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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, Page 2

Tuesday, November 20th Virtual Roundtable Session:

The beginning of At World's End is awfully grim. Were there any creative struggles with Disney to open the film that way?

It is interesting to me that Disney as a brand is somehow equated with 'Happy Meals and soccer moms.' Yet, Walt Disney was well aware of the necessity of drama within a narrative. He made Bambi and Old Yeller, both of which had their grim moments that were essential in creating the emotional stakes of those pictures. I think we have remained true to the brand and the folks running the studio today were kind enough to let me stand by these principles.

Was there ever going to be a death scene for The Kraken or was it a conscious decision to treat his fate as shown here?

For me the Kraken was played out in Dead Man's Chest. I think the idea that Beckett had Jones "put him down" is far more haunting then witnessing the process. Beckett is the killer of myths.
It is the end of an era and both Jack and Barbossa recognize their own imminent extinction in this changing world, while they gaze upon the carcass of the leviathan.

Could you talk about the development of this trilogy? Was it always in the back of your mind to have multiple films, or did the idea of the trilogy come about after the success of the first film? In which case, what were the challenges that the screenwriters faced, and what "guidelines" were they given?

The first film was originally designed as a "one off." We were so under the radar because honestly I don't think anyone thought we could resurrect the genre. After the success of Curse of the Black Pearl, we set about reverse engineering a trilogy. Some loose ends from the first film became assets in the process: Bootstrap Bill for instance, the 'P' brand on Jack's arm, the mention of the East India Trading Company etc. other ideas like the Kraken and Davy Jones were discussed during the development of POTC1 but abandoned as that film took shape, and resurrected for the subsequent films once we knew were making them. Yet whenever you set out to make a film, I think you have the obligation to create characters that feel as if they come from other stories -- even Pintel and Ragetti have their own origins and destinations. [Screenwriters] Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are well-versed in mythology and I enjoyed collaborating with them all the way up until each scene was photographed.

What's the coolest souvenir that you've kept from the series?

Jack's peanut.

Was Terry Gilliam an influence on the Purgatory sequence?

I love Terry's work but I think Miyazaki and Salvador Dali were probably more influential for that particular scene.

How much freedom did you have to take in improv ideas on the day considering the complexity of the production and the integration with the FX?

I try to plan everything to the utmost detail.
Yet, I am not talented enough to ignore those random gifts that occur throughout the process. I strive to create an environment that encourages the accumulation of unique and original ideas up till the last possible moment.

What a hoot it was to see Keith Richards in pirate garb. Who's idea was it to bring him onboard? Mick Jagger has to be jealous.

That was all Johnny [Depp]. He and Keith are great friends and I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet and work with the legend. Keith is a unique species in every possible way. But as far as making him into a pirate, we didn't need to do much. Keith makes the rest of us look like we are pretending.

Davy Jones' fate, considering his history with Tia is awfullly sad, was it hard to flesh out his back story, and still make him an obvious bad guy?

Davy was the villain in Dead Man's Chest and more the victim in At World's End. It was always our intention to create a parallel between Jones/Tia Dalma relationship and the Will/Elizabeth love story. However Will and Elizabeth choose to suffer the pain of love, while Jones cut out his own heart to avoid it. As a villain, Jones was born out of tragedy. For him it is all personal, he wants you to suffer as he has. Beckett on the other hand is far more clinical. To me he is much scarier because it isn't personal at all. He represents the future, the faceless corporation at the expense of the individual. The fate of Jones is as much the result of his misguided anger towards Tia Dalma as it is the consequence of progress.

What is it about pirates, which by their own admission are some of the world's most horrible and scuzzy people, that makes them so appealing to so many?

Rebellion, same as Sid Vicious [the late Sex Pistols bassist].

What effect, if any, does it have on a director when he knows his film is going to be shown in high definition? Do you approach anything in the production process differently, as a result?

No. Everything is orchestrated towards the theatrical release and must survive that resolution.
HD is still below the resolution of the original camera negative and therefore cannot reveal any flaws that were not seen by the release print. The only challenge is retaining the same look as the film while operating in a different color space.

With the "up is down" riddle and the ship flipping over to enable the gang to get back to the world as they know it, you picked up on a bit that was in the very first film. And that seemed an homage to The Crimson Pirate. Were there any other intentional homages to previous pirate films or pirate actors?

There is a wonderful moment in The Black Pirate where Douglas Fairbanks Sr. cuts the sail and is blown up to the yardarm. They achieved this by reverse printing the shot. During the maelstrom sequence, we have a similar moment when Jack Sparrow attempts to escape from Jones. Yet with today's technology, I feel we were able to achieve a far greater sense of scale. Pirate films are full of moments that we tip our hat to from time to time in celebrating the genre. The Crimson Pirate, Captain Blood and The Black Pirate are a few of my favorites.

You used multiple actors dressed like Captain Jack and used models and soundstages to create the phenomenal effects of this film, rather than relying solely on CGI the way some directors might have. Could you talk about your commitment to the "old" ways of creating special effects, and why you might still embrace them?

I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. When we set out to do something with visual effects it is often the combination of the old and the new. When a technique or physical effect is working I will always prefer to shoot it live. This process allows for the greatest sense of realism and keeps the viewer guessing what is "in camera" and what is CGI.

What sort of difficulties did you have in sustaining the level of energy for so long in the final battlle scene in the whirlpool?

By this time in production of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, we had been shooting for close to 200 days. I think everyone was exhausted, but when the wind and the rain come on you wake up quickly.

You mentioned earlier how it surprised people that you were able to revive the genre. Could you talk about what conventions you kept and what you added that might have been responsible for the revival?

I think splicing the pirate genre and the ghost story together was the key. But most certainly Johnny Depp's performance of Captain Jack Sparrow was the exponential factor.

On one of the bonus features, you say that this is the biggest film anybody on your crew will ever work on, that it's the end of an era. Could you talk about the "big films" that may have had such an impact on you that their effects may have made it into your own Pirates trilogy?

What I meant to imply is that the process of filming is changing. More and more we are relying on the computer to create the worlds we see on the screen. The crew of all three films is the best I have ever worked with and we are all tipping our hat to a process that is fading away. I'm a fan of the small film really, of the process of traveling to locations, getting dirt under your fingernails and working with people within the elements. Pirates 3 was big, but it was also an incredible amalgamation of low tech and high tech. The physical part of this process is sadly diminishing. Ironically this is the exact thematic that At World's End deals with: It is the end of an era.


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

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Article published November 28, 2007.