With its extravagant sea battles, big action chase sequences and lavish sets shot in multiple locations, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" cost around $200 million to make, but that's a third less than the cost of predecessor "At World's End," which reflects efforts to be as economical — and green — as possible. "Disney has people who come in and make sure that production-wise we're eco-friendly," says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, noting that some old sets were reused for the fourth film in the "Pirates" franchise.
Four years since the release of the third installment that capped the first trilogy, "Tides," which opens May 20, reboots the saga of pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), retaining some characters like privateer rival Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and introducing new ones, including comely buccaneer Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who has romantic history with Sparrow, and notorious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). "We started fresh. It was shorter, not quite as complicated and there were less characters to deal with," Bruckheimer notes.
Directed by Rob Marshall, who directed Cruz and Depp in "Blow" and Cruz in "Nine" (and will direct Depp in a remake of "The Thin Man"), the movie's plot involves the race to find the legendary fountain of youth. Shooting on location in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, London's Pinewood Studios (and a beach built on the Universal Studios back lot), along with the period costumes "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," says Cruz. "It's all about your imagination and I think it really helped to be in those beautiful places." Although pregnant with her son, now three months old, during production, Cruz trained in fight choreography to tangle with Depp in the movie.
"She taught me the raunchiest Spanish that I've ever been told," he says, thrilled he got to reunite with his "Blow" co-star. "When we saw each other again, it just clicked instantly. The chemistry was firing on all cylinders. It felt completely right. I knew she would be not only a worthy opponent, but someone who would just kill the scenes, and she did. She was incredible."
Playing Sparrow's other main adversary, the one-legged, "vain, arrogant and pompous" privateer Barbossa, Rush likens their relationship to "an old married couple, constantly bickering. It goes back to the first film; the ownership of the Pearl is at the heart of the conflict. And on this film we decided to talk about the Black Pearl as sort of a shared girlfriend, which kind of made that plotline a little more interesting than talking about a boat."
For Depp, stepping back into Sparrow's boots again was both familiar and fun. "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 says, joking that he'll probably be playing the character in a wheelchair one day, "My dreads will get tangled in the wheels of my chair," he says, acknowledging that with Jack, "the possibilities are endless. With this character you feel you're never really done."
Not surprisingly, two more "Pirates" films are in development. Bruckheimer reports that he's seen "a very rough draft" for the fifth film. "We hope that we can bring it to you quicker than we have in the past," he says, but notes that getting the script in ship-shape takes time: "It's about quality."