MOTW: Five Facts About "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures
January 21st, 2014

Based on Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride, the enormously successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise has its roots firmly planted in Disney history. In fact, "Pirates of the Carribbean" was the last Disney attraction that Walt Disney oversaw himself. While that iconic Magic Kingdom attraction opened in 1967, it was not until 2003 that "Pirates" became a huge household name with the release of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." These are five interesting facts about the Johnny Depp vehicle that started it all.

Named to Be a Franchise from the Beginning

The makers of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" were always hopeful that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" name would bring with it recognition from Disney fanatics. In fact, the original name of the movie was simply "Pirates of the Caribbean." However, the producers chose to lengthen the name to appeal to a wider audience, since not everybody would recognize the name of the Disneyland ride. The producers also foresaw the need to leave the door open for sequels. Of course, this idea worked out as producers were able to keep the recognizable "Pirates of the Caribbean" name and attach other titles to the franchise's later films.

Pirates: The Rolling Stones of the 1700s

Classic rock fans saw something very familiar in Johnny Depp's portrayal of Jack Sparrow, and this was no coincidence. Depp readily admitted that he modeled his depiction of Sparrow on Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The fact that Depp is actually friends with Richards gave the actor a unique and unusually detailed perspective on the rock star's personality and mannerisms. The Keith Richards connection was solidified by Richards himself appearing as Sparrow's father in subsequent "Pirates" movies. Even Richards himself admitted that he was "made for the part."

A New Market for Disney

Although the Disney company created the Touchstone and Hollywood pictures brands to release more adult-oriented fare, the Walt Disney Pictures brand has long been synonymous with family friendly entertainment. That is why it was notable when "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" became the first movie with a PG-13 rating that Disney released under its Walt Disney Pictures brand. The MPAA gave "Pirates" the relatively grown-up rating for "action/adventure violence." Indeed, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" contains a degree of violence and intensity that was unprecedented in Disney branded films. At one time, the rating may have alienated a large part of the potential audience for a Disney release. However, modern, action-loving audiences have fully embraced the "Pirates" franchise.

Tattoos: The Old and the New

The connection between pirates and tattoos has been well established for centuries. While Johnny Depp does sport a number of tattoos himself, Depp's tattoos are a far cry from the designs that the pirates of yore favored traditionally. Costume designers used a combination of make-up and clothing to cover Depp's tattoos, and they also added a fake tattoo. Although Jack Sparrow's "Jack Sparrow" tattoo was originally a temporary part of the costume, Johnny Depp obtained a real, permanent version of the tattoo after filming. Depp did not intend this tattoo as a tribute to the movie or his role in it. Rather, the tattoo was a tribute to his son, Jack.

Barbossa on the Left

Viewers who pay close attention notice that Geoffrey Rush's character appears in the left hand of the frame in many shots. While these decisions are usually made by the director and the cinematographer, in this case it was Rush himself who attempted to appear on the left of the frame as much as possible. On the commentary for the DVD, Rush admitted that he felt people watch the screen similar to they read text: from left to right. If this is true, viewers see more of Rush while he is on the left section of the screen. Rush also quipped that this was especially important while Kiera Knightly was also onscreen, since nobody would be watching him otherwise.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" launched one of the most successful movie franchises in Hollywood history. The billions of dollars and counting that the "Pirates" films have made would not have been possible were it not for the strength of the original. This was one of those huge budget projects in which everything fell into place, from the performances to the filmmaking to the Disney pedigree. These are just a few of the stories behind the movie that managed to capture the public's attention better than most others.