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Disney Aims to Wow Moviegoers with Film Version of Popular Attraction, <i>Pirates of the Caribbean</i> - 2003-07-11

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom co-star in an old-fashioned swashbuckler with a supernatural twist. Alan Silverman has a look at the new adventure-fantasy film Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl

Johnny Depp plays notorious Captain Jack, a rundown derelict of a sea dog . . . or so he seems to be when he first arrives at the 18th century British Caribbean colony of Port Royal.

"I thought that Captain Jack would be one of those guys that people would look at and say 'we can get anything past this guy, don't worry about a thing' . . . and Captain Jack would be hip to it," says Depp.

With the authorities hot on his trail, the perpetually tipsy pirate forges an unlikely alliance with young blacksmith Will Turner played by Orlando Bloom, whom audiences know as the elf warrior Legolas in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

"It's like a dream to be out there on the open seas, boat to boat battles, sword fighting, swinging on the ropes: it's great," says Bloom.

They're off on adventure to find the mutinous crew that has taken over Captain Jack's pirate ship, the "Black Pearl," and kidnapped the lovely (but n-o-t exactly helpless) Elizabeth, played by Keira Knightley.

"I loved the character of Elizabeth. She's fantastic. She is courageous and rebellious and has very pretty clothes. I completely loved her," she says.

It seems a medallion Elizabeth has worn since childhood is actually part of a stolen treasure the mutineers must reclaim in order to break an ancient curse.

Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush plays Barbossa, the ruthless leader of the mutiny.

"I turned 50 and it's like adolescence. You reassess and you think about stuff and I know that, as a character, there aren't many central roles that will come your way where you think 'I might really be able to take flight on this," he says. " I'm going to find my inner pirate.' I've been reading about piracy and there's a lot of legend. I think the reality and the legend of it are quite at odds. "

The film is inspired by and gets its title from a ride that has been a favorite of visitors to the Disneyland theme parks for more than three decades, among them Johnny Depp.

"I went on the ride when I was about seven years old. I loved it and last year as we were starting this film I took my kids to Disneyland and we went on the ride. Instantly you are transported back to your childhood. I love it," says Depp.

Of course, the mechanical figures on the ride did n-o-t help Depp create his flamboyant character. For that he used a friend as inspiration: rock star Keith Richards; and Depp went all out to create the unkempt, unwashed look of Captain Jack, from his braided hair and beard to glinting gold teeth glued on by a dentist.

Whenever someone came up and said 'should he really be that dirty? He's a little greasy,' you always had the safety net of 'pirate . . . he's a pirate.' That would kind of stop them in their tracks," he says.

Depp, who is known for submerging himself in conflicted and often quirky characters, says he was surprised by how much he came to like this one.

"It's happened to before. I guess it depends on how good you feel playing the character or how well you know him," says Depp. " It's happened to me a couple of times before, but this time it was big. You go through a period of decompression after playing the guy. I was really irritable and a little bit melancholy and I realized I missed Captain Jack. I felt so comfortable being him and being in that skin that you go 'God, am I ever going to see him again? Will I ever meet him again? Will I ever be him again?' "

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl is directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by veteran action filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer.