"Now...Bring me that horizon."
- Captain Jack Sparrow
Glimpse Politics Behind Pirates of the Caribbean01:34

Glimpse Politics Behind Pirates of the Caribbean


In correspondence to the anniversary blog from last week, here is blog #2. Now for this post, I'm presenting a handful of trivia through the magic of...well, looking up stuff. Some of them you may know, others may be new to you. Maybe, but we'll have to see. But first, I should reveal a sorta long, but very interesting piece of trivia: how the first Pirates was shut down. Don't believe me? Well...

Story of Disney shutting down Pirates

Before its release, many journalists expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a flop. In the past, the pirate genre had not been successful for years, with Cutthroat Island a notable flop. Actor Johnny Depp, known for starring in cult films, had little track record as a box office leading man. And lastly, the film was based on a theme park ride. Although Dick Cook, the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, had been pushing this concept for years, the box office failure of The Country Bears made Disney CEO Michael Eisner attempt to pull the plug on the far-too-expensive project. Director Gore Verbinski saved the film by telling people keep working anyway. As Michael Eisner tells the story, he was fully prepared to say he wasn't going to make the film until Gore took Eisner on a tour of the development art. The next week, Eisner made a special trip to Bruckheimer's offices in Santa Monica for the express process of shutting down production of Pirates of the Caribbean. As James B. Stewart describes in his 2005 book, DisneyWar:

Bruckheimer had assembled storyboards, and drawings of the major scenes : the island of the dead, the Caribbean port under siege, the skeletons under water and on the moonlit pirate ship. After getting a tour and running commentary from Verbinski, Eisner sat down. "I love it," he said. "Why does it have to cost so much ?"
"Your competition is spending $150 million," Bruckheimer countered, ticking off projects like "The Matrix" and "The Lord of the Rings," franchise films that were allowing Warner Bros. to dominate at the box office. Disney desperately needed a franchise of its own.
Eisner shook his head in exasperation. "The theme park is a drawback, he said, "Country Bears" still in mind. "Let's move this away from the park."

Oddly enough, it was all of those artwork that Gore had insisted the artists keep working on that ultimately swayed the CEO. Astonished by what had been created, Eisner allowed production to continue, though he requested that some of the more overt references to the ride be taken out. These cuttings ranged from individual pieces of dialogue to whole scenes.

On February 2003, just five months before Pirates opened in theaters, Michael Eisner insisted that the studio tack a new subtitle onto the film: "The Curse of the Black Pearl". Gore Verbinski himself disliked the title (as it was the Aztec gold, rather than the Black Pearl, that is cursed), going so far as requesting the title to be unreadable on the poster. Despite this, they kept the title to attract older children and in case sequels were to be made. In this one instance, Eisner was right. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl became a success with positive reviews and grossing over $654 million worldwide, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2003.

You can see Eisner and Bruckheimer talking about it on the video above.

Other Pirates Trivia

Now that we covered that painful story, we can get on with the other (hopefully short) trivia I present to you today. The majority of the following trivia was found in DVD commentaries and/or featurettes, while others were found through external sources. Feel free to comment below if curious on the origins of any trivia points...or just comment for the heck of it.

Hope you enjoy all this Pirates trivia! :)

  • When Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio start their draft of the screenplay, they started with the ride, and a screenplay by Stuart Beattie, which followed by Jay Wolpert's own draft. From that screenplay they had the elements of:
    • Discovering a boy in the water.
    • Elizabeth, a Governor's daughter.
    • A rogue Pirate named Jack Sparrow.
    • A sequence of pretending to steal a big ship to in fact steal a little ship.
    • A plot by Blackheart (i.e. the Barbossa character) to trick the Navy out of Port Royal in order to pillage the town.
      From there they continued on until they had filmed. [1]
  • In an early version of the script, Norrington was to ask Elizabeth to marry him and she says no. Enraged by this Norrington joined Barbossa and the two of them were going to try take over the Caribbean. However this script was turned down.
  • In 2002, concept artist Miles Teves met with director Gore Verbinski at the earliest stage of of visual development. One of the scenes Verbinski wanted Teves to sketch was a shot of "a crew of zombiefied pirates" jumping into the water and swimming over to a ship to attack it. Ultimately, Teves drew zombies walking on the ocean floor and handed it in the following week before leaving the project to move on to work another film. That same artwork actually changed the script, and ended up onscreen. Many have cited the "Underwater March" scene to be their favorite moment in the film. [2]
  • James Ward Byrkit served as the conceptual consultant of the Pirates trilogy. For the first movie, Byrkit accompanied Gore Verbinski on the very first location scout to the Caribbean, where they conceived several key moments of the film. [3] According to The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean, this concept art was Byrkit's very first drawings done for the movie.
  • Before Johnny Depp was cast as Captain Jack Sparrow, several other candidates were considered. The role was originally written (by Stuart Beattie) for Hugh Jackman, thus the name "Jack Sparrow"; however, he was not well known outside of his native Australia, so Disney cast the more famous Depp as Jack. [4] The Disney studio was also interested in Matthew McConaughey as Sparrow because of his resemblance to Burt Lancaster, who had inspired that script's interpretation of the character. If Disney chose to release it direct-to-video, Christopher Walken or Cary Elwes would have been their first choices. [5]
  • When portraying the character, Johnny Depp improvised many of Jack Sparrow's lines, including the "eunuch" quotes and the one word used in all the films so far, "Savvy?"
  • Several first names were used at some point in the film's making. Governor Swann's first name is Weatherby (first revealed in a screenplay draft), Commodore Norrington's is James (revealed in a deleted scene), and Barbossa's is Hector (revealed on the DVD commentary by Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski).
  • Alan Silvestri was first suggested to provide the score but was replaced nearly at the last minute. Gore Verbinski turned to Hans Zimmer, but because of prior commitments, suggested Klaus Badelt...though Zimmer still participated in making the music.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the first PG-13 film released under the Walt Disney Pictures label.
  • The film does include many references to the original attraction.
  • Shooting the film, Jimmy Buffett visited the set. There were two Buffett tributes: The name of AnaMaria's ship, the Jolly Mon, is an homage to Buffett's story and song of the same name. Second tribute is Jack Sparrow's triple slap over the course of the film, "I didn't deserve that," "I may have deserved that," "That one I deserved." Jack's responses are an homage to the progression in Margaritaville, "It's nobody's fault," "It could be my fault," "It's my own damn fault." [6]
  • Regarding Jack's entrance scene, everything Johnny Depp was doing in the scene up to the point where he steps on the dock, he did backwards because the Jolly Mon's mast actually didn't sink. They were raising the level of the water and somebody was pushing the dock in. - from Ted Elliott
  • The Interceptor was portrayed by the Lady Washington, a full-scale replica sailing ship from Aberdeen, Washington, fully repainted before going on a 40-day voyage beginning December 2, 2002, arriving on location on January 12, 2003.
  • Among the crew, the first scene filmed was often referred to as the scene shot at Fort Charles: Norrington's promotion ceremony. The cast and crew remember the promotion scene as 'start of production' more than likely because it was the first really large effort. However, director Gore Verbinski and Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) confirm that the first scene shot was actually the dinner scene between Barbossa and Elizabeth, filmed in the moody interior of the captain's cabin of the Black Pearl at KABC, a local news affiliate to the Walt Disney Company in Glendale, California.
  • During the first swordfight between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner, Jack sprays Will was a bag of soot. The soot used here was actually chocolate powder, so there you've got some chocolate-covered Bloom right there. - from Stuart Beattie
  • Four interesting facts on Jack the Monkey.
    • First fact, Barbossa naming the monkey "Jack" (after Barbossa's former captain) is a reference to Treasure Island.
    • Second fact, they sometimes had to squirt the monkey before Geoffrey Rush gave his dialogue so it could "look" at the person Barbossa is talking to.
    • The third fact is that Jack is seen "smiling" when Barbossa thanks him specifically after returning the Aztec coin to him after Jack Sparrow chases him; it was revealed that the monkey did this purely by chance and it was not planned out in any way.
    • The fourth is that "Jack" was played by two capuchin monkeys; one is a 10-year old female named Tara, the other an 8-year old male named Levi.
  • For this one, I'm simply quoting Keira Knightley when talking about her first day (i.e. the aforementioned dinner scene) "...I was so sick of eating this stuff! It was all greasy and cold and disgusting and I felt like I wanted to puke after this. I made the huge mistake of saying that I didn't mind eating anything."
  • A fire broke in September 2002 on the soundstage of the cave set. Speculation at the time was that it was an intentional 'insurance' fire in order to gain a few days of shooting, as the production was behind schedule. This was possibly because Gore had said that the shooting in the cave was the most difficult time of all, as the cave set was dark and dank, and of course complex due to the skeleton effects. [7]
  • According to the screenwriters commentary, Will Turner is the best swordsman in the film, while Barbossa and Norrington are evenly matched, and Jack Sparrow is actually the worst. Whether that remains true in the sequels is pure speculation.

And saved the best piece of trivia for last...

  • The final line of the movie - "Bring me that horizon" - was written by Johnny Depp on the day the scene was shot. It turned out to be Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's favorite line in the movie. You can read Rossio's tale of that fateful day here.

In closing...

While we're near the date, I might as well remind those who actually have read this far that the latest Disney film The Lone Ranger will be release tomorrow on the day of July 3rd. What does this have to do with POTC, you may ask? Well, for those who haven't heard, this particular Lone Ranger film was made by the same team that brought us the first Pirates films. Members include (but are not limited to) director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and of course Johnny Depp!

So to close this blog, I like to say...throw away your pirate hat and put on your cowboy and/or raven headband. Go see The Lone Ranger and prepare to be amazed by this film, released about 10 years after the original Pirates film (ironic isn't it?)
Now all that's left to say now is Hi Ho Silver! :)

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