The casting of Ian McShane as Blackbeard in Rob Marshall's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is easily one of the greatest movie news stories of the week. McShane is a powerful actor and his scenes opposite Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and the rest of the "Pirates" cast are sure to be a major draw of the film. On top of that, McShane is assuming an iconic role in Blackbeard, a fierce pirate with a lot of interest, name recognition and history – despite boasting a short and bloody lifespan.
While the actor is guaranteed to bring his own signature spin to the role, there are a few essential facts about Blackbeard that you might care to know before the fourth "Pirates" installment sails into theaters.
Enigmatic Origins: Clearly, Blackbeard wasn't born as Blackbeard. Most historians refer to him as Edward Teach, though even his last name is subject to some debate. Additionally, his precise date of birth remains unknown, though it's estimated that he was born around 1680. In fact, few details about Blackbeard are known prior to his emergence as a powerful pirate in 1717 – just one year before his death.
Lady of the Seas: Captains Jack Sparrow and Barbossa shared a noted rivalry over the ownership of the Black Pearl, and why shouldn't they – after all, what's a fierce pirate without a ship to call his own? Blackbeard is no exception, having plundered and pillaged on the high seas by way of the Queen Anne's Revenge, a French ship that Blackbeard helped capture alongside his onetime ally Benjamin Hornigold in 1717.
A Warrior's Death: Unfortunately, the Queen Anne's reign was short-lived, as was its master's. In 1718, Blackbeard ran the ship aground in the West Indies. He himself died shortly thereafter, beheaded in the thick of battle against Robert Maynard and his fellow sailors, ending the pirate's career barely after it began.
Lingering Ghosts: Despite Blackbeard's decisively brief time sailing the Caribbean waters, his presence continued to haunt his fellow seamen – several ghost stories state that after his death, Blackbeard continued to wander the seas in search of his severed head. I don't put too much stock into the supernatural, but that's certainly something that Jack Sparrow might want to watch out for.
Turning the Tides: Short though his career was, Blackbeard continues to be an icon in pirate lore and fiction – not the least of which is his role in Tim Powers' novel "On Stranger Tides," the book that the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean" film is based upon. The film won't necessarily follow Blackbeard's historical path, but with McShane at the helm, we're bound to see a menacing pirate nonetheless.
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