Pirates on parade
With Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem, the fifth 'Pirates of the Caribbean' can do no wrong
One of my many grumbles is the way the word 'star' is overused. Say what you like about Johnny Depp (and let's face it, everyone has, more than once) he is a star, a proper old-school actor with talent and charisma levels above and beyond those of a normal human being.
When I say I'm not a Depp fan, I mean it in the sense that I never had posters of him on my walls or was ever obsessive in knowing about his private life. On the other hand, I think he's a hugely talented actor and I absolutely love Captain Jack Sparrow, his character in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Then again, who doesn't love Captain Jack?
So when given a chance to see Johnny in real life I wasn't going to turn it down. (I wouldn't have been allowed to turn it down as my 10-year-old son absolutely idolises the actor and is a massive fan of the Pirates films).
So on a filthy Sunday afternoon I found myself and several hundred other people, including my son and mother, drenched, freezing and waiting for Johnny.
Johnny doesn't really do interviews but he was joining the rest of the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge for the film's European premiere at Disneyland Paris.
Earlier that day I'd met the wonderful Geoffrey Rush, who has played baddie Barbossa since the very first Pirates film in 2003, and Javier Bardem, the titular Salazar, a villain so entrenched in 'getting' Captain Jack that even the notorious Barbossa is on the back foot.
Geoffrey Rush is also an old-school star in that he doesn't act like a witness in a trial - answering what is asked and then shutting his mouth. He talks, he tells stories, he entertains, he's a wonderful raconteur and I could happily listen to him for hours.
One of the secrets to his success, he confided, was that in all his roles, on stage and screen, he just played the same character. This is, of course, utter nonsense, Rush is famous for his ability to inhabit characters, both real (among them Lionel Logue in The King's Speech (2010) and David Helfgott in Shine, for which he won the best actor Oscar in 1996), and fantastical, like Barbossa.
When the actor speaks about Barbossa, who he has now played for the fifth time in 14 years, he slips between calling him 'he' and 'I'. As he describes Barbossa's development in that time Rush says he is full of "terrible vanity, shocking narcissism, he was the original guy spat out of the mouth of hell, the self-deluding villain in the first film and (eventually) he worked for the King. I loved having the court wig, the hint of make up and the beauty spot", Rush says animatedly. "Still the same teeth", he adds with an eye roll. "Now he's a corporate pirate, the wealth is vulgar." I reply saying, "so he's over the top, vulgar, narcissistic, despotic, likes gold… did you base him on anybody recently?" Rush throws his head back laughing, "there are parallels I think", he responds diplomatically.
In Salazar's Revenge the audience gets a glimpse of a different Barbossa. When I tell him I was genuinely touched, he says that he wept when he saw the whole thing on film. (I can't go into more detail as it would ruin part of the fun to know certain things in advance).
I ask Rush what he thinks the secret of the ongoing success of the Pirates franchise is and he replies that people just love pirates, and Captain Jack Sparrow in particular. "It's a very attractive clown/hero character, like Chaplin's Tramp." The actor goes on to say, his tongue very firmly in his cheek, "there's a young female demographic who are curiously attracted to Captain Barbossa". While Rush himself might laugh at this possibility, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
I was a bit worried about meeting Javier Bardem - Salazar is a very bad man and Bardem is very convincing in the role, however, we bonded instantly over timekeeping. We're both of the same opinion about lack of punctuality "I can forgive five minutes," Bardem says in his distinctive Southern Spanish accent. "But," he adds in a much sterner tone, "I don't forgive 10. I think it's a lack of respect - the one who does it (is late) thinks everybody's time is less important than their own."
Bardem's wife, Penelope Cruz, was in the last Pirates movie, On Stranger Tides (2011). The actor doesn't like talking about his private life and his family but I wonder if she gave him any advice. "We did talk about how it's difficult not to become a spectator when you're working with Johnny," he replies, "because Johnny becomes Jack Sparrow in front of your eyes - he's an iconic character."
He was similarly star struck when he played Bond villain Raoul Silva in Skyfall (2012): "Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, they become Bond and M in front of you and you are, 'Shit! Wow!' Because you've seen all the movies and then it's 'Oh f**k, I have to say my lines'."
I tell Bardem that I read an interview where he said he didn't have any male role models growing up. "That's not true," the actor replies. "That's what they wrote. Of course I had male role models - my brother who is six years older than me. My rugby trainers were, friends were."
I ask him if he had based Salazar on any particular men. "Oh! Wow!," the actor replies, somewhat taken aback, and then goes on to say that for him Salazar was a "wounded bull, in the arena, dying, wanting to kill the bullfighter".
Part of Salazar's make up, which took three hours to apply every morning, is a black viscous substance that comes out of his mouth when he speaks. I ask him what exactly it was. "It's called Monkey Poo," he replies. I make a disgusted 'eugh' sound. "Eugh, yeah," Bardem laughs. "It tasted like chocolate, they said. Nah!" (he shakes his head). "And I ate a lot of it."
Well if it's any consolation, it was worth it. Salazar's Revenge got the thumbs up from all three generations of my family (and God knows, pleasing all of us at the same time is some ask.) And this is despite the rank Irish characters - they're hideous but hilarious.
Back in Disneyland Paris after an hour of heavy rain and just before Johnny Depp is due to appear, the skies clear and the sun comes out. Yep, Johnny Depp is that much of a star, even the sun shines just for him.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge opens nationwide on Thursday
Sunday Indo Living