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When Disney’s original Pirates of the Caribbean was released in 2003, the tale following a rowdy group of pirates across the seas was almost as much of an adventure behind the scenes as it was onscreen.
Under the direction of Gore Verbinski (Pirates 1-3) and Rob Marshall (Pirates 4), the quartet of films (grossing $3.73 billion worldwide) follows Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow through a swashbuckling adventure that continues with the release of the fifth installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, which hit theaters on Friday.
Captain Jack may not have been where he is today without the help of some loyal pirates (and a particular naval officer). Heat Vision spoke with Jack Davenport (Commodore James Norrington, who seeks the hand of Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann), Lee Arenberg (Pintel, the pirate who gets into shenanigans with Ragetti), and David Bailie (the silent pirate Cotton). The three actors starred alongside Depp, Knightley and Orlando Bloom throughout the course of the Gore Verbinski-directed films, The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End — and have plenty to say about the blockbusters.
Millions were spent on snacks.
Davenport says the filming crew was so huge for the second and third installments he recalls the craft services chef telling him that around $2 million alone was used for snacks.
“I remember saying to him one day ‘What is your budget for all this?’ He looked me square in the eye and said ‘essentially unlimited.’ I was like ‘What does that mean?’ He was like ‘I don’t know, $2 million.’ I was like ‘For snacks?’ And he was like ‘yeah?’ That sounds frivolous but it wasn’t. He obviously had to keep people fed. The point is that was just a snack line item.”
Hundreds of cellphones were lost at sea.
Davenport, Arenberg and Bailie found their most memorable experiences simply being able to feel like real-life pirates in filming with hundreds of crewmembers, multiple ships and plenty of explosions in St. Vincent, where Davenport recalls a Led Zeppelin-esque experience of jumbo jets chartered to carry hundreds of crewmembers and 55 boats to ferry even the makeup trailers to and from the set on St. Vincent in the Caribbean: “I remember thinking just don’t f— it up, because the reset for this scene is going to be like an hour and a half,” says Davenport, who credits Verbinski for being able to keep the production in check. “And that was every scene I was in.”
“There was a legendary speech the line producer, Eric McLeod, made at the end of the third movie about, ‘Well, we’ve finished up shooting. The caterers prepared 170,000 meals. We bought like 700 cellphones and 240 of them went in the water. There was enough rope on this movie to go around Earth five times,'” recalls Arenberg. “Stuff like that started to add up like you would have driven around the Earth 120 times with all the fuel used. It resonates with you when you understand the magnitude of it. … Most people don’t get an opportunity like that in the film business. We won’t be making films like that very often.”
Davenport added, “We used to work on the first film, and I remember looking at the call sheet and it would say just catering alone it was 750 lunches and we were in the middle of nowhere. They had to fly in everything, all the food. It was like being in an invading army.”
The actors went to Pirate School taught by swordsman and Star Wars lightsaber master Bob Anderson.
All of the actors learned how to work with cannons and swords in Pirates School, which Arenberg said included getting trained by the late famed swordsman Bob Anderson, who also was the lightsaber master who fought battles as Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. Davenport recalls that performing the sword fighting scenes was like “learning an exhausting and slightly dangerous dance,” particularly when filming a dueling scene in over 100-degree heat on a mill wheel with Depp and Bloom in Dead Man’s Chest.
“Actually I did keep fainting at one point,” said Davenport. “I think I had the most clothing on, that’s for sure. Orlando of course doesn’t really sweat, he merely glows. … We were all struggling a bit at times though. It was intense.”
For Arenberg, who was one of the few American actors on set, it was challenging transitioning from his native Santa Monica “surfer boy” accent to the English and sometimes Shakespearian accent that he would run his lines in — including his signature “Hello, Poppet” line. He’d run lines by Mackenzie Crooks (Ragetti) ahead of time.
“Every time we had to do a little improv I would whisper my words to Mackenzie to make sure it was right,” he said.
David Bailie was “intimidated” by Gore Verbinski and had hoped his character would at some point speak.
Bailie’s Cotton did not speak a line through the first three films, which the actor said he found to be a problem and left him feeling he had “failed” at the job instead of finding a way to make Cotton more likable and funny — even without a voice.
“If I just been a little bit more streetwise about moviemaking I could have made Cotton a very funny character, but I see that in retrospect,” recalls Bailie. “I think Gore saw me as a bit of a pain in the backside. I was intimidated by Gore. That’s the long way short of it. I didn’t quite hold my own on the social interactive stakes within the business at all. He used to make funny little quips to me like, ‘It’s not quite the Royal Shakespeare Company is it?’ and I would sort of grin sheepishly.”
After the third film, Bailie was ready to speak if he was cast in another sequel and proposed to Verbinski and writer Terry Rossio a storyline that Cotton could speak all along but had a catatonic fit and simply had refused to speak during the previous films. Cotton getting his voice back, however, never made it to light.
“I explained this to the writers and they looked at me like, ‘Where was he born? What planet was he on?’ I took the proposition to Gore and he gave me an even more old-fashioned look,” said Bailie, who will appear in Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built and performs in self-produced videos of classic poetry.
A significant scene improvised by Johnny Depp and Arenberg led to fans asking for autographs and bringing them jars of mayonnaise.
During a deleted scene in Curse of the Black Pearl — included on the DVD version — Jack Sparrow is cornered in the caves of Isla de Muerta by Pintel, who is loyal to Depp’s enemy, Captain Barbossa. Arenberg says the scene goes on a bit longer than planned.
“We were in the cave of Isla Muerta and I stop Johnny, who says ‘Parlay’ and ‘Down to the depths with whatever mutt had thought of parlay’ and Johnny goes, ‘That would be the French.’ The scene was supposed to end after that, but they kept rolling so Johnny and I started to get into this improv about the French and he starts saying something about mayonnaise and for my character I didn’t know what else to say so I go ‘I love mayonnaise,'”said Arenberg. “Every fan for a year or two who would come get an autograph would bring me a jar of mayonnaise.”
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