Pirates Dead Man's Chest: Depp's Iconic Role

Captain Jack Sparrow is back, joined by a roistering shipload of characters that are both new and familiar, in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,” the epic second installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” saga.

Since the first movie, all three actors have gained stature, popularity, and Oscar nominations too. Johnny Depp, is now a two time-Oscar nominee, for the first “Pirate” in 2003 as well as for “Finding Neverland,” a year later, in which he played “Peter Pan” creator J. M. Barrie.

As Will Turner, British heartthrob Orlando Bloom, has since appeared in the last segment of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which swept the 2003 Oscars, and “Kingdom of Heaven.” Young and beautiful Keira Knightley, who returns to the second installment in the role of Elizabeth Swann, was nominated last year for the Best Actress Oscar in “Pride & Prejudice.”

But the series belong to the multi-gifted Depp, as the decidedly eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow, caught up in another tangled web of supernatural intrigues.

With the Pirates movies, Depp has instantaneously created an authentic screen icon, embraced by the entire world. Depp, as is know by now, in one of the world's most popular and acclaimed actors, with a hugely versatile range of performances marking his outstanding career.

Iconic Presence

Arguably, Captain Jack Sparrow is the only truly iconic screen character to have yet come out of this new millennium. It's a wholly original and thrillingly eccentric creation, conjured by the famous shape-shifter Depp, as the ducking, weaving, highly superstitious pirate captain of dubious morality and personal hygiene. Depp has become the screen anti-hero for a new century of moviegoers.

Depp as Trickster

Co-writer Terry Rossio claims that one of the archetypes that's really underused in American cinema is the trickster character: “The fun thing about Jack, who's definitely a trickster, is that he's not particularly good at avoiding getting caught. He will get caught, you just can't hold on to him for very long. Jack knows that is he can just bide his time, eventually the world will come over to his side, and that gives him a sort of supreme confidence that he can handle just about any situation.”

Cultural Impact

Perplexed by the success and impact of the first Pirates movie, Depp says: “It is beyond me how such a character has sort of taken root in some people's heart. It's still shocking to me.

Approach to the Role

Says Depp: “I was handed this opportunity to make something of this character, and I had pretty solid idea about who he was and what he should be like. There were a number of people who thought I was nuts. But I was committed to the guy, and I think that's what happened to me in terms of finding the character.”

Universal Appeal

What I set out to do was to try and make Captain Jack appeal to little kids as well as the most hardened adult intellectuals.

Production design

The natural locations and sets designed by Rick Heinrichs unleashed his limitless imagination, providing “Dead Man's Chest” with vastly scaled and richly imaginative backdrops, not to mention a small fleet of new ships, including a redesigned, rebuilt and fully seaworthy Black Pearl, Davy Jones' magnificently detailed and terrifying Flying Dutchman; and the sleep 18th century British merchant ship Edinburgh Trader.

Says Depp: “Heinrichs and his creative team designed a huge range of settings, from a massive swampland built on a Burbank soundstage, to the small but intricate dead man's chest of the subtitle.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with Rick Heinrichs a number of times now over the years. And boy oh boy, talking about somebody outdoing themselves. He's really gone far into the stratosphere, and done some monumental work.”

“My initial reaction to much of the sets was: Can I get the blueprints 'Cause I want to build this somewhere and live in it. Rick is a very gifted artist, and we're super lucky to have him.”

Depp's costumes

Penny Rose's costumes for the leading players indicate their transitions as characters. But for “Dead Man's Chest,” there are virtually no changes at all in Depp's jack Sparrow costume. Says Rose: “Johnny Depp just feels dead right. He's added a few things this time. He's a very thoughtful, caring actor in terms of how he looks in character.

In the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow's now-famous look was collaboration between Penny Rose, key makeup artist Ve Neill, key hair stylist Martin Samuel, and Depp himself.

How I learned from the Rolling Stones

Depp says that “having spent some time with Keith Richards was certainly a huge part of the inspiration for my character,” invoking the name of the great guitarist of the Rolling Stones. He elaborates: “I spent a little time with Keith Richards here and there, and each time I'd see him, he's have a new thing tied into his hair. 'What is that hanging' I'd ask, and Keith would say, 'Ah yeah, I got that in Bermuda,' or wherever.

“So it felt to me like Jack, on his travels and adventures, would see something and go 'Oh yeah, I'll keep that,' tie it in his hair or have someone else do it. Each little trinket would have a story. For example, the bone and hangs just above the bandana is a shinbone from a reindeer. Then Jack has the dangly bits, beads, a chicken foot, a fertility symbol, weird animal tails. There's no telling where he got those, and it might have been lunch!”

Dazzling adventures

In one of the film's many highlights, there's a three-way swordfight between Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and James Norrington on a huge, runaway mill wheel. It's one of the most dazzling and complex sequences yet seen in an adventure film. Among the dangers of this remarkable scene was the fact that heavy coconuts were occasionally dropping from nearly 100-foot-tall palms while it was being filmed, with some of the crew donning hardhats, and Gore Verbinski wearing a good, old-fashioned, “Gunga-Din”-style pith helmet.

Recalls Depp: “I'll never forget the faces on Gore Verbinski and George Marshall Ruge, the stunt coordinator, when it was time to load me into that massive wheel. Gore just started laughing, because it was such an absurd and bizarre request for grown men to ask of each other: “Okay, what we'd like to do now is bind you inside the wheel, tether you to the walls of this thing, give you a sword, and as the wheel is rolling, you're gonna go upside down several times.

It was so bizarre that it was completely appealing. I've done some really obtuse and strange things in this movie. But because of who Gore and George are, and how brilliant they are at their jobs, you have complete trust, which is the whole key to filmmaking.”