Revisiting a classic film on its 20th anniversary – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

July 23, 2023  -CNW News -2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Disney’s classic piracy adventure film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Jack Sparrow’s intoxicated swagger charmed audiences around the globe, giving birth to a multi-billion dollar franchise spanning five films, numerous toys, several video games, and multiple theme park rides.

It would be easy to say that the franchise was destined for success. Johnny Depp was a bankable star making the jump from child actor to leading man. Orlando Bloom, who played Will Turner, was fresh off working on the mega-hit Lord of the Rings franchise. And, the legendary chameleon actor Geoffrey Rush gave a scene-stealing turn as the memorable undead pirate villain, Captain Barbossa. But, Pirates of the Caribbean was a risk, so much so that Disney’s logo is absent from the original film despite bankrolling production. For its 20th anniversary, we’re revisiting the production stories, the movie’s impact, and its use of Caribbean elements.

A film set in the Caribbean, that was filmed in the Caribbean

Several Hollywood films make use of the Caribbean setting. Moviegoers and filmmakers see the sea, sand, and sun as an escape from the doldrums of urban life. Despite this, many films ostensibly set in the Caribbean are filmed entirely elsewhere. Disney’s live action adaptation of their animated classic The Little Mermaid was filmed in Sardinia, off the coast of Italy. Most of the picture was filmed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with cast and crew spending half a year on the islands. Later entries would make use of other Caribbean islands including Exuma in the Bahamas.

But, it wasn’t actually filmed in Port Royal

Large chunks of the ‘Black Pearl’ took place in Port Royal, Jamaica, but the crew never once set foot on the island. The real Port Royal was destroyed in 1692 when half of the city was ravaged by an earthquake and sank into the sea. Present-day Port Royal bears some remnants of its past but is a far cry from its piracy heyday. Instead, Port Royal’s Fort Charles was reconstructed on a bluff at Palos Verdes, California.

Were there any Caribbean crew mates on this ship?

Despite filming primarily in the Caribbean, there’s only one cast member in a speaking role of known Caribbean descent. Zoe Saldana starred in a minor role as the pirate Anamaria. While she never returned to the franchise, citing “not really having a good experience,” the part Puerto Rican, part Dominican actress hasn’t struggled to land blockbuster roles. Saldana is the only actor to star in the three highest-grossing films of all time — Avatar, Avatar: Way of the Water, and Avengers: Endgame. As of 2023, she is the 2nd highest-grossing film actress in the world.

Disney did not want their name on this film

Pirates of the Caribbean is a ride at Disney theme parks around the world. But in 2003, you’d have to squint through the credits to pick out their familiar logo. Pirate films were notorious box office bombs with Disney boasting a few in their back catalogue, releasing the animated film Treasure Planet just the year before to meager returns. On top of the financial risk, Disney’s brand up until that point was family first. The “Big Mouse” was so cautious that the initial pitch was to create a straight-to-DVD picture. It was only until super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer joined the project that the film as we know it today began to take form. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the first Disney film to be rated PG-13 paving the way for the uber-popular Marvel franchise that would debut just five years later.

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