Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean' Movies
It may have disappeared for a while, but Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is once again on Disney+, bringing all the Pirates films together at last. The first installment of Pirates of the Caribbean hit the big screen in 2003, and since then, the franchise has produced five feature-length films. These movies have loads of behind-the-scenes tales and interpersonal antics that - to quote William Turner - straddle a fine line between madness and brilliance.
As one of the highest-grossing films of all time - earning $4.5 billion worldwide - Pirates has become a pop-culture institution to rival Star Wars or Indiana Jones. The five-part movie series is so beloved that Disneyland even incorporated animatronics of Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, and Davy Jones into the eponymous boat ride that inspired the series. Here are some behind-the-scenes stories from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Johnny Depp Thought His Slurred Speech Would Get Him CannedPhoto: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest / Buena Vista Pictures
Johnny Depp’s wild portrayal as the colorful, slurring Jack Sparrow may be one of the most memorable movie characters of all time, but it wasn’t so popular with studio head Michael Eisner at the outset.
According to Depp, the actor “fully expected to get fired” when he got a call from a Disney executive asking him “What the f*ck are you doing? Is it drunk?” in reference to Sparrow’s outlandish demeanor. Depp went on to claim that the studio nearly put subtitles on the screen for Sparrow's lines, though they eventually decided against the idea.
Keira Knightley Called Her Sudden Rise To Fame 'Horrific'Photo: Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest / Buena Vista Pictures
Keira Knightley first appeared as Elizabeth Swann at the age of 17. She starred alongside Johnny Depp - who was 40 years old and already famous at the time - leading Knightley to share later on that “it took many years of therapy” to overcome the trauma of becoming wildly famous overnight at such a young age. “I found it pretty horrific,” she told Variety. “I’m not an extrovert, so I found that level of scrutiny and that level of fame really hard.”
In 2023, Knightley reflected on that sudden rise to fame, and admitted that she felt “constrained” by the role of Elizabeth Swann. In the series, that character “was the object of everybody’s lust,” Knightley explained. “Not that she doesn’t have a lot of fight in her. But it was interesting coming from being really tomboyish to getting projected as quite the opposite.”
Knightley says she felt “stuck” in that mode, and made a conscious effort to choose roles in the future that departed from a sexy damsel in distress. "It very much felt like I was caged in a thing I didn’t understand,” she said.
The Role Of Jack Sparrow Was Named And Intended For Hugh JackmanPhoto: Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
For most Pirates fans, imagining anyone besides Johnny Depp in the role of Jack Sparrow is practically impossible. Somewhat surprising, then, is the fact that Depp wasn’t the actor originally intended for the role.
Australian screenwriter Stuart Beattie spilled the news that Jack Sparrow was named after - and imagined for - actor Hugh Jackman. Jackman was a well-known actor in his home country of Australia at the time, but Jackman’s lack of international renown led Disney to pass on him as the first film's leading swashbuckler.
Depp Looked To Keith Richards and Pepé Le Pew For Jack Sparrow's InspirationPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / Warner Bros.
When you think of legendary rock bands, the Rolling Stones are bound to be near the top of the list. Depp certainly seemed to think so when he sought out inspiration for crafting Jack Sparrow. He imagined pirates to be the rock legends of the 18th century and Keith Richards to be “the coolest rock-and-roll star of all time... Hands down.” Richards even made a cameo as Captain Teague in the third installment, At World’s End.
Another inspiration for Depp's character came from Looney Tunes's infamous skunk, Pepé Le Pew, who has “blinders no matter what the actual reality is” and who is “the kind of character who always was able to run between the raindrops. He'd just always make it through."
Depp Kept His Gold Teeth For Weeks After Filming WrappedPhoto: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest / Buena Vista Pictures
The gold teeth Depp donned for his role as Jack Sparrow stayed on after filming - multiple times.
He appears in an interview in 2003 and again in 2006 still flashing his gold-capped smile. He kept the caps on in case one of the films needed reshoots.
Keira Knightley And Her Mother Got Stranded On An Uncharted Reef While Filming ‘The Curse Of The Black Pearl’Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl / Buena Vista Pictures
The Curse of the Black Pearl, which kicked off the franchise, was filmed primarily on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The film’s commentary track reveals a shocking situation that arose when Knightley and her mother got stuck on a reef while filming at night.
Although locals warned the film crew of the potentially dangerous conditions, the crew insisted that their GPS equipment would ensure their safety. Unfortunately, the equipment failed them while they were filming one nighttime scene, and Knightley and her mother were separated from the rest of the crew. For safety's sake, the remainder of the night scenes were filmed in a studio.