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‘Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Interview: Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment of the popular franchise. While the first three told a harrowing trilogy that brought back the swashbuckling fun of pirate films, the fourth was a minor sidestep in a different direction. But Dead Men Tell No Tales is a return to form for the franchise. Johnny Depp is back, reprising the role everybody is a fan of, and he is joined by some familiar faces like Geoffrey Rush who is back to play Captain Hector Barbossa. Newcomers Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario will join Depp as they attempt to find the legendary Poseidon’s Trident while trying out outrun the evil Salazar (Javier Bardem) a vengeful Spanish sea captain bent on getting revenge on Sparrow for cursing him in his decayed form.

We had a chance to attend the film’s press day where we got to join our fellow journalists and talk to Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the directors of the film. During our interview, the two talked about what it was like to join a blockbuster franchise, keeping things grounded, a possible director’s cut, and more. Check it all out below.

Geeks of Doom: So what are some of your favorite memories of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise?

Joachim Rønning: We are fans of the franchise. I think it’s because Pirates of the Caribbean reminds us of the kinds of films we grew up with when we were kids and we were making movies when we were ten years old. You know, running around with my dad’s video camera and watching Hollywood adventure family movies. Movies that inspired us to become filmmakers. I think it’s very much in our blood. So going into making this movie, it was important for us to try and analyze why we love it so much. Why the audience loves it so much. So we went back to our first love in the first movie of the series. It’s a combination of things. It has the spectacle and the adventure. It’s funny, it’s scary, and it’s got heart. I think it’s a unique mix of elements that makes up Pirates of the Caribbean. So that became very important to us going into the fifth installment.

Geeks of Doom: How do you direct someone like Johnny Depp, who knows the character so well?

Espen Sandberg: He does know the character. He invented it. He doesn’t need any direction. But it is a dialogue, and we just really want to help in any way we can. It’s a very fun dialogue to have with him. We would be with him in his trailer and go over the script and the lines and explain how we saw it and how we were going to shoot it. So we would get on set and he would do something completely different. And that’s the fun of it. He keeps everyone on their toes. It makes it really fun. He’s got an original imaginative mind that it creates these beautiful characters we all love.

Geeks of Doom: How did you shoot the bank scene and the underwater sequence? I mean, that bank scene looked like it was CGI.

Joachim Rønning: It wasn’t CGI. It is a real bank that we built.

Espen Sandberg: Not a real bank. (laughs)

Joachim Rønning: Not a real working bank. It was a real building, though. We put it on the truck and strapped the horses in front of it and there was a guy inside driving it. Then we built the town. That is part of the fun for us as directors to be able to do that. You dream up these crazy scenes and six months later, they build it. I think it’s important for us to try, as much as we can, in this fantastical universe to somehow keep it grounded. I think doing things like that, in camera, making it feel real, climbing on the bank, running through the building, and the dust, it’s all part of it.

The parting of the sea was biblical and not in camera, of course. But it was a long process with the designers and the effects supervisors, and how we can do it.

Geeks of Doom: So how long did it take to shoot both sequences?

Joachim Rønning: The bank was ten days.

Espen Sandberg: That was the longest, actually. Of all scenes.

Geeks of Doom: What about the guillotine scene?

Joachim Rønning: I think it is one of the scenes we are most proud of. It is honoring some of the physical gags they’ve had in the franchise. It was important for us to bring it back and for what inspired Johnny’s Jack Sparrow. The Buster Keatons and Charlie Chaplins. It’s just another example of you dream up something, they build it, and you strap Johnny Depp into it. Then off you go.

Espen Sandberg: He actually wanted to go again. But we were really nervous, we had a huge crowd watching.

Joachim Rønning: We were nervous about chopping his head off.

Geeks of Doom: With the Pirates franchise having such a rich history and loyal fan base, how did you guys make this your own movie?

Espen Sandberg: We really wanted to have a very strong emotional core. We wanted every character to have a journey. Like in the first one, you have this young couple that travels through the movie, and you also have strong characters surrounding them. But Jack doesn’t really have a character arc. But we still wanted to explore him too, and that’s why we created the backstory. And we were curious about how Jack became Jack Sparrow. So we tied in Salazar’s story so it became personal. And Barbossa, we wanted to give him a strong journey as well, because he’s a great character and we wanted to do him justice.

We also played around the family theme of the franchise. We tell this story about what is really the treasure, even for a pirate.

Geeks of Doom: Can you elaborate on the CGI?

Joachim Rønning: It’s a big deal to do that. It took a long to do that. Especially youthifying him.

Espen Sandberg: So for us it’s always important to make sure that it is a tool for a story and the characters. We love using CGI, but we have to get the balance right. For example, with Salazar, with all those things going on, making sure that we are keeping the face of Javier intact so that he can be a really intriguing bad guy. It is cool to see in that opening scene with Henry, with all the hair and the bone, his performance is still scary and funny. There’s a pain there that you also see that makes me you feel for him.

Geeks of Doom: Does this experience directing a blockbuster film ever overwhelm you?

Joachim Rønnin: Of course, there is no way of ever doing this quietly. Being fans of the franchise we really didn’t want to disappoint. It’s been a great collaboration with Disney, with Jerry [Bruckheimer], with the actors, we felt very welcomed. They liked what we came with, they liked what we shot, they liked the director’s cut. That helps a lot. So we were very much on the same page. For us, it is a dream come true.

Geeks of Doom: So will there be a director’s cut on the DVD or Blu-ray?

Joachim Rønnin: This is it. Of course, it’s a long process to make. But this is it. There is no other version of this movie.

Geeks of Doom: What has the global response been like?

Espen Sandberg: I think it’s been overwhelming. It’s so cool to go to Shanghai and there are thousands of screaming fans.

Joachim Rønnin: While they haven’t seen the movie, they are fans of the franchise. And that’s great to come out of it and be reminded of that, that it has a big following. We can’t wait to get it out there now.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens in theaters on May 26, 2017. Check our interviews with Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, and our review of the film as well.

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