'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Directors on Making the Series Scary Again
In many ways "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," the latest (and good) installment in the franchise, feels like both a return-to-form and a wholly new adventure. In the film, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, once again) faces down his most fearsome threat yet in the form of Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ghostly captain obsessed with killing pirates. Much of that new-meets-old sensation comes courtesy of Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who make their franchise debut with the new film.
It's their style that gives the movie a lot of its peppy, reverential energy -- it's clear that they're fans of the series but also want to contribute something new and exciting, whether it's a look back at Jack's spirited beginnings to the mesmerizing effects that help bring Salazar and his crew to life.
Talking with Rønning and Sandberg confirmed my suspicions, as we talked about their desire to add to the canon without stepping on any of the mythology, making the series scary again, and whether or not they'd return for another installment of the franchise. (And check back next week for our discussion with Rønning and Sandberg about the movie's post-credits tag.)
Moviefone: What did "Pirates of the Caribbean" mean to you guys?
Joachim Rønning: We're fans of this franchise. We're fans of "Pirates of the Caribbean" ourselves. And the reason is I think it reminds us of the movies we grew up with -- those kinds of Hollywood adventure family movies that we grew up with when we were kids. These were movies that got into our blood. I think that going into this it was important for us to analyze why we love this franchise so much, why the audience fell in love with this franchise in the first place. And that meant going back to the first film in the series. I think it's a combination of things -- it's the spectacle, the adventure, the comedy of course, it scares you, but most importantly it's got heart. And I think it's that unique mix that we wanted to maintain going into this fifth installment.
It definitely seems like you guys wanted to make it scary again, particularly with that opening sequence with Salazar.
Espen Sandberg: We wanted it to be like the ride. We wanted it to be scary, too. I think what's great about that scene and what's great about Javier's acting is that it's both scary and funny at the same time. It's so layered. You can also sense his pain and you can also feel for him. And that's always great, of course.
What was the experience like doing your first Hollywood movie?
Rønning: The experience was great, is the short answer. I think we had a very good collaboration with the crew and the actors, with Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney. Of course you hear horror stories about directors making their first big studio movie and we were very lucky. It's been a great collaboration with them. And I think the reason for that is we had time to develop the script. We actually delayed shooting the movie so that we could continue working on the script. Literally we were on the same page. And also when we started shooting you send off the dailies and everyone is looking at the set-ups that we shoot and they liked it, from very early on. When we shot it we were left to ourselves for half a year in Australia shooting this movie. And the last thing that happened that made this a very good experience was that they liked our directors' cut.
What was the biggest change you made when you were retooling the screenplay?
Rønning: I think what we worked on the most in this was Jack Sparrow's origin story. In the mythology of the series it was important for us to not step on anything and there are a lot of fans out there who know absolutely everything. So that was tricky to maneuver. But at the same time it was important for us since we were curious about Jack Sparrow. We wanted to know who he is. Because he doesn't really have a character arc, which is tricky, because he goes through the movie and he learns absolutely nothing. So to give him a backstory was something that we thought would be really cool. It was something that we pitched getting the gig, even.
Sandberg: We also wanted him to have this backstory with Salazar. We wanted to make this personal. We wanted all of the characters to have a journey in this movie, and of course for Barbossa as well, to give that great character justice and give him a great finale.
Did you have a guiding principle in terms of what this movie was going to look like?
Rønning: Yeah, you go in with storyboards. But I do think that it is part of our style in a way, that kind of cinematic look. We love making movies for the movie theater. We like creating images for the big screen. And on this one they gave us the resources to go full out. And in that regard it's been an amazing adventure and journey for us. I'm so glad that you see that. That it has all of those things, because we put a lot of effort into it.
Would you come back for another installment?
Rønning: It's too early to talk about that.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is in theaters now.