While most would agree that The Curse of the Black Pearl is still the best installment of the series, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise continues to crank out movies and rake in boatloads of money — making it the twelfth highest-grossing film series of all time.
The latest addition, Dead Men Tell No Tales, was released in 2017 and once again found Johnny Depp suiting up to play the swaying swashbuckler Captain Jack Sparrow. The film also brought series' veterans Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley back into the fold, however briefly, alongside Pirates' newcomer Javier Bardem.
While the film still made a respectable $794 million worldwide, Dead Men Tell No Tales was the lowest-grossing installment since The Black Pearl — which may be a bad sign for any future installments of the series. Even still, anyone who stuck around for the post-credit scene saw the groundwork laid for a possible sixth installment.
Before we look off to new horizons, let's take a look back at the last fifteen years and five movies of the Pirates franchise.
In hindsight, it's easy to think that a movie about pirates starring Johnny Depp would seem like a no-brainer. But even the higher-ups at Disney were skeptical about making a movie based off a theme park ride. Therefore, the massive success of The Curse of the Black Pearl actually came as a huge surprise to critics and audiences alike. But if you think that meant smooth sailing for the rest of the series, think again.
Here are 25 Details Behind The Making Of The Pirates Of The Caribbean Movies.
25 Depp said that Disney wanted to fire him
Despite a number of other actor being offered the role of Jack Sparrow first, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Johnny Depp portraying the staggering swashbuckler. The role even earned him an Academy Award nomination for his first outing.
Which might make it even more of a shock to hear that Depp thought he was on the verge of getting fired throughout the shoot.
According to the actor, some of the higher-ups at Disney just couldn’t understand what he was doing with the character.
They reportedly accused him of being inebriated, ruining the movie, and they even contemplated putting subtitles on the screen whenever the character speaks.
24 On Stranger Tides is the most expensive movie ever made
Though the series hasn't had a critical hit since The Curse of the Black Pearl, the franchise has continued to be a box office giant — grossing over $4.5 billion collectively and making it the twelfth-highest-grossing film franchise of all time.
However, many of the Pirates movies are also ranked amongst the biggest budgeted movies of all time.
Though it’s hard to gauge the actual budget of some movies when you factor in both production and advertising, On Stranger Tides is widely accepted as the most expensive movie ever made thanks to its reported budget of $379 million. With a worldwide gross over a billion dollars, it still looks like this was money well spent.
23 James McAvoy said the franchise nearly ruined Keira Knightley’s career
After co-starring in the critically acclaimed 2011 film Atonement, James McAvoy said that the Pirates franchise nearly destroyed Keira Knightley's career.
Considering how popular the Pirates franchise has become, it’s easy to think the exact opposite. After all, the role of Elizabeth Swann sky-rocketed Knightley to fame overnight.
According to McAvoy, the idea of being a blockbuster star in a movie that wasn’t very demanding got Knightley labeled a terrible actor right at the start of her mainstream career.
Knightley has even said that being cast into the limelight so suddenly wasn't an experienced she enjoyed. Thankfully, she still got the chance to branch out into more serious work following her blockbuster breakthrough.
22 Mickey Mouse easter eggs hidden throughout the series
While Mickey Mouse will forever be synonymous with Disney, these days, the mascot rarely takes center stage in any movies of his own.
The character often gets hidden within a number of the studio’s movies, and The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is no exception.
In the first film, a smoke plume from a cannon clearly morphs into the shape of Mickey’s head. In the second, the chest that Jack Sparrow opens has a lock that’s also reminiscent of Mickey Mouse.
In At World’s End, there is an undeniable nod to the character, who appears in the lower right-hand corner on one of Sao Feng’s maps.
21 Geoffrey Rush was obsessed with standing next to Keira Knightley
Maybe he thought that Captain Barbossa was too hideous to look at, or that Elizabeth Swan’s beauty would simply distract audiences from his performance — but for whatever reason, Geoffrey Rush was afraid that no one would pay attention to him when he shared the screen with Keira Knightley.
Rush came up with a simple enough solution to remedy his fears, which involved standing to the right of Knightley whenever possible.
This would put him on the left side of the screen and -- believing that audiences analyze a movie screen in the same fashion that they read a book -- Rush believed that would have to look at his character first.
20 Hugh Jackman was an inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow
While Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew served as Johnny Depp’s inspiration to play Captain Jack Sparrow, screenwriter Stuart Beattie actually looked to Hugh Jackman when creating the character.
Reportedly, Beattie even named the character Jack after Jackman, with hopes that he'd eventually get to play the part.
While Jackman wasn’t nearly as big of a star then, he had already made his debut as Wolverine, and it’s not hard to imagine the gruff, mutton-chopped actor portraying a pirate.
Because of his lack of fame at the time, Jackman was never seriously considered for the role despite the screenwriter’s intentions.
19 Robert De Niro was originally offered Jack Sparrow
It’s amazing how different a movie could become with just one casting change. Not only has Johnny Depp become synonymous with Captain Jack Sparrow, but his performance helped define the tone of the franchise.
However, a number of other actors were reportedly up for/offered the role prior to Depp, including Jim Carrey, Matthew McConaughey, and (unbelievably) Robert De Niro.
Sure, De Niro has huge name recognition and massive critical acclaim -- but he’s no Jack Sparrow.
Not to mention that he probably wouldn’t have been the best draw for the teenage audience that the movie was targeting. Thankfully, the actor was said to have declined the part, believing that it wouldn’t make any money.
18 Tom Hiddleston auditioned to play Will
Reportedly, a number of actors were considered for the of Will Turner, including Tobey Maguire, Ewan McGregor, and Jude Law.
Apparently, it came down to Bloom and Heath Ledger, with Bloom winning out thanks to his part in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
However, MCU actor Tom Hiddleston also said that he was up for the part, and it was one of the worst to lose out on. While things have seemed to work out fine for the English actor, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that he would break-out with his role in Thor.
17 Keira Knightly wanted to sword fight in the first film, but wasn't allowed
Elizabeth Swann is far from the typical damsel in distress. Long before Jack and Will try and rescue her, Elizabeth had already made her own stand against Barbossa, going so far as to put a knife in his chest.
However, actress Kiera Knightley left the first film without getting the full Pirates-experience as her character wasn’t involved in any sword fights.
In an interview for the film, Knightley said, “I asked every single day, anyone I could ask, if I could have a sword but I didn’t get one.”
She also wasn’t afraid to hide how angry she was over that fact, which may have very well been the reason Elizabeth got to wield not one, but two swords at a time in the follow-up film.
16 Captain Barbossa’s return in Dead Man’s Chest was hidden from the cast
While audiences were taken aback by Captain Barbossa’s unexpected return at the end of Dead Man’s Chest, this reaction likely paled in comparison to the cast's reaction.
While it’s not unusual for certain plot points to be kept from the cast and crew to prevent them from leaking, it is unusual to not tell the actors who they'll be working with.According to the DVD commentary, that’s exactly what the filmmakers did in an effort to capture a genuine reaction.
While filming the ending scene, the rest of the cast thought that Zoe Saldana's Anamaria would be walking down the steps, when it was actually Geoffrey Rush as the resurrected Barbossa.
15 Johnny Depp based his performance on a rockstar
When Johnny Depp was looking for inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow, he drew from two individuals: the Looney Tunes’ skunk Pepe Le Pew and the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards.
According to Depp, pirates were essentially 18th-century rock stars anyway, so while spending time with Richards prior to the shoot, Depp tried to soak up as much of the musician's persona as possible.
This eventually led to Richards landing the role of Captain Teague in At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.
Now we’re just waiting for the cartoon skunk to get a cameo of his own.
14 Keira Knightley was a teenager in the first movie
You wouldn’t believe it from watching her in the movie, but Keira Knightley was only 17 when she filmed The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Because she was technically a minor, Knightley’s mother also had to travel with her from one location to the next.
Knightley even recalls bringing few possessions with her when filming began because she was afraid she would be fired almost immediately.
When cast to work alongside such veterans as Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and the quickly-rising star Orlando Bloom, this is an understandable fear to have.
After 15 more years in the limelight and two Oscar nominations, it’s clear that Knightley was right where she was supposed to be.
13 Captain Jack's improvised lines
The actor clearly got deep into the character, and from the four sequels he’s turned out, it’s clear that Depp has no problem sliding back into the skin of swashbuckling pirate whenever he wants to. Depp even came up with a number of Sparrow’s most iconic lines and catchphrases himself.
The two scriptwriters were on set while filming the first Pirates, but instead of urging the actors to stick to the page, they encouraged improvisation.
This reportedly led to Depp improvising the catchphrase “Savvy” and the dialogue about eunuchs, and coming up with one of the film’s closing line “Bring me that horizon” the morning of the shoot.
12 It changed The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
It’s easy to forget how cutting-edge the undead crew actually were in the first Pirates movie. While production came up with a number of design ideas, they eventually landed on the full-bodied skeletons in various stages of decay.
This had an unexpected effect on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where the filmmakers apparently had a strikingly similar design for the Army of Dead that Aragorn recruits in the third film.
After seeing a trailer for Pirates, the LOTR crew decided to rework their design and come up with something totally new.
So if you ever thought the bizarre, green-glowing Army of Dead felt totally out of place in Return of the King, blame The Curse of the Black Pearl.
11 The sets from the first movie are now tourist attractions
If visiting Disneyland isn’t enough to get your Pirates of the Caribbean fix, you can actually still visit a number of sets that were constructed for the original film.
The majority of The Curse of the Black Pearl was shot in St. Vincent, a volcanic island located in the Caribbean that provided the filmmakers with the serene beaches they desired.
Many of the citizens of St. Vincent were employed as crew members and extras during the shoot, and sets for both Port Royal and Tortuga were built on the island.
Instead of knocking them down after the film was complete, many of the set pieces were left in place and they continue to serve as tourist attractions.
10 Jack Sparrow’s pistol is really from the 18th century
If Jack Sparrow could have used his pistol on more than one occasion, he wouldn’t have found himself in nearly as many sticky situations throughout the first film.
Instead, Jack decides to reserve his one shot for Barbossa as soon as the curse is lifting, ending the captain's life and winning Sparrow his ship back.
Because the pistol plays such a vital role in the story and is featured in a number of close up shots, the filmmakers decided to obtain a real 18th century Flintlock for Depp’s character.
While the difference probably isn’t noticeable to most viewers, it’s still cool that the gun actually existed when 18th-century pirates were still sailing the open seas.
9 The treasure cave took over five months to build
From the Black Pearl to the streets of Tortuga, The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are a set piece extravaganza. The most memorable location in all of the films continues to be the treasure cave in The Curse of the Black Pearl.
This setting not only perfectly encapsulated the feeling of the ride, but also conjured up old Hollywood movies.
In fact, the cave was one of the largest indoor sets ever built in Hollywood. Constructed out of everything from styrofoam to plaster with a four-foot deep tank of water at the bottom, the entire set took 100 craftsmen nearly five months to construct. That’s almost as long as it took them to shoot the entire film!
8 There was a real boating accident during production
Filming on the open seas is no small undertaking, which is yet another reason that the Pirates movies have had such massive budgets.
On the DVD commentary for The Curse of the Black Pearl, it was revealed that a boat carrying Keira Knightley and her mother struck a reef during a night shoot.
Apparently, the locals had warned them about not being able to see the reefs at night and, although they were unharmed, the filmmakers decided that the remainder of night scenes should be filmed inside a studio.
7 Keira Knightly wore wigs in Dead Man’s Chest and At World's End
When you watch the Pirates movies, it should be fairly obvious that Depp and a number of other actors are wearing wigs. After all, it would be totally unpractical to wait for the actor to grow out dreadlocks,
You probably didn’t realize that Kiera Knightley’s long locks were just as fake as many of her male counterparts’.
According to the actress, it got to the point where she was constantly having to dye her hair for different roles that it was causing serious damage. In behind-the-scenes footage for Dead Man’s Chest, Knightley can be seen sporting a short haircut of her own, which no doubt made wearing a wig that much easier.
6 Depp's set difficulties on Tell No Tales
In the last few years, Depp has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On top of a number of his movies underwhelming at the box office (including The Lone Ranger and Transcendence), Depp has found himself in the middle of a number of legal issues, including a messy divorce with his wife Amber Heard, who accused the actor of abuse.
A number of these stories broke while Depp was working on the latest Pirates film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, and the actor was reportedly late to set on a number of occasions, resulting in the cast and crew either having to wait on the star or work around him.
Production was also put on hold when Depp badly cut his finger, which was rumored to have occurred during an altercation with his wife.
5 The scripts for the second and third film weren't finished
While the Pirates movies have continued to rake in a boatload of money with a collective worldwide gross north of $4.5 billion, they haven’t had a critical success since The Curse of the Black Pearl.
This is likely because production on the second and third installments was rushed ahead by the studio, shooting the movies back-to-back to save money despite scripts still being in development.
This may help explain why the Pirates movies have continued to look great, but the stories have never been as coherent or enjoyable as the first installment.
4 The real and fake tattoos in the movies
Despite Jack Sparrow’s abundance of body markings and eccentric wardrobe, a number of Depp’s personal tattoos still had to be concealed for the film.
In one particular shot in The Curse of the Black Pearl, we get a close up of Sparrow’s forearm tattoo. While Depp didn’t have this tattoo during production, he later got inked with a very similar design.
Meanwhile, one of Orlando Bloom’s real tattoos made it into the movie, despite the filmmaker's best intentions. It appears on the underside of his wrist, and it is actually an Elvish tattoo that the actor got after working on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
3 The movies feature multiple references to the ride
Ever since the ride first debuted at Disneyland back in 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean has been one of the park’s most popular attractions. So when it came to adapting the ride into a movie, the filmmakers went to great lengths to include a number of nods to the inspiration.
Some of the most noteworthy references include the dog with the keys in his mouth, the shot of Barbossa drinking wine while in skeleton form, and the inclusion of the song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me).”
As the film series has continued on, they’ve moved further away from referencing the attractions.
2 Dead Man’s Chest was actually filmed on the open seas
Thankfully, the filmmakers went to great lengths for the sequel to use as many real locations as possible, which included filming a ton of the movie on the open seas in the Caribbean.
While the first film had plenty of ocean scenes, they severely lacked the turquoise waters that are synonymous with the Caribbean.
However, filming Dead Man’s Chest around these islands certainly provided its fair share of obstacles, which included making the shore-side battles particularly hard to film, considering how easy it is to sink down into the sand in this region of the world.
1 The movie had been in the works since the 1990s
There are very few movies that have been based on theme park attractions. Usually, this equation goes the other way around, which explains why the film was in development years before it ever got the green light.
Reportedly, Steven Spielberg has been interested in making a Pirates of the Caribbean movie back in the ‘90s, and the story went through various early drafts, some of which abandoned the supernatural elements all together in favor of a more straightforward buddy-pirate flick.
At one point, Disney was even considering releasing the movie straight-to-DVD, as pirate films hadn’t enjoyed much success in the previous decade.
But then, producer Jerry Bruckheimer was eventually brought on board and he decided to reintroduce the fantasy elements that made the ride such a success, finally putting the movie on the path to production.
Do you know any more interesting details about the making of the Pirates of the Caribbean films? List them in the comments!
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