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Pirates of the Caribbean - Gore Verbinski Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Congratulations in avoiding the curse of making a film on water. Other directors have come a cropper with one, so how did you manage to succeed where others have failed?
A.
A great cast, I think. I’m a huge fan of the classic pirate movies. You never know why a film’s going to succeed or fail… I think there are great movies that are bombs, and there are bad movies that succeed, so it’s down to the story and the performances, and we were really lucky to have a great cast, and great writers.

Q. That’s a very modest answer, but how did you get round the problem of filming on water, because we’re told that it’s one of the most difficult places to try and shoot a movie, because you’re trying to do one scene and the ship has moved on….
A.
Well, everything they say is true about water. Nothing stays where you put it. I think this movie has 700 visual effects shots, but there’s only 150 that you notice. My approach was just to keep shooting; if there’s an oil tanker dropping through the background, it’s either going to cost you one hour of shooting to wait for the thing to clear the frame, or you roll and it’s a man on a computer painting it out later, as opposed to 400 crew members in overtime, that approach, 500 of the effects shots are just getting rid of the hotel in the background. I think that was really the only way to keep the thing on schedule, because if you do wait for that ship to come round and get back in the frame, then you’ve lost a half day of shooting. Visual effects are just another tool in the tool chest now, it’s a very comfortable area.
You can explain to actors that the ship’s over there and point to it, but it’s not there, but you know you’re going to put a model there; if you had to actually line up that ship, you’d be there all day.

Q. Were there any doubts at all, when Johnny turned up doing this Keith Richards/Tommy Cooper thing with the pirate?
A.
And a little Lee Marvin? No, because, we talked about it, and I always knew that with Johnny you were going to get something like that.
Fortunately, with Keira and Orlando holding the love story down, I think that if this was the type of movie that that wasn’t happening, I’d be having to pull Johnny back more, but because they are taking care of that whole section of the movie, he’s free, he doesn’t carry the burden of being the leading man. Orlando’s really doing the Errol Flynn part of the story, and the love story is taken care of, and I think that construct allows him to drift with the movie and affect the lives of those around him, and be Jack Sparrow, be that character.
On the page, we’d had that point of view, that he is his own best agent, someone who feels that the propagation of his own myth is most important, and then Johnny just kind of ran with that and took off with it. So you see, physically, what he is doing with it, through his mannerisms, etc. But I think it everybody was doing that, it would be a mess. Jack Davenport’s character, for instance, is a very earnest performance. It’s almost there to serve other characters, and allows Johnny’s performance to work as well.

Q. How was much green screen work was there, when it came to filming the sequences with the skeleton pirates at night?
A.
There is very little process work in the movie. All the skeleton work was done once with real actors, and then we’d do it using the actors performing without the stunt men. It was really complicated, but we didn’t want to get into motion controlled green screen and have very sterile, clinical approach to that action; we wanted to keep it hand-held, and that required the actors to learn the parts and to perform them, whether it’s a fight sequence or dialogue sequence with the skeletons; even if the skeletons would not be there. That way we would be able to keep the hand-held feel to the battle sequences. They had to remember when they duck and when they dodge, because in those scenes, they are really acting with nobody.

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