Highlights from Entertainment Weekly’s Jan. 21 issue (on newsstands nationwide Friday, Jan 14): Johnny Depp talks exclusively about ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and the possibility of ‘Pirates 5′
New York, N.Y. – Does anyone love the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow as much as, well, the egomaniacal pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow? Maybe not. But one person who comes close is Johnny Depp, who’s now played that seafaring scallywag in four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, including On Stranger Tides (out May 20). “I’m never tired of the character,” he says. “I don’t look forward to the day when I have to say goodbye to him.”
Captain Jack’s latest adventure was born during the back-to-back productions of the franchise’s second and third films, 2006’s Dead Man’s Chest and 2007’s At World’s End. Writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio persuaded series superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer to option Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, a 1987 novel that featured both the dreaded pirate Blackbeard and the fountain of youth. Once the rights were secured, Elliott and Rossio set the stage for the new installment by writing a concluding scene for At World’s End in which Sparrow is seen heading off in search of the fountain in question.
Given the combined $2 billion worldwide gross of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, Disney was happy to bankroll a fourth excursion. On Sept. 11, 2009, Depp appeared on stage dressed as Captain Jack at a Disney fan event in Anaheim to hype the announcement. He also embraced Disney’s then chairman, Dick Cook, who’d famously backed Depp’s idiosyncratic decision to base his character on Keith Richards.
But just one week after the Anaheim event, Cook abruptly departed Disney—and plans for Pirates 4 seemed to founder. Depp told a reporter at the time that he felt “a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment” for another Pirates movie. “Things became a little creaky after Dick Cook left,” the actor admits now. “He had been very supportive of me on the first movie when a lot of people at Disney were concerned.” However, Depp also says he had issues with the nascent Pirates 4 script. “Things got very mathematical, very subplotty, on the last movie because there were a lot of things that needed to be resolved with the characters,” he says. “I wanted to make a film that was more like the first one, that was more character-driven.”
To help whip the yarn into shape, Depp attended a series of meetings in L.A. with the core Pirates team, including director Rob Marshall, who stepped in after Gore Verbinski left the series. “Johnny was instrumental in the design of the story,” says Rossio. “I think an arbitration committee might give him a ‘story by’ credit if he was willing to submit it.”
On Stranger Tides introduces a slew of fresh characters, including Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his feisty daughter, Angelica (Penélope Cruz); and a young missionary played by newcomer Sam Claflin. Angelica, it seems, is no stranger to Captain Jack. “You get the sense that there’s most definitely something from the past, something that they’ve been through together,” Depp says cagily. “It’s a hate-love relationship.”
With all the elements in place, production began last spring in Hawaii—where the elements themselves became an obstacle. On the first day of principal photography, cast and crew had to take a precarious journey from a boat to an island via Jet Skis. “It was a rough sea and there was no dock,” recalls Bruckheimer. “It was pretty challenging.” A potentially more worrisome issue: the expanding shape of Cruz, who’s expecting her first child with husband Javier Bardem. Even so, Depp says the actress was entirely gung ho: “It was funny to see a pregnant woman f—ing sword-fighting.”
Now that Pirates 4 is in the can, Depp admits he would be happy to buckle some more swash. “As long as we can put all the puzzle pieces together, I would most definitely consider it,” he says. “I always feel that with Captain Jack, you can chuck him into any situation and have a ball with it.”
For more on Johnny Depp’s return to Pirates 4, go to EW.com