The Pirates of the Caribbean movies have become a staple in our pop culture, and yet, its success was not nearly as certain as people might think. Though their quality has occasionally been questioned (especially when it comes to the later movies) Pirates of the Caribbean gave us Captain Jack Sparrow, so we all owe it at least that much. So batten down the hatches and dive into these 42 facts about the movie series, based on a ride at an amusement park, that once again got the world completely entranced by the idea of life on the seven seas.
Pirates Of The Caribbean Movies Facts
42. Let’s Try to Be Optimistic
The first film was originally meant to be titled just Pirates of the Caribbean, but the producers decided to add The Curse of the Black Pearl at the end in case the film was successful enough to have a sequel made. Good call, producers.
When the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was being developed, the light-hearted action-adventure film genre had experienced a slump, and pirate films had been non-existent for years—not to mention the fact that movies based on amusement park rides weren’t very well acclaimed to begin with. But all of this was before Jack Sparrow and the gang hit the scene.
40. Captain Alright Alright Alright
Given all that was working against it, the producers were very gun-shy about the movie being made at all. One thing that got them especially worked up was the choice to cast Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. They had been hoping Matthew McConaughey would play the Captain, because of his resemblance to Burt Lancaster (Lancaster had starred in The Crimson Pirate in 1952).
39. Pay Raise?
Playing Jack Sparrow in Curse of the Black Pearl was the best thing that’s ever happened to Johnny Depp’s career, at least financially. After the success of the film (and an Oscar nomination), Depp was able to command upfront salaries worth $20 million for each of the later movies (which doesn’t even include the backend deals he made). The Pirates sequels have been an especially lucrative cash cow for him. He was paid $90 million to appear in Dead Men Tell No Tales! To be fair, without Jack Sparrow, who’s going to see a Pirates movie?
38. Early Start
Keira Knightley was only 17 when she filmed the first Pirates of the Caribbean, so her mother needed to be present throughout the entire shoot. No wonder they had to burn the rum in that movie!
37. One Heck of a Ride
The Pirates of the Caribbean films are famously based on the classic ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It seemed like an odd bet at the time, but it’s sure paid off. After the success of the films, Disney went back to their classic rides and redesigned them to include Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, and Davy Jones.
36. For the Kids
While shooting On Stranger Tides in London, Johnny Depp received fan mail from a girl who wanted Jack Sparrow to assist her in mutinying against her teacher and taking over the school. Rather than have his assistant write her a tongue-in-cheek reply, Depp went to the school as Jack Sparrow, in full costume, and visited the girl’s class to advise them against the mutiny. That’s just flat out awesome.
35. Frequent Fellows to the Table
The only actors to appear in all five Pirates of the Caribbean films made as of 2018 are Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Hector Barbossa) and Kevin McNally (Mr. Gibbs).
34. Sparrow Shot
The pistol that Jack Sparrow uses isn’t a prop, it’s a genuine handgun which was crafted in London as far back as 1760! Incredibly, the production crew didn’t have to loan it from a museum or steal it from an ancient tomb—they simply bought it from a dealer based in Connecticut. Easy-peasy.
33. Excuse Me Sir, There’s Barnacles on Your Face
The effects for the crew of the Flying Dutchman, first seen in Dead Man’s Chest, were created with a combination of practical and CGI effects, so while might seem like Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones would have required much more work that Stellan Skarsgård’s Bootstrap Bill, that wasn’t quite the case. While Nighy’s face and body were simply scanned and later animated to turn into Davy Jones, Stellan Skarsgård had to spend four hours in the makeup chair each day to achieve Bootstrap’s look. I’d take the tentacles over that any day.
32. Yarr Talkin’ to Me?
Believe it or not, the role of Jack Sparrow was offered to Robert De Niro, the Taxi Driver himself. Given the history of pirate movies bombing at the box office, De Niro passed on the opportunity. When Curse of the Black Pearl broke the trend, De Niro regretted his decision, and so the next time he was offered a pirate role, he took it immediately. Unfortunately for him, that movie was Stardust—not bad, but certainly not the same cash-cow as Pirates.
31. Hide That Baby Bump
Penelope Cruz was pregnant when she filmed her role in On Stranger Tides, and eventually it began to show. To hide this, Cruz’s sister was brought in as a body double for far shots, while Penelope filmed all her own close-ups.
30. It’s Too Bright!
To avoid squinting from the sun’s glare, Johnny Depp wore contact lenses which acted like sunglasses while he was on the Pirates films. Presumably he wanted to avoid looking sillier than he already did?
29. She Does What?!
Will Turner looked pretty surprised to see his fiancée kiss Jack Sparrow, didn’t he? That’s because Orlando Bloom wasn’t acting; He hadn’t been given a script which included the kiss, and he was kept in the dark until the moment came to film his reaction. The oldest trick in the book.
28. Swashbuckling Sith Lord
The cast of Curse of the Black Pearl naturally needed to learn how to swordfight to make things look as good as possible during the action scenes, and they were taught by legendary Hollywood swordsman Bob Anderson. One of Anderson’s many credentials was the fact that he had worked on the original Star Wars films, doubling as Darth Vader for the lightsabre battles!
27. Like a Rolling Stone
When he was creating the character of Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp was inspired by the notion that the pirates of the 18th century (such as the notorious Captain Kidd) were the equivalent of modern-day rock stars. He drew particular inspiration from the behavior of Keith Richards, who then famously played Sparrow’s own father in At World’s End—one of the most perfect casting decisions that’s ever been made.
26. I Should Have Said Money!
Lee Arenberg, who played Pintel in the first three Pirates films, revealed that the fanbase of the film series got particularly attached to a line Pintel improvised while filming Curse of the Black Pearl. When Johnny Depp spoke his line about how the French invented the term “parlay,” he improvised and remarked that the French were also responsible for mayonnaise. Arenberg decided to play along, so he quipped “I love mayonnaise!” in a humorous tone. The line ended up in the deleted scenes, as well as on the blooper reel. As a result, Arenberg would regularly receive jars of mayonnaise from fans asking for his autograph. I sure hope he actually does like mayo!
25. Shiver Me Timbers!
Things got very cold and wet during the production of On Stranger Tides. To help out the 500-man crew, Johnny Depp spent $60,000 out of his own pocket to pay for waterproof jackets for all of them to wear.
24. Literally at World’s End!
Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three Pirates films, was determined to use as many practical sets as he could, which meant he and his crew went all across the globe looking for the perfect locations to film, no matter how remote.
23. Alrighty Then
One of the original choices for Jack Sparrow was none other than Jim Carrey, but he was busy filming Bruce Almighty at the time. I know, we all love Depp as Sparrow, but you’ve got to be at least a little curious about what that would have looked like.
22. Roll Those Dice
The dice game that Will plays with Davy Jones and Bootstrap Bill in Dead Man’s Chest is an actual game. Liar’s Dice has its origins in South America, but it’s also played in Europe and Asia. There are different ways to play the game, but in the version used on screen, players get five dice each, roll them all at once, and then can only see the results of their own dice. They proceed to bet on how many of each number is up amongst all the collective dice. Whoever is called out on their bluff and is proven wrong loses one of their dice—the winner is the last man standing. In reality, people usually bet money rather than souls, however.
21. Double Dutch
Allegedly, the character of Davy Jones was meant to speak with a Dutch accent, in keeping with the name of this ship “The Flying Dutchman.” Bill Nighy, however, wanted to do the part in a Scottish accent instead, so that’s what we got.
As of 2018, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is still the longest film that Disney’s ever released. It clocks in at 169 minutes, which is around twice as long as most of their animated films. At the time, it was also hailed as one of the most expensive films ever made (until the next one was made, anyway).
19. Every Man Has a Price
In 2009, Disney Chairman Dick Cook was asked to resign by CEO Bob Iger. This sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, and it led Johnny Depp to nearly back out of On Stranger Tides. He cited loyalty due to Cook’s unflagging support throughout his time with Disney, and questioned the decision to let him go. Fortunately, Disney provided him with a $55 million paycheck, which quickly helped clear his conscience.
18. Legolas Vs. The Joker
The role of Will Turner came down to a very close race between Orlando Bloom and Heath Ledger. Bloom ultimately got picked because of his success with The Lord of the Rings. Ledger would go on to be nominated for two Oscars, winning one, so fair trade?
17. Surprise Musical Guest
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, there’s a scene where six of the main characters meet for a parlay on a strip of land. The soundtrack for this scene features an electric guitar, played by none other than the director of the film himself, Gore Verbinski. Sadly, the film did nothing to boost his musical career.
16. You Just Need Some Confidence!
According to Keira Knightley, she felt very insecure on the set of the first film due to her inexperience and youth. She reportedly packed as little as necessary when she joined the production because she was convinced that they would fire her within the first week. Thankfully for her, these fears never came to pass.
15. Quit Monkeying Around!
In Curse of the Black Pearl, there’s a scene where Barbossa explains that his monkey is named Jack, just as the monkey grins mockingly at Jack Sparrow. Apparently, the monkey’s grin was completely coincidental. The timing just worked out perfectly for the scene.
14. Too Much Enthusiasm?
According to director Gore Verbinski, Geoffrey Rush’s dedication to his character in the films was wearying to the point of frustration. To be fair, Verbinski did acknowledge that it was due to Rush’s passion for the craft, and we can imagine it’d be frustrating for Rush to be playing a character whose first name isn’t even used until the second film.
13. Russell Crowe as Jack Sparrow?
Despite opposition, there was some confidence in the idea of resurrecting the pirate and adventure genres with Pirates of the Caribbean. This confidence came, in part, from the success of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, which resurrected the sword-and-sandal genre after it had been dead for years. The Curse of the Black Pearl and Gladiator both share similar styles, and it’s hardly a coincidence that both of their soundtracks were composed by Hans Zimmer.
12. Past Experience
It’s hard to blame Disney for avoiding a movie about pirates when you remember their last venture into the genre; Treasure Planet, based on the beloved classic Treasure Island, was one of the biggest box office flops that the company ever released (I don’t care what anyone says, it’s still a great movie). On top of that, Disney (and producer Jerry Bruckheimer) had already made some serious gambles on failures like Pearl Harbor. Honestly, it seems pretty amazing that this movie ever got made at all.
11. You Put Your Finger on It
Production on Dead Men Tell No Tales was stalled when Johnny Depp severely injured his finger and required medical attention. Several stories exist as to how he received the injury, and most of them completely uninteresting. The most innocent one is that he got it caught in a car door, which only has the potential to be funny, so that’s all we’ll say on it.
10. Maybe Give Him One Action Scene?
By the time that the first two sequels were being filmed, pressure was on the studio to sell lots of tickets in international markets. Their solution was to add a side character named Sao Feng, played by Chinese superstar Chow Yun-Fat, and briefly feature a Chinese pirate leader named Mistress Ching (a reference to the renowned 19th century pirate Queen, Ching Shih). Ironically, China cut ten minutes of the film featuring Sao Feng because they felt his portrayal was insulting to Chinese culture. Guess it was worth a shot?
9. Paved Paradise, Put Up a Blockbuster
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was filmed on the very remote island of Dominica. In fact, the island was so remote that Disney had to pay for roads to be paved just so the production could bring equipment and people to the filming locations! There wasn’t even enough accommodation on the island to take in the 500 new people which made up the cast and crew, so many of them had to be boated or flown in on a daily basis!
8. Just Another Hurricane
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were filmed during the hurricane season. Two huge tropical storms struck the productions back-to-back (some might deem this rather fitting, given how the two films ended up).
7. She’s Too Pretty!
Geoffery Rush has a theory about film; people subconsciously look at a screen from left to right. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but what isn’t up for debate is that Rush was so concerned that Keira Knightley would steal the show from everyone else that he made sure he was always standing to the left of her, so that even if audiences preferred to look at Knightley, they would still at least notice him.
6. Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…
Michael Eisner, then head of Disney Studios, had been deeply discouraged by the failure of The Country Bears, and was very wary about taking such a big chance on Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Johnny Depp’s performance especially got on his nerves; reportedly he was confused by whether Jack Sparrow was supposed to be drunk or gay, and even exclaimed that Depp was “ruining the film.” We wish we could have been the ones to tell Eisner about Depp’s Oscar nomination when it was announced.
5. Bitter Experience
Zoe Saldana appeared in Curse of the Black Pearl in the role of Anamaria, and the experience was so memorable that she almost quit acting because of it. According to her, the production featured lots of bad blood between the different ranks. Describing it as an elitist environment, Saldana was furious at being disrespected and being made to feel inferior because of her supporting role. Suffice it to say, she was not interested in appearing in the sequels.
At the end of Dead Man’s Chest, the good guys get a surprise ally to join them in their cause. To make the surprise extra special, the actors were told it was going to be Annamaria who would accompany them. Thus, they had the same sincere surprised responses as the audience did when it was revealed that it was in fact the recently resurrected Barbossa who would lead them to World’s End.
3. Shoot First, Write Later
The second and third Pirates films were attacked by critics for their inconsistent stories. This might be because they were rushed into back-to-back production after the wild success of the first film. The scripts for both the films weren’t finished until a few weeks before filming was supposed to begin. Director Gore Verbinski reportedly complained about the lackluster script, while screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot complained in turn that they weren’t given enough time to write good sequels, all of which are fair points.
2. Troubled Production
At the time of shooting Dead Men Tell No Tales, Johnny Depp was going through financial troubles, a bitter divorce, and was accused of assaulting his partner, Amber Heard. Allegedly, this caused Depp to be consistently late for work, putting production hours behind, day after day. Eventually, an assistant was hired to wait outside of Depp’s house to see when the lights turned on.
1. Was He Also Afraid of Bloodhounds?
Johnny Depp had some strange ideas about what Jack Sparrow should be like when he played him for the first time. One of his more out-there ideas was that Sparrow should have had his nose chopped off and sewn back onto his face. It would turn blue from the lack of circulation, and Sparrow would have also been terrified of pepper and the common cold because of it. Hey, I’m glad that he was at least putting the thought in.