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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – How Penelope Cruz was taught to lose the fear

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Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Johnny Deep and Penélope Cruz
Jack Sparrow(Johnny Deep) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) © 2010 Walt Disney

In 2001 Penelope Cruz starred with Johnny Depp in the movie Blow. In 2009, she was featured in director Rob Marshall’s musical Nine. They are all back together again in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Cruz portrays Angelica, the first female pirate in the franchise. The daughter of the fearsome Blackbeard (Ian McShane), she is attempting to get a crew together to find the Fountain of Youth.

When she encounters Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a former lover, sparks fly, and he is unwillingly recruited to join her ship to find the Fountain.

This is the second movie you’ve done with both Johnny and director Rob Marshall.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Poster, Penélope Cruz
Poster, Angelica (Penélope Cruz) © 2010 Walt Disney

Two of the greatest experiences I’ve had working with people in this industry were with Johnny and Rob.

Rob can handle huge amounts of pressure and always be a gentleman to everybody. He’s very special human being, and I think anyone you ask will tell you the same thing.

Rob is like a gentleman from another era. Somebody told me yesterday that he was described by someone as ‘an iron wrapped in velvet,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful way to put it, because he’s really strong, very smart, a real hard worker, but he has such an elegant way of living.

He’s very unique; there are not a lot of people like Rob. And I keep looking at him and thinking, ‘Are you for real? Are you really this kind and special?’ Yeah, Rob is really like that.

What about working with Johnny again?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp
Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp at the world premiere at Disneyland © 2011 Disney Enterprises

Johnny and I really loved working together 10 years ago, and I’m so happy to be around him again. He’s so humble, smart and one of the funniest people I know. His talent is incredible, and he’s another gentleman, like Rob. The more you work in this business, you just want to be around nice people, and they are on the top of the list for that.

Johnny has done something really unique and iconic with Jack Sparrow. It’s really brave what he did and he committed to it and went all the way in that direction. I think he’s so brilliant what he has created with this character. He’s amazing, everyone loves Jack.

He’s irresistible, because he’s such a funny and peculiar character. Johnny’s really talented, we all know that, but to see it from the inside, to see how he works and how he prepares and how disciplined he is, and generous with all the other actors.

What is the relationship between Angelica and Captain Jack Sparrow?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Penélope Cruz, Johnny Deep and Ian McShane
Angelica (Penélope Cruz), Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Deep) and Captain Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach (Ian McShane) © 2010 Walt Disney

Angelica had a relationship in the past with Jack Sparrow, but he betrayed her and broke her heart. Now she enjoys looking for revenge. I think she’s still in love with him, but she cannot admit it, not even to herself, that she still has these feelings.

She still likes him very much, but she wants some type of personal revenge. And I think they are both trying to run away from the feelings that they have for each other.

Was there a lot of preparation for you, doing an action movie, and did you get to go one-on-one with Johnny or was that all a stunt double?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Penelope Cruz
Actress Penelope Cruz at the world premiere © 2011 Disney Enterprises

I did two months of training in Los Angeles before filming began with George (Marshall Ruge) and his amazing team of people. They taught me to lose the fear and how to be 100-percent alert. They are amazing and they taught with patience.

I knew most of the choreography because they put them together like [a dance], almost like when we were doing Nine together. So it was very helpful that I knew most of them before we started shooting.

Of course, [I did] everything that was safe because of my situation then (she was pregnant with husband Javier Bardem’s baby). But they were really protective at every moment and that meant so much to me.

What was the key thing for you in terms of creating this character, the clothes or learning the sword play?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Penelope Cruz and Mickey Mouse
Actress Penelope Cruz and Mickey Mouse at the world premiere at Disneyland © 2011 Disney Enterprises

For shooting a character like this it really helps to have those costumes, to be in the real locations. It was very helpful that we didn’t go into a studio until after we had shot for two or three months in Hawaii.

Then they built a beach at Universal Studios and when they told me that I thought that it was my English, that I didn’t understand what they said. Then I went there and there was really a beach at Universal Studios.

Then we went to Puerto Rico, to this deserted, private island and then we ended up in London at Pinewood. But all of that helped me a lot to try to imagine what the pirate world at that time was because it’s so far from our reality to create a character like that. It’s all about your imagination and I think it really helped to be in those beautiful places.

Did you have fun playing Angelica?

She was a lot of fun to play. She has a lot of layers, a lot of colors, because she’s a real pirate.

She thinks like a pirate, but she’s full of conflicts because she also is really obsessed with justice, with being fair, she wants people to be good and she wants to save her father’s soul but, at the same time, she can’t stop lying and tricking Jack, and manipulating others to get what she wants.

Contradictions like that are always fun to play.