Friday, May 18, 2007

‘Because you just don’t want to say goodbye to that guy’

Johnny Depp on Captain Jack Sparrow, the Pirates series and, of course, his hero Keith Richards

Johnny Depp is always considered to be one of the gifted actors of our time, who has carved out a career as unpredictable and surprising as the man himself. To mention but a few on his resume, he has played an undercover FBI agent in Donnie Brasco, a gypsy in Chocolat, a drug dealer in Blow, the world’s worst film director in Ed Wood and the gloriously debauched Earl of Rochester in The Libertine.

But the one role that made him the icon of popular imagination is Captain Jack Sparrow, the lovable rogue, who, according to the 43 year old actor, was partly based on one of his own heroes, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who incidentally also stars in the latest version.

As Depp, along with co-stars Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom, returns with the third installment of the movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, here’s actor on his role as Captain Jack and the Pirates trilogy.
How does it feel now you have finished the three Pirates films? Is there some perspective about the whole experience at this point or does that come later?
Even though we finished the third one roughly six months ago, I’m still kind of swimming in it, if you know what I mean. I don’t have that distance on it and the smoke hasn’t cleared yet. But all in all, it’s a positive reflection and I love the experience and even at its most gruelling, it was positive.

Was it gruelling at times?

Oh yeah. Sure. More than anything physically not just for me but for the crew having to hump seriously heavy equipment up these mountains. It was pretty intense. Like when we were on Dominique. And sometimes when you are out at sea you get rough seas and you don’t know what to expect and some of the cast didn’t take kindly to that and turned various shades of green.

Are you a good sailor in that respect?

It doesn’t bother me oddly enough. I don’t mind the sea at all.

Everyone says that filming on water always takes twice as long. Did you find that?

Oh yeah it’s an obstacle course, right up close to impossible. But somehow these guys did it.

What was it like that final day as Jack Sparrow? That must have been a big moment in your life?
Oh yeah, it was. It was one of those moments where you are just doing anything you can to postpone it. I remember going to Gore (Verbinski, director) and he was saying ‘I think we’ve got everything man but do you want another take?’ And I’d say; yeah, yeah, let’s do another take. Let me try something else.’ And then once we’d got it I said to him ‘are you sure there is nothing else we can shoot?’ Because you just don’t want to say goodbye to that guy. You’ve been that person for umpteen months and you don’t want to say goodbye, it’s very strange.

Did they mark the occasion in any way?

Yeah, the crew and Gore put together this really beautiful collage of photographs, this massive thing and framed it and signed it. We had a big cake and champagne. It was very moving. It was like we were all saying goodbye to Captain Jack in that moment.

And he is a character that has changed your life?

Oh yeah. He’s brought a lot of good things into my world and into my kiddies’ world so I will always hold him in very high regard even aside of the fact that it’s been an absolute pleasure to play him.

So would you play him again?

I reckon you can never say never. I mean, with some things you can but in terms of this I don’t think so. If I were approached to play Captain Jack again, under the right circumstances you know, with the all the right and proper elements involved and a good script I would definitely give it some serious thought.

I have to ask you about Keith Richards…
Oh that was great. God, it was great. He was just so cool. First of all not just for me, but also for the entire crew it was so special. I mean, seeing Keith Richards arrive for work totally prepared like, beautiful, 7.30, 8 o’ clock in the morning. It’s like ‘what?’ (laughs) It was incredible.

Did you worry that he might be keeping rock ‘n roll time and be a bit late on set?

Well, you just don’t know (laughs). You don’t know. It’s totally outside of his arena. But boy, what a professional man. He came in and just smoked us. He was amazing. Just amazing. And adorable. This crew have been working together since 2002 when we did Pirates 1 and it’s the first time that I’ve seen the entire crew show up on set and instead of 200 people it was like 500 or a 1,000 you know. (laughs). We were all peaking, trying to get a glimpse of the maestro.

Did you hang out after work?

Yeah, yeah. We spent a bunch of time together. My only comment to him was that he seems to know how to draw a crowd. He was super, super sweet and couldn’t have been nicer to everyone or more accommodating. He came in like a gunfighter.

Was he on set many days?

I think it was four or five days. And I know there were all kinds of speculation and weird reports from set that didn’t actually happen, but he was incredibly savvy in terms of it all. I don’t think he has ever done a film before and he was like ‘oh, so I stand here and say this and then I walk over here and do this..’ and it was ‘yeah, that would be great..’ And then it was two takes and Gore was like ‘Oh OK, next..’ I started calling him Two Take Richards.

Did it inform your performance at all? You’ve said before that Keith was the inspiration for Jack so what was it like having the inspiration there?

It was great man, it was great. This is going to sound strange, but as Jack I felt like I’d known Keith a lot better and for a lot longer than Johnny has. You know? You know, if I had the guise, or if I was in Jack mode it was a lot easier to play around and improvise and it was almost like a jam session in that sense.

Whereas for me, for Johnny, it would get to a certain point and I’d clam up.

Because you are in awe of him?
Well, there’s that side that can never escape that fact. On one level there’s this guy Keith and he’s a terrific guy to hang out with and he’s a really wonderful man. But there’s always that sort of thing that reverberates with me - he is one of my guitar heroes and I can never escape that.

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