The Curse of the First Moon, Ciak (Italy), August 2003
translated by Francesca
fine day, Johnny Depp appeared with a whole mouthful of gold teeth to assume
the look of the pirate Jack Sparrow, and the Disney executives almost had a
heart attack. “As a matter of fact,” laughs the producer Jerry Bruckheimer,
“his smile was… blinding. I had to convince him that it was more important for
the audience to remember the character, and not his gums.”.
a year and a half later, and a lot less golden molars, the result of the odd
collaboration between the Mickey Mouse studio, the producer of Armageddon
Harbor, and a highly idiosyncratic actor that takes care to nuance
and detail, that has always steered clear of Hollywood action movies, has made
it to the screen. Inspired by the homonymous Disneyland attraction (an
unmissable tour of the happily dissolute pirate world, with ransacking, fires
and rum fests) Pirates of the Caribbean was on paper a double-edged bet.
the one hand, there was the guarantee that the starting point was very
familiar; on the other, the idea of retrieving and actualizing not only the
Disney adventure movie tradition (adaptations of Verne and Stevenson) but also
the pirate genre itself, of which the last Hollywood manifestation takes us
back to the catastrophic Pirates (my note: 1995 movie with Geena
Davis and Matthew Modine). That’s where Jerry Bruckheimer comes in. “I have no
idea what the audience wants,” the producer said in Los Angeles. “I base my
work exclusively on what I would like to see. And when Disney sent me the
screenplay, the way it was them, I didn’t want to see that movie. So I passed
it on to the writers of Shrek, and they got an idea that I really
liked straight away, that was to add a supernatural element. Cursed pirates and
Johnny Depp: that was a combination that I would have paid a ticket for.
Because it was a Disney production I didn’t want kids thinking that it was a
movie for their baby sisters”. Considering the fact that
Johnny Depp modeled his Jack Sparrow on the Rolling Stones’ guitar player,
Keith Richards (whom the actor imitates in his makeup, movements and even his
English accent), the Curse of the First Moon definitely doesn’t run that risk.
a background that mixes visual references to the theme park ride, pirate movie
classics and a bit of Ray Harryhausen-style horror, the plot includes a blacksmith of mysterious
origins (Orlando Bloom), the lively governor’s daughter whom he is
in love with (the English actress Keira Knightley, who has already starred in Bend it like
Beckham), the garrison captain to whom she is promised (Jack
Davenport) and a mysterious Aztec medallion in which is concealed the secret of
the curse that has transformed the pirates of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey
Rush) into skeletons (one can see them as such in the moonlight) and their ship
the Black Pearl into a ghost ship.
most of all, the movie is Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a “sunfried” pirate, a
rogue, in his own way an idealist, the former captain of the Black Pearl,
abandoned by Barbossa on a desert island. Since then, Sparrow pursues him
incessantly to retrieve his ship.
always something rebellious and revolutionary when one talks about piracy,”
says director Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, The Ring), “pirates belong
to an era of oppression, when one was hanged for stealing a piece of bread.
There was nothing to lose. For me, this is a movie about the importance of
breaking the rules; in that sense, all the characters get what they want through
“acts of piracy”.
never wished to be a pirate?” wonders Orlando Bloom, fresh off the set of the
third installment of The Lord of the Rings. “It’s every little
boy’s dream.”. And also
Keira Knightley (who personally did almost all her action sequences herself)
guarantees that, when she was a little girl, she also played pirates. Verbinski
admits to being fascinated by the genre and quotes Michael Curtiz and Errol
Blood and The Sea Hawk), The Crimson Pirate, by
Siodmak with Burt Lancaster and The Black Pirate with Douglas Fairbanks.
But in his
movie he leaves the romantic exuberance of those titles, their duels, their
love stories to Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce (the governor), steering more in the darker direction of the
strictly piratesque. Both Depp and Rush (who engage in a long duel in the
treasure cave) seem in fact closer to the irreducible Long John Silver of Treasure
Island and the delicious ferociousness of Charles Laughton in Captain Kidd
(his pirate learned lord’s manners, committed crimes on behalf of the British
Crown which he then went on to rob as well) than the more benevolent
interpretations by Flynn, Tyrone Power or Douglas Fairbanks. The result of this
restyling, The Curse of the First Moon, by a producer who is known for his
glossy, monumental, hi-tech movies, could be the key to relaunch Disney
adventure movies. Last year The Count of Montecristo didn’t quite
work. In the meantime, another Disneyland attraction adaptation is under
consideration: The Haunted Mansion.
order to interpret the pirate Jack Sparrow, the actor got his inspiration from
his friend Keith Richards, guitar player of the English rock band, whom he
defines “graceful, funny and smart.”. The real star of The Curse of the First Moon
is Depp: chosen by surprise by the producer of Top Gun and Pearl Harbor
as the “Disney antidote”.
producer Jerry Bruckheimer intended for Johnny Depp in The Curse of the First Moon to
act as an “antidote for Disney”. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley refer to him simply
as a “genius” (“Johnny is Johnny”, says Bloom, “a whole different level”.).
And Depp must have something of the genius, something unique, in order to “burn
a hole in” and so radically turn such a production upside down. His is truly a
boarding, a one-man boarding. For years now, the ex-television star of 21 Jump
Street, who has been living in southern France for a long time now,
with his wife Vanessa Paradis and their two children, marks his movies indelibly.
The impression one gets is that Depp works in a world of his own and that he
moves in a separate microcosm. He’s always about the shock of Edward
Scissorhands appearing in pastel-colored suburbs. We met him in Los
Why did you
model your character on Keith Richards?
thought that pirates were the rock’n’roll stars of the eighteenth century and
there’s something rather peculiar in how Keith “holds himself”. I didn’t want
to imitate him, reproduce him exactly. But I used the memories of when we spent
time together. He’s extremely graceful, incredibly funny and very smart. And I
believe he’s the greatest rock star of all time.
seeing you in a big summer blockbuster action movie…
still too stupid to make choices based merely on their potential success. This
is a more important production than usual for me, but I chose it in the same
way I always do, because I saw something in my character; I thought that I
could really do something with this pirate. I imagined his as kind of the guy who
can slide between raindrops without ever getting wet. For me, even in this kind
of production, the work doesn’t change. From my point of view it was as small a
movie as all the others I’ve done.
pirates, kids with scissors for hands. Your characters are almost always
really like gypsies and pirates. Gypsies are kind of like American Indians,
wonderful people for whom music and art have enormous significance. The
romantic imagery of pirates has been part of me since I was a kid. And my
daughter, who is four years old, when she saw the trailer she went mad. Now
she’s convinced I really am a pirate.
Your part in
the movie is very different from the others, your acting is more over the top, almost comedic. How did you understand whether what
you were doing would work or not?
ideal thermometer is the crew. If in the corner of my eye I could see someone
trying to stifle a laugh or if I could hear someone laughing softly, I knew I
was at the right level. Same thing when at the end of a roll someone would
burst out laughing. And it’s important to have that thermometer: I want every
“Action” to be fresh, I try different things every time.
Why do you
still have gold teeth?
ashamed to admit it but, after production – during which I stayed in California
with my family – I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Only when we
landed in France did I realize that the person who had to take all of the caps
out was on the other side of the ocean, where I had no intention of returning
a pic of Johnny Depp at sea; one of Orlando and Keira where Orlando is wearing
a musketeer like hat and Keira’s boobs are about to explode from her dress,
they have redcoat soldiers behind them (sorry, movie’s coming out next week
here, so can’t really do more than describe the pix); one with Keira and Rush
in the treasure cave; one with Rush taking Keira’s necklace off on the ship;
one of Johnny and Orlando ready to fight with swords; a close-up of Johnny in
Sparrow-mode for his interview.