribbean, and the appeal of fun-loving pirates to children of all ages.

Orlando Bloom, are you a fan of pirate movies?

Bloom: I used to play pirates in the backyard as a kid. You know what I mean? In the garden. But pirate movies ... used to be on Sunday afternoons on TV when I was growing up. It was one of those things you just sort of would happen to watch and always really enjoy. When I was growing up they weren't really being made in the same way, like to be put out there like that. But I watched The Master of Ballantrae and stuff. Bob Anderson, who was the swordmaster, he was talking about that. And he doubled Errol Flynn in that movie, and I wanted to see what that was like. And Captain Blood.

What was more fun, the sword fighting in Pirates or the archery in Lord of the Rings?

Bloom: You can't really compare, because they're so totally different things to play with. But I had a lot of fun with the sword. It was quite complicated. But I do some different stuff in Rings. It's quite difficult to compare those two.

Did you know immediately that you wanted to do the film?

Bloom: Well, actually, it was a thing where I had finished working on Ned Kelly and Geoffrey was going on to do this, Geoffrey Rush, and he sort of brought it to my attention, as it were. And then basically, yeah, he sort of mentioned it to me. And I was like, "OK, it sounds like it could be a good project." And I wanted to read it because of his recommendation. He just said there was a part that would be good for me.

What was the most difficult aspect about the filming?

Bloom: It was a lot of fun. Being on the ocean, I love being on the ocean, but the nature of that is that you've got a lot of people in a small space out in the middle of the sea, and some people don't like being on the ocean. So that was kind of overwhelming. That was kind of hard for them to do. But it was a fun shoot. The character of Will Turner was a great character for me to play, and he wasn't too daunting.

What was it like working with Johnny? Did he give you any advice?

Bloom: I would go off him. I mean, he's the guy, you know what I mean? And like, I would just take from him. The way he played Jack left it open for me to play Will in a certain way. And Will was written like a straight-shooting, true-blue, honest sort of hero character. But had Johnny played his as more of the hero character, it might have conflicted. But Johnny left it wide open for me just to go the whole hog on the hero number. Do you know what I mean? Because the hero element to his is much more character-based, so it kind of left it open for me, which was great. And then I would be like, forget the close-up, just give me a two-shot, because it was just great to do stuff with him.

Did you get to take home any pirate souvenirs?

Bloom: I took a bit of plunder. I took a few gold coins and stuff.

Had you seen the ride before doing the film?

Bloom: No. I hadn't been. I'd been to Disney World as a kid, but I hadn't been on the ride. I haven't been to Disneyland yet.

Keira, what about you? Had you ever seen the ride before?

Knightley: Yes. I had. I've been on it about five times. I went to—Is it Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida? I went to that one when I was about 11. And I loved it. It was one of the best holidays I've ever been on. And then when I got to L.A. I thought, I'm doing the film, I'm working for Disney, can I have some free passes? So maybe I went back about four times with a very large group of friends and family. Obviously, because you can't do research on your own [laughs]. So, yeah, I know it intimately.

Did they let you go to the front of the line because you were in the movie?

Knightley: No! No, I had to queue up. I desperately tried. I said, "Listen, I'm doing the film." And they're like, "Yeah. Get to the back of the queue." So it didn't work. I couldn't pull any strings.

There are a lot of great actors in this film. What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Knightley: At the beginning of this experience I thought, right, I'm going in, I'm working with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce. These are kind of titans, really. I'm going to go and I'm going to learn how to be rather fabulous and get all their secrets. I can safely say I've learnt absolutely nothing. I've come out of the experience [learning nothing]. And Johnny in particular, he chats, he has a cup of tea, he giggles a lot, he does the scene, he chats, he has another cup of tea, he giggles a lot. But where does it come from? I haven't got a clue. It's just talent, I guess.

Were you at all nervous about working with Johnny?

Knightley: No, I wasn't really scared. I couldn't wait to meet him because one of my friends has like the biggest crush ever. So, you go into her room and it's just posters of Johnny everywhere. Which is kind of really freaky, now. But no, I wasn't scared. And he's just such a nice guy. And just so—I mean, it always sounds crap to say this—but he's just so normal. I mean, you have a laugh. And he's lived in France, so he's watched a lot of the kind of British comedy shows. So he knows all the kind of British humor. And we just got on really well. And he's just a lovely guy. You have a chat, you have a cup of tea, and it's great.

Did he have the gold teeth the whole time?

Knightley: Oh, yeah. That was actually the first thing I said to him, ever. We had the read-through in the Viper Room, actually, his club. And I was kind of starstruck about being in there anyway, and he walked in and I'm seeing him over there and I'm like, "Ooh, Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp." And we sit down at quite a long table, and he sits next to me and I'm like, "Oh, God!" And he goes, "Hi, Keira." And I went, "S--t, look at your teeth!" So it kind of broke the ice right there, and that was our relationship from then on, really.

And what about Orlando?

Knightley: He's great. He's a sweetheart. And yeah, I mean, we'd met each other a couple of times before at various auditions and never got the parts together. Either he'd got it, or I got it. So it was really great to finally get a chance to work with him. But saying that, we have maybe four scenes in the entire film together. So I didn't see much of him at all. And it was very much. If he was on, then I was off, and vice versa. So it kind of feels like although we have worked together, we haven't really very much. But he's a sweetheart, and we had a laugh.

Was there anything you wanted to do that you didn't get to in the film?

Knightley: We were really lucky because the writers, Ted and Terry, were on set practically every day from the beginning. And they were always coming up, saying, "Have you got any ideas? Come and talk to us. If you want anything, come and talk to us." The only idea, the only thing I wanted was a sword. And every single day I'd go up to the producers, I'd go up to the director, I'd go up to the writer, and I'd say, "Give me a sword! Give me a sword!" And they'd be like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever." Never got a sword. Six months later, never got a sword. So am I angry? Yes. Very.

How did you like filming in the Caribbean?

Knightley: It was amazing. It was amazing. I did start to get island fever at the end of two months. But it was really incredible. My days off I'd be sort of lying on a beach and going snorkeling and stuff. Do you feel really sorry for me? Yeah. It was incredible.

Is wearing a corset as uncomfortable as it looks?

Knightley: It wouldn't be if you were very sensible and you go into a fitting and you breathe out. If, like me, you've been watching too much of Gone With the Wind and have a bit of a Scarlett O'Hara complex, you go, "Ooh, let's see how tight we can make it." Then it's a problem. So we got it down to about 20 inches. It's a bit ridiculous. And yeah, the oxygen deprivation did become a problem. And you kind of can't sit down. And if you eat anything or drink anything it stops here [in your chest]. So it feels like it's going to come back up all day, which is also great. So, no, it did get to one point where I was standing on these stairs, and it's sort of my big entrance is this gorgeous gold dress, and [director Gore Verbinski] is like, "OK, you've got to go and get out of that corset because your eyes are rolling into the back of your head and you look like you're going to fall over." So that was kind of problematic.

Will you ever wear another corset?

Knightley: Never say never, but not for a good, long time.

Johnny, you've said that your character is a cross between Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew, is that true?

Depp: Oh, yeah. It's all true.

I can see Keith Richards, but why Pepe Le Pew?

Depp: Pepe Le Pew, he's a skunk who believed he was a ladies' man, who believed it wholeheartedly. And I kind of had that feeling about Jack, that no matter what the actual reality was, he would only see his reality. He would only believe his reality, his version of the story—a guy whose two main objectives are, number one, getting his ship back, which really represents his freedom, because he can move forward towards the horizon, and number two, to propagate the myth. He's a guy who understood that the legend is infinitely more important than the truth.

When did you decide what you were going to do with the character? The writers have said that they were picturing something like a seedy Burt Lancaster type rather than what you did with it.

Depp: Yeah. Oops [laughs]. Sorry fellas. ... Yeah, I'm glad they didn't tell me that early on. I knew pretty early on. I mean, right away, actually, when I read the script. Because the whole challenge initially, even before the script came, was to come up with a pirate that hadn't been done before, to come up with a pirate character who's fun, interesting, a lot going on in his past, but that hadn't been done before, who could be dangerous, but at the same time funny.

Did you have as much fun as it looked like you were having?

Depp: More. It was criminal. ... It was a ball. I mean, it was just a ball. Hard work, certainly, really hard work. Physically, very demanding, taxing. Worked a lot of hours. There were sort of burnout days and weeks, but every day was a gas being the guy. I mean, I loved every second being Jack Sparrow. I just loved it.

Did you decide to do this film partially because it was something your daughter could see?

Depp: Yeah, that was certainly part of it. When they came to me with the idea ... all they had was the title of the film, just The Pirates of the Caribbean. There was no treatment or idea that they came up with at the time. It was just the title. And I instantly had a very, very good feeling about it. And then when [writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio] came on board and [producer Jerry Bruckheimer] and Gore Verbinski, everything moved in such a perfect little package. I thought this could be fun for the kids. And also, I think I'd been deeply influenced by my daughter. She's 4 years old, and I've watched every single Disney animated film, like more than my fair share. I've seen them all probably 50 times at least. And I like them. I love them. They're really great.

What gave you that good feeling when you heard the title?

Depp: Probably it struck a chord with the 5-year-old kid still inside, you know what I mean? I can remember being very, very young—5 years old, 6 years old—and I guess every single little boy probably feels that. You reach that moment where you want to be a pirate, a swashbuckler, and go out on the open seas and [have an] adventure. And it's romantic, and [dangerous], all that stuff.

How did you feel about the fact that it was a film adapted from a Disney ride?

Depp: That didn't bother me at all. No. I thought it was kind of cool. It was really, like I said, I initially had a very good feeling. But there was nothing really to take a bite out of at that moment, so it was more like, well let's just wait and see what they come up with, what the concept is. And then when they said Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are going to write this, the guys who did Shrek, I knew then we're in good shape.

How did you get along with the rest of the cast?

Depp: Oh, they were great. I really enjoyed working with those guys. I mean, working with Geoffrey Rush, who I loved, and Jonathan Pryce, who I worship, and then Orlando and Keira, who I wasn't very familiar with, but you fall in love with them instantly. They're both very, very smart. Very intelligent. Funny. Really committed to the work. Keira was just exceptional. And Orlando was wonderful and a really good actor. At a certain point it became the comedy stylings of Depp and Bloom. It was like Abbott and Costello or something.

Did you hang out at all?

Depp: Yeah, we hung out a bit. When we were in the Caribbean for those two months, I guess it was about two months, yeah, eight weeks, I was staying on a boat. I decided I wanted to live on a boat to keep the feeling of being in the womb of the ocean. So yeah, I stayed on a boat. So it worked out, they'd come over and have dinner and have drinks or whatever or we'd go meet them somewhere. Yeah. I had a blast, it was really a dream cast, man. Really good people. Dream crew as well.