— by Larry Carroll, with additional reporting by Jeff Cornell
When dealing with pirates one should anticipate a slew of secrets, buried treasure and saber-rattling revelations. No surprise, then, that when the creative forces behind "Pirates of the Caribbean" reunited to make two more films — back-to-back — they uncovered more surprises than they could shake a peg leg at.
"I didn't make a conscious effort to put a spring in his step or, frankly, to make him more gay," Johnny Depp recently admitted, amazed by the observations of some fans that Captain Jack Sparrow's ambiguity might extend further than just his mercenary loyalties. "[Am I trying to] be more gay? No — it might just be happening naturally."
In "Dead Man's Chest" Sparrow continues to dominate the screen and, according to Depp, he enjoys having a gay old time.
"God only knows what's on the horizon. [Maybe] 'The Mae West Story,' " he laughed. "But gay used to mean something else, didn't it? God, I'll have to see; maybe he is gay. I don't know."
For the record, the star directed one final statement of pride toward anyone who thinks Captain Jack might be a gay character: "Thank you very much."
Regardless of which way Captain Jack steers his ship, leading lady Keira Knightley had no qualms when she uncovered her most pleasant surprise in the "Dead Man's" script, namely, a kissing scene with the dashing Depp.
"He's still a good kisser," she blushed when asked about possible complications involving Jack Sparrow's gold teeth. "Definitely, no complaints."
The scene comes during one of the movie's tensest moments, as the evil Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) attempts to pull the constantly flirting Sparrow down to his locker, and Knightley's Elizabeth and fiance, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), along with him. "[It was] lovely," Knightley said of being caught in a love triangle between two Hollywood hunks. "I've been asked [who is better], and there's no point. Because if you can have both, why not? I highly recommend kissing both of them."
The double kisses, coupled with Sparrow's scoundrel nature and Will's wholesome heroism, have also led to another theory that surprised the stars: That the "Pirates" characters owe a bit of themselves to the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
"I'm the straight guy to the foil; you have to have the straight guy to make it work," Bloom said of his Luke Skywalker-like status, shrugging his shoulders. "We definitely had points where I was like, 'I wish I could have a tattoo across my forehead and get to do some crazy kind of sh--,' but that's his thing, man."
According to veteran actor Nighy, all Bloom can do is stand back and enjoy the ride.
"The only challenge when working with [Depp] is to keep a straight face, because he is so profoundly witty and he never stops," the "Underworld: Evolution" star said. "Even in reaction shots, he's kind of doing stuff and it's just stupid and funny and absolutely brilliant."
"When I first read the script I was like, 'How am I gonna [pull this off]?' " said Bloom, admitting his fears of playing second fiddle to Jack Sparrow. "But it's a fantastic character for him, and he can sort of take it anywhere he likes."
Depp indeed can and does take it anywhere, even if that place happens to be Disneyland, where the stars recently attended the re-opening of a classic ride, now with three Captain Jacks but not a single Will or Elizabeth.
"Really?" asked Knightley, surprised by the news. "I think that's very rude. I can't believe it. I'm not going to be in the Disney ride? That's a shame."
"I would be privileged," Bloom said, hoping Disney will perhaps reconsider. "At the moment it's a bit of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, so that's obviously Jack Sparrow and Barbossa, and I think there's a bit of the new Davy Jones, too."
"It's totally surreal," Depp said of his own inclusion. "I'll have to take the ride and see it, but I don't know that that kind of thing will ever make sense, at least to me."
For Knightley, the success of the "Pirates" films means far more than having a mechanistic doppelgänger waving its arms for tourists.
"Those puppets kind of freak me out a bit," she laughed. "So I'm all right with not being robotic."
Then there's Nighy, who is fortunate enough to have made the Disney ride, albeit in a transformed state that leaves him unrecognizable to his friends and family. It's the culmination of a bizarre process that has Davy Jones' cursed crew developing new marine-life-like features as the movie progresses — and had Nighy dressed like a member of a 1980s new wave band.
"I had these dots on my face for the computer tracking points; I had some squid-like makeup around my eyes to blend in with the rest of the creature, and then I had to wear this very silly Devo-like red-dotted pajama hat," the actor said, remembering his initial astonishment at the bizarre special-effects getup. "It was a giant skull cap with a horrible little white bobble on the top. Honestly, I look like Devo's dad."
"My fear was that even if the creature was successful, it would look like it was in a different dimension than the real people," Nighy said. "The first time I got any of the images I was photographing and texting them on the phone, just sending them home to creep people out."
At least Nighy had a better idea of what he would look like than Stellan Skarsgard ("Good Will Hunting," "Ronin"), whose haunted character Bootstrap Bill has barnacles growing on his face, often in the middle of a line of dialogue.
"I knew what I had to deal with," laughed the actor, who plays Will's father in the flick. "I'm the only one that is not CGI, except for those movements in my face. Everything else is really there. I spent four and a half hours in makeup every day to get it. [Bill's evolution into a sea creature] develops in six different stages throughout the two movies, so you'll see me even worse in the next one."
According to Depp, the biggest surprise of the "Pirates" series has also been the most pleasant one: his newfound status as a hero to everyone — gay and straight, young and old.
"They've seen it a zillion times," he said of his children and their love for the original film. "You'd walk into a room looking for something, and suddenly you'd hear that familiar score, or the voice, and just exit as quickly as possible. It's normal [for them]. All they've ever known is seeing Papa on television or on a DVD cover.
"There are times," he continued, grinning, "where my daughter will say, 'Will you do that? Will you do the voice?' And I'll do it, and then she'll go, 'OK, great. Thanks.' "