VERBINSKI, GORE - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
KEITH RICHARDS Ė THE ARTIST AS A STRANGE INSECT
When you photograph Keith Richards you don't direct, it's like nature
photography. He is a species unto himself; itís like photographing a very
strange insect, Pirates director Gore Verbinski tells John Millar.
Q: When you graduated from UCLA did you envisage that one day you would be
making large-scale movies like this?
A: Like anybody I was naive. I thought I would get a job directing and I ended
up getting a job making coffee. That was at a music video production facility.
So I was humbled early on. But I never expected this.
Q: How did the series start for you?
A: Jerry (Bruckheimer) had talked about doing a film and he called to see if I
would be interested in doing a pirate movie. That was an instant yes because I
am a huge fan and when are you going to get a call in this business and be asked
something like that. We didnít have a story at that point, but I knew this was
an opportunity not to pass up.
Q: Were you offered pop music to include in the film?
A: We have been fighting that off from the beginning. I felt that was a
Q: Keith Richards' bit of guitar music is listed on the credits as a new song?
A: He is a very wise businessman. I asked him to play Spanish Ladies and he just
played something kind of like that. We are happy to have an original Keith
Richards song in the movie. We put three cameras on him and I asked if he could
play, he sat down, we rolled and it was over; he broke a fingernail, got up and
Q: How long did you have Keith Richards with you?
A: Two days.
Q: And everything was perfect?
A: When you photograph Keith Richards you don't direct, it's like nature
photography. He is a species unto himself. When he walks on to the set he is
like a pirate and he is born out of time. It is quite apparent that the rest of
us are pretending - even Johnny. Johnny does this thing, but he can turn it on
and off; Keith has no switch, he is always like that. And he doesn't really stay
where you put him, he wobbles. You just have to be very patient and it is like
photographing a very strange insect.
Q: Were you worried you might not get anything that was useable from the two
days with Keith?
A: I did. I had to re-shoot everything the second day. It came down to making
him comfortable. What I needed was Keith being Keith. Then he walked in and saw
all these strangers. We have been making these movies for five years, we are a
tight family and then a stranger walks in and it's not another actor, it's
Keith. Put it this way, every aspect of the legend that you could possibly
imagine was true. I don't want to say anything more specific than that, but use
your imagination, it's all true.
Q: It was surprising you didn't use subtitles for his scene.
A: We had to remind him every once in a while what his lines were Ö
Q: Was there ever any resistance to the marvellous surreal scenes when Jack
Sparrow was hallucinating?
A: I don't think that anybody knew what we were doing. So we didn't have any
resistance. Once you have the idea of this personal hell, it is very liberating
- you are not burdened by narrative as you examine the madness of Jack. You can
Q: How difficult was it to do the hallucination when there are 30 or 40 versions
of Jack Sparrow?
A: Well you just break it down, the whole movie is difficult. You do the work,
do the math and plot the shots. It is difficult, but we have a great crew and
Q: What talks did you have about the running time of this movie?
A: Those talks were between myself and Ted and Terry, the writers. We were aware
of length issues but we had all seen short movies that play long and long movies
that play briskly. We picked up so many characters along the way when we were
making these movies and we were not going to abandon them. We were taking the
threads and continuing to weave the fabric to its conclusion. So we used the
complexity as an advantage.
Q: The three Pirates Of The Caribbean films have introduced so many youngsters
to movies. What was the movie that changed your life?
A: There are so many films ... In this genre I go back to Ray Harryhaussen
films. I think I saw the James Coburn, Rod Steiger Duck You Sucker! when I was
very young, probably too young and being in awe of that style of film making and
Q: What about a fourth Pirates film?
A: Nobody is talking about a Number 4. Johnny has mentioned he loves the
character so much that he would want to continue to play him. But this trilogy
is concluded and speaking for myself, I need a break.
Q: This is a darker film that even has mass hangings. Did you always plan to
A: When you have expectations after the first two movies, fulfilling them is
impossible, so I like to go back to what our state of mind was when we made the
first movie. Then we had a willingness to experiment and to fail. So we were
trying to get that same spirit of being bold and fearless and trying things. The
hangings at the beginning take place in a world where Jack Sparrow is not
present - what is that world like and why do you have to get him back and what's
at stake? I felt it important that the third film was the end of an era. Like in
a post-modern Western where the railroad comes and the gunfighter is extinct. It
seemed that we had an opportunity to take a look at a world where the legitimate
has become corrupt and there is no place for honest thieves in that society and
so you have darker issues and a little melancholy. The myths are dying. That
seemed a great theme with which to complete the trilogy.
Q: Was there ever an issue about the boy being hanged?
A: I got a call at one point from an executive saying they were concerned about
the hanging and I said not to worry it would be done with us cutting to the
thing he was holding falling ... you were not seeing anyone's neck breaking. But
I also reminded them - when they talked about the Disney brand - that when I
grew up Disney was Old Yeller and they killed Bambi's mother. Walt understood
drama, he understood accessing that part of the brain. It was always a great
place to start. Somehow that brand got corrupted and associated with something
that was almost too tranquil. If you say we are worried about the brand then my
argument is that we are being more true to it.
Q: What was the most challenging scene in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At
A: Probably the maelstrom with the two boats ... mechanically, physically and
logistically that was the most challenging. We had very little time and had to
take a quantum leap. The digital fabrication of the water was very complicated.
Q: The last scene with the boy ... is that a suggestion of a spin-off?
A: That is there for a conclusion and resolution. It was always in the script
and we have always had something at the end of the credits.
Published November 22, 2007
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