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The Making of 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

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Now just hours before he puts the final touches to his work, color-timing 14 shots and supervising the ultimate stages of the 2D and 3D versions, Marshall seems remarkably calm for a man who has undergone a baptism by fire and almost died.

Sitting over lunch April 28 at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, with his deep blue eyes and shock of brown hair, there's a warmth and gentleness to him that make one marvel that this man could helm a picture of such size. But he brought it in under budget and ahead of schedule, Bruckheimer says. And they've already started talks for a fifth Pirates.

Looking back, it's the joy of discovering Depp that Marshall relishes most. Asked what surprised him about the actor, he laughs: "Everything! His incredible elegance as a person, No. 1. He comes on the set and shakes everybody's hand in the morning. He has the manners of a gentleman from another time." Like Marshall himself. 

The two bonded over their love of the past -- somewhat unexpected for those who think of Depp as ultra-contemporary or as similar to his co-star, Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone who plays his father in the film.

"We felt, from our first meeting, exactly the same way: We were born in the wrong time," Marshall says. "I should have been working in the 1940s in the Arthur Freed [musical unit at MGM], and Johnny would have loved to be in the 1930s or '40s. He loves Hollywood lore."

It was Depp who insisted that Marshall view some of his favorite films, mainly from the 1950s or before but also including the 1965 Tony Richardson satire The Loved One. Their affinity for old times was reflected in the parting gifts they gave each other at the end of the shoot: a 1930s cigarette case from Marshall to Depp and a '30s cocktail shaker from Depp to his director.

Whether there'll be more gifts remains unclear.

Much will depend on how Stranger Tides performs, on Depp's schedule and on Disney's ability to market the film, the first greenlighted by Ross and so important to him and the studio that he went on location three times.

A new screenplay, written by Rossio, was due to be turned in by May 2. Marshall seems open to the idea. But after two years of shooting, after all those CGI shots and after overseeing everything from postproduction to nail-polish commercials, he is clearly exhausted.

Will there be a P5? Bruckheimer believes so. Still, he notes, "You know how fragile movies are."

GALLERY: On Stranger Tides premiere party