Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio swap sea stories on 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'
By Jake Rossen
When we last left effeminate, addle-brained Captain Jack Sparrow—portrayed with scenery-munching glee by Johnny Depp—the pirate was presumed trapped in the netherworld of Davy Jones' Locker, consigned to a fate that involves no end of torture, pathos and a steady diet of ragweed.
While Sparrow may not know his salvation is pending, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio do.
The screenwriting team has penned all three of Disney's theme-park-turned-blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, including May 25's "At World's End." And even though attempting to siphon hints about the grand finale is like sailing on sand, Wizard still attempted to make the scribes walk the proverbial plank.
As the film opens, with Depp's Sparrow imprisoned in a wasteland, cohorts "Will [Orlando Bloom] and Elizabeth [Kiera Knightley] arrive in Singapore in their quest to find and rescue him," offers the duo. (Elizabeth, fans may recall, actually trapped Sparrow on a doomed ship in order to avoid the wrath of the monstrous Kraken.) "The world is suffering at the hands of Lord Cutler Beckett, with Davy Jones on his side. Elizabeth is suffering from guilt, Will from jealousy. And everyone is suffering from the lack of Captain Jack Sparrow."
In "Dead Man's Chest," opposition was around every spin of the compass, with Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) looking to eradicate piracy on the open seas and tentacle-chinned Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who once raised Sparrow's ship, eager to settle their debt.
For "World's End," both Elliott and Russio maintain the villains may not be so easily spotted. "The fun of a pirate movie is to explore moral ambiguity," they muse. "Each character faces a moment of choice, where their actions could be taken as villainy. Our theme would place the main villain as having selfish pursuits unrestrained by right and wrong. That's a villain who can appear anywhere, from a pirate to a representative of the law."
One such ambiguous player is Sao Feng, an Asian pirate portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). "He's the Pirate Lord of the South China Sea, one of the Nine Pirate Lords that make up the Brethren Court," explain the pair. He sees the end of the era of piracy coming, he see the final stand coming, and desires only to be on the winning side."
That goes double for Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the ghostly apparition that terrorized Depp and company in the first film and returned at the climax of the second to possibly help find Sparrow.
"Geoffrey Rush is our secret weapon," the scribes proclaim. "His contribution was, we believe, vastly underrated on the first film. His character and his performance very much define the flavor of the series."
For the role of Captain Teague, a weather-worn pirate who may or may not be Captain Jack's father, producers indulged Depp's notion that Sparrow was based on Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards by actually casting the leathery rocker in the part. "We're not sure there is a 'father' role in the film. The role was written with Keith in mind. But the part, while small, is pivotal enough that if he wasn't available, it would have been re-cast."
Central to the franchise's success has been Teague's maybe-offspring, the braggadocio, skittish Sparrow. And despite the opinion of some of his shipmates, the anti-hero of "Pirates" is no sissy. "Jack Sparrow is in no way a coward," say the writers. "He may take a seemingly cowardly action merely in order to buy time. The secret to the Jack Sparrow character, what makes him powerful, is that the universe is ultimately on his side. Jack knows if he merely survives long enough, eventually the universe will come around and give him an opening. Then he pounces on it."
Sparrow's destiny is likely to lie in the open waters; for star-crossed lovers Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, it may be on the altar. "We will say that both characters undergo transformations," tease Elliott and Rossio. "If you track them across all three movies, those two characters are the ones who change and grow the most."
And despite Sparrow's antics, "We've always felt Elizabeth is the real protagonist of the films."
With the players in motion, Elliott and Rossio turned to a crucial element of any summer movie experience: the expensive set pieces. "Whereas 'Dead Man's Chest' had several action sequences on land—the rolling water wheel, the bone cages—the major set pieces of 'At World's End' take place on the ocean." Expect to see ships in full action mode on water, along with the requisite swashbuckling: One sequence is rumored to take place between Sparrow and Jones on top of a crow's nest during a storm.
And what of a fourth film? "The final two films are designed to complete a trilogy," reply the writers. "A third sequel is dependent on too many factors to make any type of guess right now. It's not impossible to do a fourth film. A lot depends on whether…there is audience desire for more of these."
If the billion-plus dollars in box-office booty for the first two entries are any indication, our forecast is Captain Jack will be back.
Yes, you can expect a surge of POTC related stuff as we get closer to the premiere. Because you know which Captain Jack I really go for! [g] I am so excited about seeing this movie, I can hardly wait!
I may even write another POTC fic!