Chapter Excerpt


Vanessa Paradis loved spending Oscar night with Johnny Depp. At long last, the man she says she wants to spend the rest of her life with was finally achieving the kind of achievement that all Hollywood was applauding. If he hadn’t played the role that had won him such acclaim, if he wasn’t attending as a nominee, then perhaps there was no way that he and Vanessa would have come out for the big night in February 2004, the earliest in the year that the Academy Award rituals had ever been staged.

Nor would he and Vanessa have been hobnobbing with Johnny’s celebrity peers. They would have probably preferred to stay home. As Johnny is quick to point out, ‘I’m happy to say that I know nothing at all about who’s in or out, or anything about the Hollywood scene. I don’t watch contemporary films and I don’t read trade magazines, I just don’t know who’s doing what, or who’s a failure and who’s a success.’

All the same, he was completely shocked ‘that a movie which I was part of made a whole lot of money, and that thousands of kids went to see it. When a little kid approaches me on the street and screams “Hey, you’re that Captain Jack Sparrow!” then I am always deeply touched.’

‘That Captain Jack Sparrow,’ as the kids called him, was the lead character in Jerry Bruckheimer’s surprise summer hit of 2003, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. A film that was based on one of the top attractions in Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom.

Even though Roger Ebert, writing his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, couldn’t quite understand the point of it, and called it ‘a movie that charms the audience and then outstays its welcome.’ With a $305 million gross in America and another £27 million in Britain, where it ran second only to The Matrix Re-Loaded as the biggest box office hit of the year, one could hardly say that it had outstayed its welcome.

Perhaps another point that Ebert had overlooked was the fact that, hit or not, the film was both stellar in its storytelling and in its cast. It is essentially the story of the roguish, yet charming, Captain Jack Sparrow, for whom the crystalline waters of the Caribbean, and high seas the world over, present a vast playground where adventure and mystery abound. But Jack’s idyllic pirate life capsize after his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa, steals his ship, the Black Pearl, and later attacks the town of Port Royal, kidnapping the Governor’s beautiful daughter, Elizabeth Swann.

Elizabeth’s childhood friend, Will Turner joins forces with Jack to commandeer the fastest ship in the British fleet, the HMS Interceptor, in a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl. The duo and their ragtag crew are pursued by Elizabeth’s betrothed, the debonair and ambitious Commodore Norrington aboard the HMS Dauntless.

Unbeknownst to Will, a cursed treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as the undead, with only the moonlight eerily transforming them into living skeletons. The curse they carry can only be broken if the plundered treasure is restored in total, and a blood debt repaid.

Against all odds, the Interceptor and Dauntless race toward a thrilling confrontation with Barbossa’s pirates on the mysterious Isla de Muerta. At stake is Jack Sparrow’s revenge, the Black Pearl, a fortune in forbidden treasure, the lifting of the pirates’ curse that has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as skeletons, the fate of the British navy, and the lives of our valiant heroes as they clash their swords in fierce combat against the dreaded Pirates of the Caribbean.

Perhaps that’s why Roger Ebert considered it pointless, because, as he put it, although ‘the characters keep us interested during entirely pointless swordfights,’ He points out that the pirates ‘are already dead, they cannot be killed, so doesn’t that mean there’s no point in fighting them?’ But surely this misses the whole point of pirate movies – fighting. Although he may not agree with that summation, he does concede that Johnny’s performance was pretty much faultless. ‘He seems to be channelling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly. It can be said that his 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. There’s some talk about how he got too much sun while he was stranded on that island, but his behaviour shows a lifetime of rehearsal. He is a peacock in full display.’ Even when he arrives on shore in a dilapidated boat, he’s told, ‘You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of.’ Yes, he replies, ‘but you have heard of me.’