Pirates at World's End: Johnny Depp and Company

Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush reunite in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” a new epic in the blockbuster series chronicling the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann.

This time around, the quartet is joined by international superstar Chow Yun-Fat as Captain Sao Feng, the pirate lord of Singapore.

Since the first movie, all the 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,” 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.

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.

While most of the actors undergo some changes, Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack does not. Director Gore Verbinski and Depp both agreed early on that he has to be exactly who he is, without changes. Even so, knowing what an original actor Depp is, prepare yourselves for some big surprises, including the appearance of Keith Richards, Depp’s friend, in a major role.

Casting Keith Richards

One of the burning questions was, who would be chosen as Captain Teague, Keeper of the Code, the “Pirata Codex,” to which even the most dastardly scalawag must religiously adhere, at the peril of his own body and soul.

The casting was pre-ordained. For nearly a year, rumors flew hither and yon that it would be none other than Keith Richards, legendary guitarist of the Rolling Stones, and a close mate of Johnny Depp. Depp had modeled some of Captain Jack Sparrow’s style and characteristics on his great and good friend. And the rumors, for a change, were true.

Says Richards: “It’s about freedom, baby. Open the cage, let the tigers out. Somebody’s gotta do the naughty work. It’s not so much about destroying the establishment. It’s to prevent them from destroying you.”

Richards was understandably wary at first of accepting the role of Captain Teague, noting: “When I first heard about it, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is an Elvis Presley thing. You pop in and thing. But when I saw how it fit into the whole scenario, then it felt quite natural to do it. And they’ve also made me a lovely guitar.”

Pirates as Rock Stars

Depp: “The sort of connection I made when first thinking about Captain Jack was that idea that pirates were the rock and roll stars of that era. Their myths or legends would arrive months before they would ever make port, much like rock stars.”

Strumming the Guitar

Strumming the guitarespecially designed and built for him by the legendary instrument maker Danny Farington at the request of popmaster Kris peckand wielding a mean flintlock pistol, Richards took the company, and the days on which he filmed, by hurricane force.

Depp recalls: “It was kind of a long shot to even think about getting Keith to do this. The fact that he agreed was above and beyond a dream come true. Experiencing his arrival on set was unbelievable. Every single person on the crew, including people you hadn’t seen in months, suddenly showed up. It was a beautiful, perfect symmetry.”

Captains Jack and Teague

Depp: There was a unique connection between Captains Jack and Teague. You get the feeling that there was a real tough love relationship there. Teague is one of those pirates who would give you a hug one minute, and blow you away the next. Or maybe he’ll blow you away and then give you a hug. You don’t know what to expect from him.”

Torrential Hurricane

Depp recalls: “The Maelstrom is like the biblical whirlpool from hell, and we’re shooting it the way Cecil B. DeMille probably would have. We were running away from hurricanes in the Bahamas, shooting in Dominica during the rainy season in a rain forest, and then we went to the desert, in Palmdale, filming in a torrential downpour and about 75 knots of wind inside of a massive facility on a ship tilted to a 15 percent rake on the gimbal.

“Once again, this is another one of those situations where it’s so weird that you just don’t question it anymore. ‘Johnny, we’re going drive you an hour and a half up to the desert, you’re going to climb aboard the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman built on gigantic rigs, and we’re going to drench you in high winds while you swordfight at a steep angle.’ And you just kind of go, ‘Okay, fine. No Problem.'”

Will there be Pirates 4

Depp: There’s a lot more territory I would love to explore as Captain Jack. I would definitely consider doing another one if all the ingredients are there, like director Gore Verbinski and writer Terry Rossio.

Approach to Acting

Depp: Whether I work from the outside in or inside out depend on the film, on the texture, and sometimes on a particular scene and the substance of the moment, where I want to be. I could also be going from exterior to interior and vice versa within the same scene. I do a little of everything. It’s really a mixed bag, like a stew that’s made of leftovers.

Inspiration and Starting Point

Depp: Captain Jack was born out of a couple of inspirations, out of the idea but not imitation of Keith Richards and the myth of rock n/ roll, combined with cartoon characters that I really have loved over the years and also experienced by watching with my kiddiesjust being a daddy. He was also born out of spending time on the sea, rough sea, where you can’t get your balance, and intense heat. I closed myself off in a sauna for a long period to see what effect the heat would have on me. It was most helpful for the way that Captain Jack moves.

Reel Impact

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. 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.

Last Day of Shooting

On the last two days of the combined “Dead Man’s Chest and “At World’s End” shoot, the usual raucous and explosively noisy atmosphere of filming inside the “Site 9” hangar gave way to a hushed, almost cathedral-like mood. Only Johnny Depp was working on those days. The hundreds of extras and stunt players that usually populate the set were taking a day of rest. It was remarkably peaceful and quiet.

On both days, members of the crew had almost confused looks on their faces, as the realization dawned that incredibly, the impending departure of Depp proferred some kind of proof that filming was, incredibly, drawing to an inexorable finale.

“It’s not a gig, it’s a lifestyle,” was a refrain often heard amidst the company. You wake up, you get dressed, you go pirating for 12 to 14 hours a day, and you just keep doing it week after week, month after month, and, for that matter, year after year.

Depp Free to Go

Though Depp completed his last scene at about noon, he was put into a holding pattern until director Verbinski learned whether or not some footage sot the day before has made it cleanly from the camera to the processing in the lab. Six hours later, the word came in that all looked fine. Which meant Johnny Depp was free to leave.

Captain Jack Makes Me Smile

But four years, one month and 8 days after “The Curse of the Black Pearl” first commenced shooting, Depp was not quite sure that he wanted to leave the set. Says Depp: “The possibility of saying goodbye to Captain Jack perhaps forever is one I look forward to. But if that is the case, we had a good run. I know Captain Jack will always make me smile

Intense Pure Joy

Depp: “The Pirates movies have done a lot for me, and in every way you can imagine. But most importantly, what I’ve felt is this intense, pure joy. Playing this character and delivering this character will always bring a smile to my face, always make me happy and proud.”

Farewell Pastry Party

In the hangar, a large pastry, which looked for all the world like the birthday cake for a little boy who’s crazy about pirates, replete with toy figures and little ships, was positioned next to the shooting set. It read: Dearest Captain Jack, May Your Compass Always Lead You Back to Us. Thank You.”

The group exploded into cheers and applause at Depp’s appearance in the hangar. Depp then told his friends and comrades: “I’ll be incredibly brief, because I may weep. You guys have made this the most amazing experience in my life, except for having my kids. I’d go to war with any of you.”

Hiatus: Can’t Say Goodbye

Depp: I’m going to call this a break, or a hiatus, or something. It’s happened to us before, hasn’t it But I don’t feel like I can say goodbye, certainly not to to any of you, and not to Captain Jack either. Thanks for the ride.”

Thank you, Johnny Depp, for bringing pirates back to Hollywood in a big, personal way!