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Johnny Depp opens up to the new Hollywood Reporter magazine on his hands-on role behind the scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (On Stranger Tides hits theaters May 20) and why he admires the principles of the plunderers.
It’s been four years since the third Pirates. What happened?
Had I had a little more control at the wheel early on, I would have spaced them out more. One of the reasons On Stranger Tides took this amount of time was to really focus on what we could do to make it interesting and new and fresh and not just rehash the same old jokes.
Was it right to shoot the previous two back-to-back?
The second and third parts were tacked on, in a way. It wasn’t initially written as a trilogy, so the writers had to find the mathematics to connect all three — and in doing that, there were subplots and sub-subplots, and it got confusing and a bit complicated. I said, “Look, let’s make it very simple and to the point.”
Is that why you worked so closely with the writers? And when did you all start?
I was doing Public Enemies at the time we had our initial talk. And then we would sit down and go: “What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” And I’d throw my two cents in. I can’t help myself! Just in terms of the character, there are bits and bobs that come as you are going through the story meetings, or as late as when the camera’s about to roll.
Did you continue researching real-life pirates?
I’m always doing research. It’s a lifelong fascination. In a weird way, pirates had an ethic that was infinitely more agreeable than [that of] the government and the British military. For example, when you became a pirate, even if you were just press-ganged and chucked on ship, there were equal shares; you got a certain amount of rations of rum each day. In the British military, they could be awful: “You’ll do this, and you won’t like it, and it’ll be tough.”
Speaking of tough, what was the toughest part of the shoot?
I had a little bit of a physical ailment. I must have done something to my back during a stunt and ended up with this bad sciatic situation. It was this horrible, grinding electricity going through me. I kept shooting; there was no choice. I’d just limp on set. It was monstrous, man — so horrible that I actually started to like it! It was bad, and I had it a good three weeks to a month. But I got used to it and kind of missed it when it was gone.
Would that make you think twice about a fifth Pirates? A script is in the works.
I’ve seen nothing yet. It boils down to story, script and filmmaker. But it’s not something where I would say, “Let’s shoot it next month to get it out by Christmas 2012.” We should hold off for a bit. They should be special, just like they’re special to me.
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