Pirates Of The Caribbean Producers Thought Johnny Depp Was Drunk During Filming
It might seem strange to think in retrospect, but when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was first released, it was not forecast to be much of a success. Defying such low expectations, the film went on to become the surprise hit of the summer and the fourth-highest grossing movie of 2003, after Return of the King, Finding Nemo and The Matrix Reloaded. Its popularity was largely down to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, but during production, the studio bosses didn’t know what to make of his acting and were afraid it would contribute to the movie’s failure.
Depp’s performance is famously based on English rock star Keith Richards, who has a notorious reputation for an inhuman consumption of drugs and alcohol, mimicking the guitarist’s accent, speech patterns and physical mannerisms, and with the allusion being cranked up to 11 when Richards cameoed in the third movie At World’s End as Jack’s father. However, it was precisely this erratic behavior that unnerved those in charge of the production.
Speaking at the Zurich Film Festival, Depp recalled the producers’ reaction to how he brought Jack to life, saying:
“They were nervous, they were afraid no one would understand a word Captain Jack said. I got calls from them asking, ‘Is he drunk? Are you drunk? What’s the thing with his hands?’ I wasn’t discouraged in the slightest, it fuels me. I know that if they’re worried, I’m doing my job. When they asked me to bring it down, I turned it up.”
Although Depp received top billing in Pirates, it’s nominally the story of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann – played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley as they attained early stardom – with Jack merely being along for the ride. However, his performance was what drew so many people in, to the extent that he was nominated for an Academy Award, one of the few times an actor has been up for an Oscar for a comedic role due to the Academy’s snobbish belief that comedy acting is somehow easier than ‘real’ acting.
Of course, Depp went on to become the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise’s main attraction, with subsequent installments being far more narratively focused on his character, a streak that ended due to the ongoing legal troubles between himself and Amber Heard. With public opinion now swinging back in his favor, though, Jack and his histrionic antics may once again strike out across the ocean.