During the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales press even recently, I had the chance to sit down with Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg to chat about their experience making the film. This spoiler-free interview was part of the Pirates red carpet premiere and press event. Travel and accommodations were covered by Disney but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
**Note: Interview photos are courtesy of Louise Bishop of MomStart.com. Movie stills are courtesy of Disney.**
For Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, being a part of the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was a dream come true. Joachim and Espen grew up together. The childhood friends started making movies at an early age when they got a video camera (they still have some of those early films that they made together….I’m guessing that they are hilarious to watch!). Today, their children are growing up together (they have five kids between the ages of 9 and 13 between the two families) and Joachim says that the kids are best friends. What a blessing! I’m sure that their 10 year old selves had no idea where they would be at this stage in their lives.
When asked what they hoped that their own kids as well as kids watching the movie in theaters would take away from the film, Joachim said, “Something that was very important for us that we touch upon a little bit was the emotional core of the story and the kind of family theme that the film has. And, you know, a treasure is not always a chest of gold. It could be other things.”
Espen added, “Even for a pirate.”
Joachim continued, “Even for a pirate. And I think that was like something we really fought hard to do because I really inspired by the first movie in the series that had that a lot, had a big heart. And then of course you have the adventure and you have the scares and you have the comedy you know. But yeah, I hope that the audience will moved by it as well.”
Joachim said, “When we grew up, we were very influenced by Hollywood adventure family movies, you know movies that inspired us to become filmmakers in the first place. And Pirates reminds us of that. It’s very much that fun movie that gives you energy and we both have kids. It’s something they can relate to and you know be a part of.”
The opportunity to work on the fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t just fall into their laps. In fact, Espen said, “We chased it. We really wanted to make this movie. And I think the basic reason as you know Joachim and I started making movies together when we were 10. Movies that inspired us back then were the Spielberg and Lucas and Zemeckis films. And this franchise just reminds us of that. And it has that unique blend of spectacle and humor and scary parts and also a lot of heart. So that meant a lot to us.”
Because they’ve been working together for so long, Joachim remarked, “You know, we don’t really know any other way of doing this than being together. For us, it’s a very natural process. And I think it’s a collaborative one. We include the actors and the crew and everyone as part of the discussion basically. And we try to create a safe work environment as you could say. You know, where everybody is welcome and everybody can be a part of the discussion. And that’s important to us. I think that’s probably one of the strong advantages that we have as a directing team.”
They explained that through the course of the four years that they worked on the film (which, they said, is a long production time even for a big movie), there were many different ideas and concepts that they explored.
Joachim said, “I think that probably one of the things that we had the most versions of is probably Jack Sparrow’s back story and his origin story — how he became Jack Sparrow and all of that. I remember we had 10, 15 versions of that. That was a long and grueling process because the mythology of Pirates of the Caribbean, the series and movies, it’s a complex mythology and you don’t want to step on anybody’s (toes). You know there’s a lot of fans out there that knows everything. And so it was important for us to be ahead of that and not mess with any previous back stories.”
They also wanted to blend Jack’s backstory with Captain Salazar’s, so that the revenge story woven throughout this film was very personal and emotionally bound.
One of the things that everyone wanted to know was what it was like working with Johnny Depp and what the chemistry on set was like. I can only imagine how hilarious it would be to work side by side with Johnny Depp, and how different each day would be.
Joachim said, “It’s amazing. He’s so funny. And I mean, what you see with Jack Sparrow is, it’s all Johnny. And he’s a genius. I mean for us he’s like up there with Chaplin and the other ones because his timing is just perfect and he has such a weird imagination. He comes up with the craziest ideas. And for us, the highlight was always going into his trailer in the morning and going through the scenes and the lines and trying to come up with even more cool stuff to do to make it even more funny. And of course when we started shooting he would do something completely different. And everyone was sort of thrown off but that also makes it come alive and funny.”
I thought it was interesting that they pointed out that Jack Sparrow, of all characters, stays the same throughout all of the movies. He never learns from his mistakes or his experiences. Jack is Jack (thanks to Johnny Depp!). We’re grateful that Captain Jack Sparrow is who he is!
Both Joachim and Espen would love to be involved in future Pirates of the Caribbean movies, should they be given the chance. They’re crossing their fingers that this movie is well received and the fans want to see more. I know I do!
Check out this featurette that showcases Joachim and Espen’s work on the film:
It was a pleasure to meet these down-to-earth and talented directors! They even stopped to take a group picture with us before they headed out.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is in theaters everywhere now. Make plans to see it in the theater soon (and I highly recommend seeing it in 3D or IMAX!). Be sure to check out the rest of my Pirates posts (more coming!).
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