Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
|Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gore Verbinski|
|Produced by||Jerry Bruckheimer|
|Screenplay by||Ted Elliott
|Story by||Ted Elliott
|Based on||Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean|
|Music by||Klaus Badelt|
|Editing by||Stephen E. Rivkin
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
|Running time||144 minutes|
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a 2003 American fantasy adventure film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney theme parks. It was directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The story follows blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as they rescue the kidnapped Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from the cursed crew of the Black Pearl, captained by Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
Jay Wolpert developed a script based on the theme park ride in 2001, and Stuart Beattie rewrote it in early 2002. Around that time, producer Jerry Bruckheimer became involved in the project; he had Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio work on the script, adding the supernatural curse to the storyline. Filming took place from October 2002 to March 2003 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and on sets constructed around Los Angeles, California.
The world premiere was held at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on June 28, 2003. The Curse of the Black Pearl was an unexpected success, with positive reviews and grossing over $654 million worldwide. The film became the first in a series, with two back-to-back sequels, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, released in 2006 and 2007. The latest in the series, On Stranger Tides, was released in 2011. The original film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Depp. The music was by Klaus Badelt.
As Governor Weatherby Swann, his 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and Lieutenant James Norrington sail to Port Royal, Jamaica, their vessel encounters a burning shipwreck with an unconscious survivor, the young Will Turner. Elizabeth hides a gold medallion that Will is wearing, fearing it will identify him as a pirate. The crew then glimpses a ghostly pirate ship, the notorious Black Pearl, sailing away from the wreckage.
Eight years later, Norrington proposes marriage to the now-adult Elizabeth after being promoted to Commodore. However, her over-tightened corset causes her to faint before she can answer, and she falls from the fort into the bay. The pirate medallion, which she wears as a necklace, emits a pulse in the water which signals the Black Pearl.
Simultaneously, pirate Captain Jack Sparrow arrives in Port Royal to steal a ship. After an encounter with two guards, he sees Elizabeth fall and saves her, but Norrington recognizes Jack as a pirate and orders his arrest. Jack escapes, hiding in a blacksmith's shop, where Will Turner now works as an apprentice. After a sword duel between the two, Jack is knocked unconscious and jailed, to be hanged the next day. That night, Port Royal is besieged by the Pearl, answering the medallion's call. Elizabeth is captured and invokes the right of parley. She negotiates for the pirates to stop attacking Port Royal in exchange for the medallion and claims to Captain Barbossa that her surname is Turner, as she believes her real name will reveal her importance as a hostage. Barbossa stops the bombardment, but exploits a loophole in the agreement, keeping Elizabeth prisoner. He believes she is the key to breaking a curse the pirate crew is under.
Will, who loves Elizabeth, suggests making a deal with Jack Sparrow to lead the navy to the Black Pearl, but Norrington refuses. Will persuades Jack to help him rescue her in exchange for Jack's freedom. Jack agrees after learning Will's surname is Turner, believing he can use Will to reclaim the Pearl, which once belonged to Sparrow. Will and Jack commandeer the HMS Interceptor and recruit a crew in Tortuga with help from Jack's old friend, Joshamee Gibbs. They set sail for the remote Isla de Muerta, where Jack knows the pirates make port.
Will learns Jack was once captain of the Pearl, questing for Aztec gold, when Barbossa, Jack's first mate at the time, mutinied and marooned him on an island. Following the Pirate Code, Barbossa gave Jack a pistol with a single shot, intended for suicide. Jack escaped three days later and kept the pistol for ten years, saving the bullet to kill Barbossa. The pirates spent the treasure but learned it was cursed, turning them into immortal skeletal beings whose true forms are revealed in moonlight. The curse can be lifted if the coins and each pirate's blood is returned to the chest. William "Bootstrap Bill" Turner, Jack's only supporter, sent a coin to his son, Will, believing the crew should remain cursed. Barbossa had Bootstrap tied to a cannon and thrown overboard, only later to learn his blood was needed to break the curse.
At Isla de Muerta, Barbossa, believing Elizabeth is Bootstrap's child, anoints the last coin with her blood and drops it into the chest, but the curse remains unbroken. After reaching the island, Will suspects Jack may betray him and knocks him out. He rescues Elizabeth and they escape to the Interceptor, leaving Jack behind. Jack barters with Barbossa, offering Will in exchange for the Pearl, but Barbossa rejects his offer and pursues the Interceptor. Barbossa's crew sinks the Interceptor and imprisons the crew. Will reveals he is Bootstrap Bill's son and demands that Elizabeth and the crew be freed, or he will shoot himself and fall overboard, foiling Barbossa's plan to break the curse. Barbossa agrees but applies another loophole, marooning Elizabeth and Jack on the same island Jack had been left on ten years earlier. Will is taken to Isla de Muerta, to be killed to break the curse. Elizabeth discovers how Jack escaped before: the island was used as a cache by rum runners and Jack bartered passage.
Elizabeth burns the cache of rum to create a fire that Norrington's ship spots. She convinces Norrington to rescue Will by accepting his marriage proposal. However, taking the advice of Jack, Norrington locks Elizabeth in his cabin in order to keep her safe. Returning to Isla de Muerta, Norrington sets an ambush while Jack persuades Barbossa to form an alliance. He tells him to delay breaking the curse until they have taken Norrington's ship, the HMS Dauntless. Jack's plan goes awry when Barbossa orders his undead crew to infiltrate the Dauntless from underwater. Meanwhile, Elizabeth escapes her confinement and sneaks aboard the Pearl to free Jack's crew. They leave with the Pearl while Elizabeth heads to the island alone to save Will. Jack duels with Barbossa, and is seemingly killed. However, Barbossa discovers that Jack is immortal just like the other pirates; he had stolen one of the medallions for himself in case such an encounter ever arose.
Norrington spots his ship under attack and orders his men to return. They reach the ship and attack the cursed pirates. When Barbossa attempts to kill Elizabeth, Jack shoots Barbossa as Will drops the last two medallions, stained with his and Jack's blood, into the chest. No longer immortal, Barbossa collapses and dies. The now-mortal pirates aboard the Dauntless surrender. Despite the victory, Jack is arrested and condemned to death.
At Port Royal, Will attempts to rescue Jack at a public hanging. Both are captured. Jack manages to escape, jumping into the ocean and swims to the newly-repaired Black Pearl, which is sailing nearby. Will is pardoned by Governor Swann and allowed to marry Elizabeth. The Pearl's crew pulls Jack from the water, appointing him captain. The film ends with Jack looking at his compass while singing "A Pirate's Life for Me".
In a post credits scene, Jack, Barbossa's pet monkey, steals a gold coin from the chest, thus cursing itself once again.
- The role was originally written especially for Hugh Jackman, thus the name "Jack Sparrow"; however, he was not well known outside of his native Australia, so Disney cast the more famous Depp as Jack. Depp found the script quirky: rather than trying to find treasure, the crew of the Black Pearl were trying to return it in order to lift their curse; also, the traditional mutiny had already taken place. Initially Sparrow was, according to Bruckheimer, "a young Burt Lancaster, just the cocky pirate." At the first read-through, Depp surprised the rest of the cast and crew by portraying the character in an off-kilter manner. After researching 18th-century pirates, Depp compared them to modern rock stars and decided to base his performance on Keith Richards, who would later appear as Jack's father in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Although Verbinski and Bruckheimer had confidence in Depp, partly because it would be Bloom who was playing the traditional Errol Flynn-type, Disney executives were confused, asking Depp whether the character was drunk or gay, and Michael Eisner even proclaimed while watching rushes, "He's ruining the film!" Depp answered back, "Look, these are the choices I made. You know my work. So either trust me or give me the boot."
- Verbinski approached Rush for the role of Barbossa, as he knew he could hint at the subtle complexities of the character while still portraying a simple villainy that would suit the story's tone.
- Bloom read the script after Geoffrey Rush, with whom he was working on Ned Kelly, suggested it to him.
- Knightley came as a surprise to Verbinski; he had not seen her performance in Bend It Like Beckham and was impressed by her audition.
- Jack Sparrow's friend and first mate, he was once a sailor for the Royal Navy.
- A female pirate who signs up to join Will Turner and Mr Gibbs for a chance to confront Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship.
- Tom Wilkinson was negotiated with to play the part, but the role went to Pryce, whom Depp idolized.
- Gillette is the second-in-command to Commodore Norrington.
- A pirate aboard the Black Pearl. He and Ragetti dress up as women to provide the distraction that allows the cursed pirates to board the Dauntless near the end of the movie.
- A pirate aboard the Black Pearl, Pintel's buddy, with a wooden eye that never seems to stay in place.
- A sailor who had his tongue cut out, is now mute and has a macaw to talk for him.
- A dwarf pirate who also lived in Tortuga until hired by Jack and Will to rescue Elizabeth.
- Isaac C. Singleton Jr. as Bo'sun
- The bo'sun of the Black Pearl, and under Barbossa's command. He fought with Lieutenant Gillette during the battle of Isla de Mueta.
- A sailor under Sparrow's command. He died in the next film
- Murtogg is a dutiful but daft Royal Marine. He serves under the command of Commodore Norrington.
- Mullroy is a dutiful but daft Royal Marine.
- A lieutenant who said "That's got to be the best pirate I've ever seem" to Norrington on Sparrow.
During the early 1990s, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio began to think of a supernatural spin on the pirate genre. Disney had Jay Wolpert write a script based on the ride in 2001, which was based on a story created by the executives Brigham Taylor, Michael Haynes, and Josh Harmon. This story featured Will Turner as a prison guard who releases Sparrow to rescue Elizabeth, who is being held for ransom money by Captain Blackheart. The studio was unsure whether to release the film in theaters or direct-to-video. The studio was interested in Matthew McConaughey as Sparrow because of his resemblance to Burt Lancaster, who had inspired that script's interpretation of the character. If they chose to release it direct-to-video, Christopher Walken or Cary Elwes would have been their first choices. Stuart Beattie was brought in to rewrite the script in March 2002, because of his knowledge of piracy.
When Dick Cook managed to convince producer Jerry Bruckheimer to join the project, he rejected the script because it was "a straight pirate movie." Later in March 2002, he brought Elliott and Rossio, who suggested making a supernatural curse – as described in the opening narration of the ride – the film's plot. In May 2002, Gore Verbinski signed on to direct Pirates of the Caribbean. He was attracted to the idea of using modern technology to resurrect a genre that had disappeared after the Golden Age of Hollywood and recalled his childhood memories of the ride, feeling the film was an opportunity to pay tribute to the "scary and funny" tone of it.
Although Cook had been a strong proponent of adapting Disney's rides into films, the box office failure of The Country Bears made Michael Eisner attempt to shut down production of Pirates of the Caribbean. However, Verbinski told his concept artists to keep working on the picture, and when Eisner came to visit, the executive was astonished by what had been created. As recalled in the book DisneyWar, Eisner pondered "Why does it have to cost so much?" Bruckheimer replied, "Your competition is spending $150 million," referring to franchises like The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. Eisner concurred, but with the stigma attached to theme-park adaptations, Eisner requested Verbinski and Bruckheimer remove some of the more overt references to the ride in the script, such as a scene where Sparrow and Turner enter the cave via a waterfall.
Influence of the Monkey Island series of games
Although it has never been officially confirmed, there is strong evidence to suggest that the series was influenced by, and perhaps loosely based upon, the Monkey Island series of video games. Ted Elliott was allegedly the writer of a Steven Spielberg-produced animated film adaptation of The Curse of Monkey Island, which was cancelled before its official announcement, three years prior to the release of The Curse of the Black Pearl. This film was allegedly in production at Industrial Light and Magic before being cancelled.
Ron Gilbert, the creator of the Monkey Island series, has jokingly expressed a bitterness towards the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for its similarities to his game. Gilbert has also stated that On Stranger Tides, a novel by Tim Powers which was adapted into the fourth film, was the principal source of inspiration for his video games.
Filming and design
Verbinski did not want an entirely romanticized feel to the film: he wanted a sense of historical fantasy. Most of the actors wore prosthetics and contact lenses. Depp had contacts that acted as sunglasses, while Rush and Lee Arenberg wore dulled contacts that gave a sinister feel to the characters. Mackenzie Crook wore two contacts to represent his character's wooden eye: a soft version, and a harder version for when it protrudes. In addition, their rotten teeth and scurvy skin were dyed on, although Depp did have gold teeth added, which he forgot to remove after filming. Depp also used a genuine pistol which was made in 1760 in London, which the crew bought from a dealer in Connecticut. The crew spent five months creating the cavern in which Barbossa and the Black Pearl crew attempt to reverse their curse, filling it with five feet of water, 882 Aztec coins, and some gold paint on the styrofoam rocks for more impressions of treasure. The crew also built the fortress at Port Royal in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and Governor Swann's palace was built at Manhattan Beach. A fire broke in September 2002, causing $525,000 worth of damage, though no one was injured.
The filmmakers chose St. Vincent as their primary shooting location, as it contained the quietest beach they could find, and built three piers and a backlot for Port Royal and Tortuga. Of most importance to the film were the three ships: the Black Pearl, the Dauntless, and the Interceptor. For budget reasons, the ships were built on docks, with only six days spent in the open sea for the battle between the Black Pearl and the Interceptor. The Dauntless and the Black Pearl were built on barges, with computer-generated imagery finishing the structures. The Black Pearl was also built on the Spruce Goose stage, in order to control fog and lighting. The Interceptor was a re-dressed Lady Washington, a full-scale replica sailing ship from Aberdeen, Washington, fully repainted before going on a 40-day voyage beginning December 2, 2002, arriving on location on January 12, 2003. A miniature was also built for the storm sequence.
Shooting began on October 9, 2002 and wrapped by March 2003. The quick shoot was only marred by two accidents: as Jack Sparrow steals the Interceptor, three of the ropes attaching it to the Dauntless did not break at first, and when they did snap, debris hit Depp's knee, though he was not injured, and the way the incident played out on film made it look like Sparrow merely ducks. A more humorous accident was when the boat Sparrow was supposed to arrive in at Port Royal sank. In October, the crew was shooting scenes at Rancho Palos Verdes, by December they were shooting at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and in January they were at the cavern set at Los Angeles. The script often changed with Elliott and Rossio on set, with additions such as Gibbs (Kevin McNally) telling Will how Sparrow allegedly escaped from an island – strapping two turtles together with rope made of his back hair – and Pryce was written into the climactic battle to keep some empathy for the audience.
Because of the quick schedule of the shoot, Industrial Light & Magic immediately began visual effects work. While the skeletal forms of the pirates revealed by moonlight take up relatively little screentime, the crew knew their computer-generated forms had to convince in terms of replicating performances and characteristics of the actors, or else the transition would not work. Each scene featuring them was shot twice: a reference plate with the actors, and then without them to add in the skeletons, an aesthetic complicated by Verbinski's decision to shoot the battles with handheld cameras. The actors also had to perform their scenes again on the motion capture stage. With the shoot only wrapping up four months before release, Verbinski spent 18-hour days on the edit, while at the same time spending time on 600 effects shots, 250 of which were merely removing modern sailboats from shots.
Verbinski managed the score with Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, who headed 15 composers to finish the score quickly. Alan Silvestri, who had collaborated with Verbinski on Mouse Hunt and The Mexican, was set to compose the score, but Bruckheimer decided to go with Zimmer's team, frequent collaborators of Bruckheimer's productions, Silvestri left the production before recording any material.
The film was a big success. However, before its release, many journalists expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a flop. The pirate genre had not been successful for years, with Cutthroat Island (1995) a notable flop. The film was also based on a theme park ride, and Johnny Depp, known mostly for starring in cult films, had little track record as a box office leading man. Walt Disney Pictures also took a big risk in allowing it to be the first PG-13 rated film by the studio, with one executive noting that she found the film too intense for her five-year old child, because it was rated PG-13. Nonetheless, the studio was confident enough to add The Curse of the Black Pearl subtitle to the film in case sequels were made, and to attract older children. Verbinski disliked the new title because it is the Aztec gold rather than the ship that is cursed, so he requested the title to be unreadable on the poster. Their confidence paid off: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl opened at #1, grossing $46,630,690 in its opening weekend and $70,625,971 since its Wednesday launch. It eventually made its way to $654,264,015 worldwide ($305,413,918 domestically and $348,850,097 overseas), becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2003.
Overseas, it dominated for seven consecutive weekends at the box office, tying the record of Men in Black II at the time. Only three movies after that broke the record, its sequel, Dead Man's Chest, (with nine consecutive #1 weekends and ten in total), Avatar (with 11 consecutive #1 weekends) and The Smurfs (with eight consecutive #1 weekends). It is currently the 55th-highest-grossing film of all time.
The film has received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 79% of 205 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it received a rating average of 7.1/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 63 based on 40 reviews. Alan Morrison of Empire felt it was "the best blockbuster of the summer," acclaiming all the comic performances despite his disappointment with the swashbuckling sequences. Roger Ebert acclaimed Depp and Rush's performances, with "It can be said that [Depp's] performance is original in its every atom. There has never been a pirate, or for that matter a human being, like this in any other movie... his behavior shows a lifetime of rehearsal." However, he felt the film went for too long, a criticism shared by Kenneth Turan's negative review, feeling it "spends far too much time on its huge supporting cast of pirates (nowhere near as entertaining as everyone assumes) and on bloated adventure set pieces," despite having also enjoyed Depp's performance.
For his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp won several awards, including Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 10th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Male Performance at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, and Best Actor at the 9th Empire Awards. He was also nominated for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy at the 61st Golden Globe Awards, Best Actor at the 57th British Academy Film Awards, and Best Actor at the 76th Academy Awards, in which The Curse of the Black Pearl was also nominated for Make-up, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. Awards won by Curse of the Black Pearl include Best Make-up/Hair at the 57th British Academy Film Awards, Saturn Award for Best Costumes, Golden Reel Award for Sound Editing, two VES Awards for Visual Effects, and the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) — Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Fantasy — Nominated
The DVD and VHS editions of the film were released five months after the theatrical release, December 2, 2003, with 11 million copies sold in the first week, a record for live action video. It earned $235,300,000 from DVDs as of January 2004. The DVD featured two discs, featuring three commentary tracks (Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski; Jerry Bruckheimer, Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport; and the screenwriter team), various deleted scenes and documentaries, and a 1968 Disneyland episode about the theme park ride. A special three-disc edition was released in November 2004.
A PSP release of the film followed on April 19, 2005. The high-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on May 22, 2007. This movie was also among the first to be sold at the iTunes music store.
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