How To Steal a Movie
Is there an actor working today the camera loves more than Johnny Depp? I don't think so. Even with his ridiculous unkempt appearance as the roguish Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I wanted him to be in every scene. Although this adventure flick disappointed me in terms of its ghost-ridden plot and over-the-top action sequences, I found it worth seeing because of Depp's extraordinary efforts to create another memorable screen character. And he succeeds with flying colors: Jack Sparrow is every bit as unforgettable as Depp's squeamish Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow.
"It was a different kind of role for me," Depp declared. "It was a great opportunity to invent this pirate from the ground up, to create a different kind of pirate than you have seen before."
The filmmakers wisely gave Depp the freedom to do what he wanted in developing Jack Sparrow's persona. "We just let him go and he came up with this off-center, yet very shrewd pirate," explained producer Jerry Bruckheimer. "He can't quite hold his balance, his speech is a bit slurred, so you assume he's either drunk, seasick or he's been on a ship too long. But it's all an act perpetrated for effect. And, strange as it seems, it's also part of Captain Jack's charm."
Depp claims he modeled Sparrow after Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards -- because "Pirates were the rock stars of their day." He also admits throwing a bit of Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon character, into the mix.
Depp's unique creation emerges as man with a mischievous nature and an optimistic outlook. No matter how many bad things happen to Captain Jack, he continues on his mission to find his ship, the Black Pearl. He's determined to get it back from the scoundrels who took it from him. Depp describes Jack as "a guy who was able to run between the raindrops. . . . He can walk across the DMZ, entertain a troop and then sashay back to the other side and tell the enemy another story. He tries to stay on everyone's good side because he's wise enough to know he might need them in the future."
Director Gore Verbinski (The Ring)compares Jack Sparrow to Lee Marvin's character in Cat Ballou. "He's not the villain and he's not the love interest. He really just floats through the story affecting all around him while pursuing his goal."
Characters affected by Jack Sparrow in Pirates make up a motley crew indeed -- one that includes the treacherous Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), a handsome blacksmith (Orlando Bloom), the governor's beautiful kidnapped daughter (Keira Knightley), and a host of frightening supernatural creatures.
While Verbinski goes overboard with too many swordfights and fighting skeletons, I admired the exciting ship-to-ship cannon battle. With more disciplined editing, this pirate flick could have been one of the best.
If you missed Pirates on the big screen earlier this year, fear not, mateys. You can catch it on DVD or VHS (from Buena Vista Home Entertainment) beginning December 2. The DVD extras look promising. There are commentaries by Verbinski, Depp and Bruckheimer as well as a feature titled "An Epic at Sea: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean," an interactive history of pirates called "Below Deck," and a blooper reel.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated "PG-13" for action adventure violence.)