Who could have guessed that the bizarre union of Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp would have produced a five-star movie to please the box office counting clerks and film critics alike? Empire Online shipped up for The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl press do in London to find out from director Gore Verbinski, Bruckheimer himself and stars Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom what made Pirates rock everybody's boat.
A question for Jerry—what gave you the idea to do a pirate movie in the first place?
Jerry Bruckheimer: You have to go with your instincts. It excited me that it was about a curse of pirates. You cannot kill the pirates, have to return the treasure rather than steal the treasure—that was what got me involved.
Was the film's provenance (the Disney theme park ride) a handicap or help?
Bruckheimer: The film is not about a theme park ride—it's a movie in itself. It's referenced by the ride, but doesn't go beyond that, a movie has to stand on its own two feet.
How did you avoid the curse of making a film on water?
Gore Verbinski: Well I'm a huge fan of the classic pirate movie. But you never know what makes a great movie—really it's down to the story and the performance. At the end of the day I feel really lucky to have a great cast and great writers.
Bruckheimer: That's the reason why it's so exciting, because it hadn't worked before. When pictures have a long time span between genres, I think that's exciting. Challenges really excite me, with the right amount of talent and great writing, directing and acting, you can overcome all those curses.
Were there any problems with the shoot?
Verbinski: Everything they say about filming on water is true. Nothing stays where you put it. My approach was to continue shooting—hundreds of our effect shots are getting rid of hotels in the background and things like that. That really was the only way to keep the thing on schedule. Visual effects are just like another tool in the toolbox.
Orlando—originally your schedule couldn’t fit Pirates in. What changed?
Orlando Bloom: I was already signed up to the Calcium Kid but managed to do that shoot as well. A friend of mine was filming that, and I was committed to him and didn't want to let him down. When I got the script for Pirates, I didn't want to tempt myself with something that I didn't think I could do. I was in Australia at the time filming Ned Kelly—Geoffrey Rush was really excited about the film. Said there was a really great role and that I should read it if nothing else. I'm grateful and thankful to say that it did work out because it couldn't have been a more fun experience.
Keira—Your character tips the heroine's role on its head—you're really an action girl in this film rather than the damsel in distress.
Keira Knightley: I thought that when I first read the script that I would have a really easy time of it and stand around and pout a bit, scream a lot, and it was going to be fine. Gore, however, had other plans and thought it would be a great idea if I tried to do as much of it as possible. Climbing up ships and hitting people over the head with poles, which actually was great fun, but he never gave me a sword.
Was it even harder doing the action scenes in a corset?
Knightley: That was my own fault. I had a Scarlett O'Hara thing, she gets her waist down to 18 and a half inches—so I thought I would try that. For 5 minutes it's fantastic—you have this tiny waist and fantastic cleavage, but oxygen deprivation is a big problem! But it looks good and that's the main thing.
It's been a hell of a year for you . . .
Knightley: It's been really great to have the opportunity to do what we both want to do, with people like Gore and Johnny and Jerry. There are ‘pinch me moments’ but you take each day at a time and try to have a great experience.
Orlando—what about your fight scenes with Johnny Depp—were they as much fun?
Bloom: There's always a few scraps when playing with swords but nothing too serious. It's hard to learn the routine, so it's real fun but very difficult as well.
Verbinski: Orlando's being modest. He's come from Lord of the Rings—so he learned the routine really quickly. Johnny used a stunt double the whole time—Orlando is in the whole sequence.
Bloom: But Johnny was coming up with things like butt slaps—that wasn't included because at that moment in the film it was not where we could go with the characters!
Did any of you have sea sickness?
Bloom: Keira took a seasickness pill and fell asleep!
Knightley: I thought it would be better to be safe rather than sorry. But it made you really drowsy. It was very glamorous, people puking over the sides and me falling asleep.
What did you both learn from working with the likes of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush?
Bloom: Johnny Depp was a bit of a guideline for me, even as a young actor. His character didn't really read like that on the page—that kind of drunkard, Keith Richards number that he pulled from the black corners of his mind. He's so courageous as an actor. It's the same for Geoffrey Rush—as a young actor, I felt really privileged to see how they develop a character. It could quite easily not have worked, but it always works with Johnny. I admired that the most.
Bruckheimer: When you hire Johnny Depp you know you're going to get something like that. We were fortunate that Keira and Orlando were holding the love story down. They're taking care of that section of the story. Johnny doesn't have the burden of being the leading man. That construct allows him to drift into the movie and be Jack Sparrow and be that character. Everything that you see physically, his mannerism are 100% his own creation.
Jerry—are there any genres you'd like to reinvent?
Bruckheimer: I would love to do a Western, I'm working on a number of things.
Would you do a sequel to Pirates?
Bruckheimer: The key is to get the same team. That's something that's hard to put together—everyone's very busy and in demand. It comes down to material—you need to develop a great script.