'Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides': Everything You Need To Know

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz star in franchise's latest, out Friday.

Taking a bit of an exception with the adage about not fixing something that ain't broke, Disney shipped off from 2007's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" — a film that grossed over $960 million worldwide — and decided to change things up. Out went director Gore Verbinski and stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and in came new helmer Rob Marshall and stars Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane for "On Stranger Tides," which hit theaters Friday (May 20).

But maybe all was not well in "Pirates" land. Though "World's End," the third film in the franchise, made boatloads of cash, it was an overly long affair with a confusing plot that lost sight of the popcorn pleasures that made the series such a hit when it launched in 2003. A reworking, it seemed, was just what Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow and his pirate pals needed.

Headed into opening weekend, the changes appear to have worked. Box-office prognosticators are eyeing a debut in the $100 million range, and possibly higher, as 3-D ticket prices and, Disney hopes, positive word of mouth drive ticket sales. Before you stand in line to purchase your own, check out everything there is to know about "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

Readying the Ship

In September 2008, well over a year after "World's End" opened, Depp officially signed on to what was then simply called the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean." By that point, Knightley had long been signaling she wouldn't return for the next adventure. But it wasn't until the following April that Verbinski declared his intention to depart the franchise.

Taking his place, it turned out, was Marshall, who'd previously helmed the Oscar-winning musical "Chicago," among other projects. And then, just like that, the flick got its official "On Stranger Tides" title.

"I think [Disney is] probably looking for a fresh approach," Marshall told us in the fall of '09. "I think it's good when you're doing these series' of films, like 'Harry Potter.' It's nice to bring in a fresh approach."

Speaking of freshness, Cruz entered talks the next February to join up as Sparrow's love interest, and McShane soon followed as the villain Blackbeard.

"We have a new villain, Blackbeard, who's the nastiest pirate ever. That's Ian McShane," producer Jerry Bruckheimer told us. "And a little romance between Captain Jack and the character Penelope plays. There's a lot of humor; she brings a lot of humor to it. And the fact that she's so feisty. She plays the daughter of Blackbeard."

Setting Sail

With the cast and the decision to shoot in 3-D in place, filming kicked off early in summer 2010. Shortly thereafter, we got our first, teasing peek at Depp in character. And just after production wrapped up in the fall, the first poster popped up online.

The first trailer arrived in December, showing us the new characters, a welcome look at Keith Richards reprising his role as Jack's dad, and a whole lot of fiery action. The more things changed, thankfully, the more they stayed the same. A second trailer dove more into the film's plot, with glimpses of mermaids, zombies and the epic quest for the fountain of youth that forms the main storyline.

Coming into Port

Yes, the search for the life-bestowing fountain is the driving force in "On Stranger Tides," but the film also makes room for some romance with Cruz's Angelica — albeit romance that is never consummated.

"I think, if we did a scenario where it was Captain Jack really falling in love, it would most likely be a silent film. I think he would go completely catatonic and be unable to speak," Depp told us. "He would probably sit there and quiver for an hour and a half."

While they never get a chance to act on their long-simmering feelings for each other, they do get to spar, verbally and with swords — and always with their clothes on. "You need someone like Penélope, who's an Academy Award winner, to go up against Johnny Depp, because if they're not as good as she is, you can see it right away," Bruckheimer said. "You can't spar with Johnny unless you're brilliant."

Check out everything we've got on "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

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