BEVERLY HILLS, California — The opening weekend of one of the most anticipated films in years has come and gone, and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" took home a predictably impressive booty. Now, with a third film due May 2007, the time has come to try to get the pirate performers to cough up their secrets.
"I am so not going to say anything!" an indignant Keira Knightley shrieked recently when pressed for details on "At World's End," the newly titled third and final "Pirates" flick. "I'd have to kill you if I said anything. It would be very messy."
So, like a child running from mommy's "no" to daddy's "yes," sometimes the best thing a fan can do is keep trying until a desired answer is given. And although Knightley is threatening bodily harm, series director Gore Verbinski is happy to discuss the Herculean task that would have most directors running for the hills like Jack Sparrow when faced with headhunters.
"I hope that you feel like there was an era and that era came to an end and there was a reason why," said Verbinski of the trilogy. "It's nice to make a pirate movie, expand that movie and then almost do the postmodern version of that pirate movie in a trilogy. That's what I like about 'At World's End,' because not only do we have to go to the end of the world, but there's also a double meaning because of what happened there. You'll see."
"We're going back soon," Orlando Bloom said of the final leg in the "Pirates" journey, which begins shooting next month. "We're going back to film three more months."
This much we know: "End" will begin where "Chest" concludes, building off the surprise ending that brought back a pivotal character from "The Curse of the Black Pearl." Chow Yun-Fat ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") will join the cast as the mysterious Captain Sao Feng. The film opens and is largely set in Singapore, utilizing a massive set that inhabited Universal's Hollywood lot for months. Oh, and if you think you've seen the last of Captain Jack Sparrow, you're as clueless as a pirate wearing two eye patches.
"Are they gonna stay on?" Johnny Depp said of Sparrow's trademark gold teeth, currently adorning his mouth. "Only until we're done filming number three. Then I'll have to go through the process of yanking them."
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With the seemingly imperiled Sparrow returning, fans can look forward to the aftermath of his love-triangle-creating kiss with Knightley, as well as further developments in his relationship with gypsy hostess with the mostess Tia Dalma.
"It's supposed to be that we're lovers," revealed actress Naomie Harris, who plays the mysterious soothsayer. "We talked about it in rehearsals, but Gore left it up to us, really, to come up with our own stories ourselves."
In the third film, Tia Dalma's role is expanded substantially, and she even gets to see some action. "I go on a ship with all the guys and go on their journey, which is really nice," Harris revealed. "No fighting, although I do throw a bomb. That's as physical as I get."
Verbinski, who calls Yun-Fat "fantastic, such a pleasure to work with," says that his character and the Singapore location — which includes a scene in a bathhouse — will bring a welcome change to the pirate tale.
"Fortunately, just when [staleness] starts happening in the third movie, we get to have an Asian influence," he said. "The pirates get a whole changeover, and that's really nice because you get kind of sick of the same old [thing]: beard, slap on the hat, put on the bandanna, put in the rotten teeth, argggh!"
"At World's End" will also resolve the tender story line between Will and his damned daddy, Stellan Skarsgard's "Bootstrap" Bill Turner. Revealing that "you'll see me even worse off in the next one," Skarsgard said this about the cost-cutting strategy of shooting two sequels simultaneously: "Basically it's like making one five-hour movie and then chopping it up in two."
"It's inevitably triage every day on the set," Verbinski laughed while discussing the process that will take more than four years of his life. "You have release dates coming at you, and you've got two massive puzzles that have been dumped out on a table. The pieces are all mixed up, and we're in Dominica and we're filming scenes for 'Pirates 2,' and while we're here, because we have to clean out and we're not going to come back, we have to get a scene from 'Pirates 3' that hasn't been written yet.
"We've had a skeleton of both movies, so even though certain scenes weren't written, we knew what they were about," the director continued. "Pages would come in on Wednesday, the actor would get them on Friday and then we would shoot them on Monday."
After the final round of shoots (scheduled to take place from August to the end of October), Verbinski plans to give audiences a film that is both thrilling and cohesive when it hits theaters come May. "You can't give them the same thing again," he said of his promise to the audience. "You have to surprise them, and you have to take it up a notch and give them twists and turns. Inevitably, part of those twists and turns is taking them places that they don't expect, and it creates anticipation of the third film, with many people feeling like the three films were designed as one epic tale.
"Well, they weren't," the director added. "But I want to be able to look at all three films on DVD someday and be like, 'That was a cohesive trilogy.' "
"You'll have to wait and see," the tough-to-crack Knightley said. "It should be good, though."
Want to hear Johnny Depp's take on Jack Sparrow's ambiguous sexuality? Curious about how Keira Knightley handles a love triangle with Depp and Orlando Bloom? Sail on over to our Flick'd feature, "Ahoy, Hotties!"
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