What can you say about Johnny Depp? He’s created some of the most memorable characters on film, including the title role of Edward Scissorhands, The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and Willie Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But perhaps the character that has resonated the most with movie fans around the world is Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Captain Jack is back in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the first movie in the franchise to be helmed by Rob Marshall, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for Chicago.
This time Captain Jack is searching for the Fountain of Youth, but so is his arch nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Jack’s old love, Angelica (Penelope Cruz).
Johnny spoke of his love for the franchise at the press junket for the movie in Beverly Hills, California.
This movie is a based on a ride at Disneyland. Captain Jack was added to the ride a couple of years ago. Have you ever been there and seen your likeness, and if so what was your reaction?
Well, it’s pretty psychedelic, actually. I suppose that you could make it more psychedelic, but we probably shouldn’t go into that now.
The idea of wandering through this ride and suddenly there you are three times on the thing – I mean, Geoffrey [Rush] has a similar experience there. He has to go in and see his head in there as well.
It’s quite an honor in a weird way. It’s a great honor. Some sort of thing that you took part in creating becomes this forever sort of object.
You once said, “None of my movies will ever make any money.” Do feel really guilty now?
It’s not my fault. I did my best, even to the point of trying to get fired from the first [Pirates], but they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
It’s interesting to experience that kind of ride, after essentially 20 years of enjoying a career based on failures. Suddenly, something clicks. The weird thing is that I never changed a thing.
The process is still the process, as it ever was. The fact that people decided to go and see a movie that I was in was probably the most shocking thing that I’ve ever been through.
What are the similarities between you and Captain Jack?
We’re totally different. There’s nothing that I can relate to in Captain Jack, whatsoever.
No, with every character that you play, there’s a part of you that goes into that, in terms of the ingredients of making this stew.
There’s most definitely a part of me in Captain Jack, and now, fortunately or unfortunately, there’s a great part of Captain Jack in me as well. Basically, I can’t shake him. He won’t leave me alone. He keeps showing up at odd times. In fact, he arrived this morning when I was getting my kids ready for school. I had shoo him away.
Can you talk about doing the London street scene, jumping on the heads and the carriages? How much choreography and rehearsal went into that, and how much fun was that to shoot?
It was horrible! It was grueling. It’s a very strange little sequence.
I’ve thought of doing many things in my life, under the influence of life, and I’ve never actually thought of straddling two carriages while they’re moving before. That was an interesting experience. And then, I was jumping on people’s heads and onto another cart, and then the thing catches…
What was it like to work with Rob Marshall?
What a gift, to have someone of his caliber and someone of his talent to come in and drive this beast, and shape this strange animal into something. It was incredible to experience.
Some filmmakers go into a film and it’s already shot and cut in their head. I didn’t get that feeling from Rob. What I got from Rob was that he heard it as music, in a weird way. It was rhythmic. And, he knew tempo and a way to finesse the sound, which became visual as well. It was an incredible experience.
His timing, and not just his choreographic timing, but his sense of comedic timing is impeccable.
He would have us just shave an eighth of a millisecond off of a beat and it would change the whole dynamic of the scene. It would quite something. The only problem is that he’s really mean. He’s really mean! No. He’s the kindest man alive.
How was it to work with Penelope Cruz? Did she teach you any Spanish?
She taught me the raunchiest Spanish that I’ve ever been told. It’s so foul that I couldn’t bring myself to repeat it, here and now. It’s a bad idea. I would carry that on my back for the rest of my days.
Going to work with Penelope again, having done the film Blow together, 10 or 11 years ago, the weird thing was that, when we saw each other again, it felt like we’d wrapped Blow the week before, or a few days before. It just clicked instantly.
Whatever exists, in terms of chemistry, was just instantly firing on all cylinders. It felt completely right. It was Rob’s brilliant idea to bring her in, and when he brought up the idea to me, I went, “Great idea!” I was very, very excited to have Penelope come into this film.
I knew she would be, not only a worthy opponent, but someone who would just kill the scenes, and she did. She was incredible.
Do you see yourself carrying on with this role for decades?
Yeah. They’ll wheel me in. My dreads will get tangled in the wheels of my chair. I don’t know. Sure. Interestingly enough, for me, a character like Captain Jack, you feel like you could just continue. The possibilities are endless and limitless.
There is any possibility of madness and absurdity that could commence, so you feel that, with this character, you’re never really done.
What are the plans for Pirates 5 and 6?
There’s a very clever idea that is being hatched, in terms of Pirates 5 and 6. We’re going to actually shoot them on the ride, just going around in circles, non-stop, kind of like Andy Warhol’s Sleep. It’ll just be close-ups on everyone.