When Jerry Bruckheimer, Rob Marshall, Johnny Depp and the Pirates of the Caribbean crew began to think about the two actors that would portray the young lovers in the latest installation of the Pirates franchise (in lieu of Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann) the search went global. To fill the role of Philip (the minister set adrift in a sea of bloodthirsty pirates) the team tapped twenty-four year old British actor Sam Claflin, fresh out of theatrical training – as well as a few smaller films and television series. (You can read our interview with Claflin HERE).
To portray Philip’s love-interest, the stunningly beautiful and absolutely deadly mermaid Syrena, the production found Spanish-French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey. We had the chance to interview Berges-Frisbey at the Los Angeles press day for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Though we normally don’t take this approach, allow us to set the stage of our interview for you: had we attempted to imagine the ideal setting for an interview with a French super-model, it could not have been more perfect.
I assured her that the smoking did not, and when she made the kind offer of a cigarette (though it had been over two years since my last indulgence) I figured, “hey, when with a French super-model…” and took a moment to smoke a cigi with the lovely Ms. Frisbey.
Berges-Frisbey had the opportunity to play a character that has rarely been seen in cinema over the last several decades, a ferocious and fearsome mermaid. The actress agreed that, “The mermaids in the movie are different than the mermaids we have seen before, and the mermaid that I play is even different than the others because she meets Philip.”
The mermaid depicted above is representative of what we see of Syrena’s “sisters.” They are more the sirens of lore than the “little mermaids” we have become accustomed to in films. These ladies are indeed outstandingly beautiful women who lure men to their bloody and brutal demise. Syrena stands apart from the other mermaids as one with a mysterious quality of compassion, just as Philip differs from the humans he is accompanying as a man of integrity and wisdom. “I think that their relationship symbolizes something really great and powerful,” Frisbey mused, “like kind of two cultures meet and try to trust the other one and take off all the protection.”
“I like the mystery. I like that you don’t know how magical they are. You don’t really know their world and you don’t know how she appears here and there. I like that you don’t know where they live and you don’t know really anything about them. It was so interesting for me to play a part that is not really human.”
In terms of finding her character (a being of the unknown) Frisbey consulted with both director Rob Marshall and “the CGI person in charge of the mermaids” who would update her as the look of the creatures developed. The visual references helped the actress imagine the world she would inhabit. The mermaids in this film have been likened to “vampire fish” – given the look of their (seriously terrifying) incisors. Coincidentally enough, Berges-Frisbey had to live a bit like a vampire during the course of production. Staying indoors and out of the sun all day, and only venturing forth to socialize at night.
“I wanted to be really pale. Because they live really deep underwater, so they never get sun. I had just come from a set that was outside so I was quite tan, so I really wanted to get rid of the tan.”
In addition to the vampiric existence the actress endured to achieve the look of Syrena, Berges-Frisbey spent four to five hours in the make-up chair putting on a prosthetic breast plate (so that she would appear naked) as well as the “dots” – so that the CGI tail and the more fish/creature-like appearance of her face in certain moments could be created.
Many people are finding the mermaids to be one of the more compelling aspects of this film – begging the question will we see a to the world of the siren creatures and a reprisal of her role in future iterations of the Pirates franchise? According to the the actress:
“Everything is possible in a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie, people can die and come back even. So you don’t know. I think they will try to find the perfect script. I trust them about the way they will write the next one. I don’t know if I will be a part of it… but I know, definitely, I will watch it. I learned so much, and had such a good time, so it’s impossible to not wish to be part of the next one, but I don’t know.”
Certainly anything is possible in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and though nothing has been settled definitively yet, the franchise star, Carn’ Jack himself , Johnny Depp quipped in the Pirates press conference that, “There’s a very clever idea about 5 and 6, we’ll shoot them on the ride just in nonstop circles. Like Warhol’s sleep. Closeups on everyone.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is in theaters now.
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