Interview By: Stephen Snart
“Hello, my name’s Gore,” the director affably states as he sits down for his interview. The director exhibits a humility that one wouldn’t necessarily expect from a filmmaker whose films have grossed an aggregate total of over $570 million dollars at the domestic box office. Since his feature film debut in 1997 with Mouse Hunt, Gore Verbinski has worked feverishly on projects of varying scale and tone â€“ all of which have attracted the attention of A-List actors.
Boasting a resume that includes such mind bogglingly diverse work as The Mexican, The Ring, The Weather Man and The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Verbinski has shown no signs of slowing down. He admits the schedule has been a bit strenuous. “I would like to finish the third movieâ€¦ and then get to a place where I don’t know what I’m going to do next. Because what happens is, really since The Ring, every film has overlapped. Post on one has been prep on the other. I want to finish the third movie and then take some time off and kind of reassess.”
Fans may be dismayed to hear about this planned lull in filmmaking but who can blame him after the gargantuan undertaking that the Pirates trilogy has turned out to be. When the project started, it didn’t have its lineage planned out for it, “We made this first movie and expected that to be it.” But as Verbinski explains, “the best characters are ones where I feel like, ‘If I open that door, there’s another movie behind that guy.’” The creative team took some of the loose ends from the first film, like “Bootstrap” Bill, and used them to retroactively design the sequels. “That’s the most fun. Looking at that blank canvas and going, ‘Now we have to make, not just three episodes, but a three-pack DVD where you can pull it down from a shelf years later and
He continues about the hardships of a trilogy by discussing the possible narrative pitfalls of a trilogy. “I think there’s always a problem with second films in a trilogy. Sometimes they feel like they’re just on their way somewhere. We wanted to make sure the film was really entertaining. The challenge was to take action and kind of pervert it. I’m not interested in car chases and helicopters and I’m not interested in sword fights and canons. So if I have a sword fight I want to put it on a wheel. The challenges were to take action and keep it somewhat absurd and make it fun so that it doesn’t gnaw at you too much.”
When he finally does regale us with a long-awaited sword fight, the results are breathtaking. Verbinski explains that he accomplished the scenes by using a careful mixture of stunt doubles and real actors. “We had a really good stunt team. I try to design a sequence so that the actors are doing the part that I’m going to use and they’re not learning the entire fight if they don’t have to. They have so much to do and it’s really hard for them to learn a long sword fight sequence. And I don’t need them to learn it, frankly. And I don’t need them to get injured if I’m doing a helicopter shot or a wide shot of figures on a Church in silhouette. I know where I’m going to cut into the choreography and that’s the part that they learn.” But how did the actors feel about this approach? “Orlando [Bloom] and Keira [Knightly] like to do a lot of their own work. Johnny [Depp] is ‘Oh just punch me in for the close-up, darling.’” After this admission Verbinski is quick to add, “Once he does it he’s a natural, he has so much
On the subject of actors, how did Verbinski get such a talented actor like Bill Nighy to appear virtually unrecognizable in one of the year’s biggest films? “Basically you lie to him,” he concedes with a chuckle. “It was very daunting. I was very concerned with how much of Bill‘s performance we were going to lose and I couldn’t let Bill know I was concerned about that.” While the other actors were dolled up in their make-up, Nighy had to appear on set in a spandex suit with dots on his face since his character would be created almost exclusively in visual effects after the fact. “He’s surrounded by people in hair and make-up and he has to commit. And he feels like the complete geek you know. But he’s a really committed actor. He would just turn it on.”
Many will be surprised by the inclusion of a poignant subplot involving Will and his father, “Bootstrap” Bill Turner. The scenes feel like something more out of a small, personal film like The Weather Man rather than a summer blockbuster. “The summer landscape for films is just such a monstrous popcorn-fest. You have to find something that resonates. Especially if you’re dealing with a period film with Davy Jones. How do I, as a director, grab on to that and find the handle bars and tell that story? I have to find something in there that is human. And family is very human to me.”
Before leaving, Verbinski reveals that production on the next entry in the series is about a third of the way completed. Fans can expect a summer 2007 release for the highly-anticipated conclusion to this enormously entertaining trilogy.