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The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy: The Curse of the Black Pearl - 2-Disc CE 3-Disc Gift Set / Dead Man's Chest / At World's End

Gore Verbinski Interview
The Director of the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy reflects on
his unique cinematic odyssey in a chat with online press

Five years ago, Gore Verbinski found success with The Ring, his third feature film. The DreamWorks horror flick, which was decidely light on the usual genre staple of its director's first name, was well received by critics and moviegoers. The latter made it one of 2002's most surprising box office hits and both helped to bury the memory of Verbinski's two previous directorial outings, the underperforming Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts romantic/crime comedy The Mexican (2002) and the slapsticky MouseHunt (1997).

Verbinski's fourth film was originally titled just Pirates of the Caribbean; it was the second of three nearly-overlapping Walt Disney Pictures projects adapted from the company's popular theme park attractions.
Gore Verbinski (center) directs Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp on a ship shoot for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."
The movie's budget ($140 million), backer (blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer), and bowing (in the middle of 2003's crowd-drawing summer season) all anticipated a decent turnout. But the film would perform much better than expected, earning over $300 million domestically and $650 million worldwide. The fun didn't stop there; five Oscar nominations (including one for Johnny Depp's offbeat lead performance) followed, and so did credit for reviving the notoriously unstable pirate movie genre.

The gigantic, favorable reaction rendered foresightful the last-minute decision to give the film the subtitle The Curse of the Black Pearl. It also changed the course of Gore Verbinski's career, assigning him not one but two behemoth sequels to film back-to-back on a variety of scenic islands and green screen stages. Today, the historic and unfathomably profitable journey has come to an end, with the third and -- for now, at least -- final chapter, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, coming off a strong theatrical run and heading to DVD and Blu-ray.

In anticipation for the December 4th home video debut of At World's End, Gore Verbinski recently participated in two virtual junkets with online press outlets including UltimateDisney.com. He discussed the trials and tribulations of making the series, with an emphasis on the challenges of At World's End, while also sharing his view on any possible future to the film franchise.

Thursday, November 15th Virtual Roundtable Session:

The Maelstrom scene proved to be a major success, but also offered up major effects obstacles. Was there ever a moment you didn't think it was going to work out?

Gore Verbinski: Definitely, the biggest issue hit us about 8 weeks prior to the release. We were suffering from a scaling issue that seemed insurmountable. The physics of a whirpool this size overwhelmed the team at ILM [Industrial Light and Magic, the effects company]. The path we were heading down was not achieving the desired results so it all had to be reworked. The initial rendered backgrounds were used as out of focus plates for close-ups which bought us time by getting 100 or so shots in the pipeline and allowed us to completely rethink and re-render the maelstrom for all of the wide shots. This is the exact opposite of how you would normally go about producing this sequence. John Knoll and the team at ILM ultimately pulled it off, but it was a real nail-biter.

Were there times that you had to hold back Johnny Depp a little, or did you just let him do his Jack Sparrow thing?

Johnny and I love pushing Jack as far as he can go,
but we are also aware that keeping him unpredictable requires a constant oscilation between the dramatic and the abusrd. So, it's both spurs and reigns -- constantly.

How much planning goes into "The Making of..." Extras and how deeply are you involved?

It is really an issue of documenting the madness. There must be a million hours of digital video that the "making of folks" are combing through. Someone was on set videotaping every day. They show me the cut footage and most of the time I just have this sort of Vietnam flashback moment and then say, "sure why not?" I do believe the process of this production is just about as mad and bold an adventure as the narrative itself.

What is the movie scene that gave you much satisfaction once shot?

The scene with Jack and the crabs.

I was particularly entranced with the "across the desert by crab" sequence - how did that come about?

I have always been fascinated by the work of [Japanese animation director Hayao] Miyazaki. When we needed to get the Black Pearl back to the ocean, I thought, why are we limited to the rules of live-action filmmaking? Once those shackles are off, it is quite liberating. All sorts of ideas start to germinate. The crab is Tia Dalma's motif. Why not do something surreal and connected to her? Giving his escape a subtextual intention.

What's the significance of Jack's peanut?


How hard is it to keep the story in mind if you're so busy with a lot of technology and computer-generated images?

Visual effects are a tool in the filmmaker's toolbox. Once you become acquainted with them, they cease to be distracting. I always try to keep story foremost in my mind while shooting.

How was it working as a guitarist on the score?

That was a blast. But my contribution is a pimple on the ass of a tick crawling along the ankle of a behemoth endeavor. Hans Zimmer and his entire team did all the work.

What was it like when you finally got Keith Richards on set? Was he well behaved?

Well behaved? Let's just say everything you have heard is true.

In general, what are your thoughts on DVD extras? Some directors bemoan the idea of revealing the mechanics behind the magic and other guys love revealing how it's all done. What are your thoughts on the issue?

These films are a different species completely. The process of making them has been such a wondrous and strange adventure, I think it serves as a form of entertainment itself.

Look at more available posters from Pirates of the
and other Gore Verbinski films
Nobody wants to show their dirty laundry, but ownership of these movies belongs as much to the audience as it does the filmmakers.

You said on the bonus material that all of the sets begin with drawings on a napkin. When you now watch the finished movie, how close did the sets come to what was envisioned during the napkin drawing?

The creative process is complex. I try to be specific and deliberate as I storyboard and pre-visualize the entire film. Yet, I am constantly aware that this process can make a film cold and clinical. I try to remain open to gifts that a little bit of randomness can provide along the way. The contributions of others is essential in creating that particular form of 'controlled chaos.' The napkin drawing is a starting point from which I encourage evolution. Most of the time the concept remains intact but execution shifts dramatically.

The Maelstrom was such a complicated sequence to pull off, were they any shots that proved too difficult, that you just couldn't quite get right?

Most of the time the initial response from the producers or crew, when viewing the storyboards, was that this sequence was unachievable. But when you have the best in the business working with you, and you are willing to break apart each shot into it's components, the impossible eventually becomes a reality.

What worries you more as a director in general, large-scale scenes or intimate ones?

It is always the intimate ones that require the most attention to detail.

Did you miss the Kraken?


Was the making of At World's End as hectic as was portrayed in the DVD of Dead Man's Chest?

At World's End had to be in theaters 10 months after the release of Dead Man's Chest. Hectic? How about insane? Fortunately the cast and crew found their stride enabling us to work intuitively throughout the madness.

Of all of the special features on the At World's End DVD, is there one featurette or segment that stands out to you as your favorite or the most interesting?

Yes, "The Making of The Maelstrom" gives you a small window into the complexity of creating and executing a sequence that has never been accomplished before. Months in planning and 8 weeks of shooting required a synergy between stunts, camera, practical effects and visual effects. Day after day we were operating amid 100 miles per hour winds, cascading rain and debris, deafening cannon fire with 150 sword-wielding stuntmen battling across two undulating vessels on the largest gimbals ever constructed for filming. Although artificially created, practically speaking, we were filming a battle within a massive storm. I think the viewer will get a good sense of what everyone went through to bring this to the big screen.

You visited a lot of exotic locations during your time working on the trilogy. Which was your favorite and did you ever get a moment's peace to enjoy any of them?

St. Vincent and the Exumas were fantastic, but I really recommend Dominica for those who want to go back in time. We stayed and rented homes and bought fish from the locals and barbequed on the beach every night after wrap.
There was very little time off but the community of the island melded with production in a way that I have never witnessed. That was a special place.

Do you have any visual dreams that are technically still impossible to do but can be done in the near future?

I think Hollywood invention has always been somewhat limitless. You may have relied on a bit of claymation, filmed lizards for dinosaurs, or depicted Chuck Heston parting the seas but what continues to change is execution: design aesthetic and photorealism continue to evolve. For me the limits have always resided with our imagination. The struggle is to conceive something unique. If you can achieve this, then the underlying concept or idea even badly executed, will always outshine the polished cliche.

You've been featured on Premiere's Power List. Do you feel powerful these days?

Only when I wear my eyepatch.

Are you planning on doing a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie?

I think the trilogy is now complete. All of the stories set in motion by the first film have been resolved. If there ever were another Pirates of the Caribbean film, I would start fresh and focus on the further adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Continue to Page 2 for the second session >>

Buy Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End:
2-Disc Limited Edition DVD Single-Disc DVD Blu-ray Disc

Related Interview:
Click to read UD's exclusive interview with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the writers of all three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
UD's Interview with Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, the writers of Pirates of the Caribbean

Article published November 28, 2007.