Pirates of the Caribbean Posters
Chapter 7 - Return to The Bahamas
Following three tough, sweaty weeks of shooting the Singapore sequence, the company flew back to Grand Bahama Island in late September 2005 for the continuation of “Dead Man's Chest” water shooting in the massive tank and on the open seas, with marine coordinator Dan Malone and picture boat coordinator Will White, and their respective teams on dozens of support craft keeping everything afloat.
Following a Christmas/New Year break, the company returned to The Bahamas one last time in the second week of January 2006. First, back on the tiny sand spit of White Cay in The Exumas, Verbinski filmed the “Parlay” scene with the big guns of Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and Tom Hollander (interspersed with final scenes of the “Dead Man's Chest” three-way swordfight, which had not yet been filmed to conclusion). “The Exumas, which we used in both movies, was very difficult but unbelievably organized,” says first assistant director Dave Venghaus. “It should have been a lot more miserable than it was. We went back three times to that location to accomplish the work, and it was an extraordinary crew that really pulled it together. The transportation and marine departments once again put two huge barges off of White Cay as a basecamp, and we took the cast and crew to the island on smaller craft. The crew accepted the challenge, and then rose to it really well.”
Then it was back to the tank on Grand Bahama, with shooting alternating between the final sequences necessary to complete “Dead Man's Chest” once and for all-nearly one year after the cameras first rolled-and then the required, and very numerous, water sequences for “At World's End.” The weather on Grand Bahama had now cooled considerably, enough so that parkas had to be donned for night shooting. The late winter weather also kicked up the seas considerably, as Verbinski and the company learned the hard way on the night of February 2nd, 2006, as they attempted to shoot an exciting “At World's End” sequence in which Elizabeth Swann and a group of Chinese pirates escape imprisonment on the Flying Dutchman by climbing a rat line connecting that ship to the Empress-Captain Sao Feng's flagship junk-which is being towed behind. A stiff wind whipped the waters into a whirlpool, with the Dutchman and the Empress tossed about like toys, and the smaller support craft even more so.
“That night was surreal,” recalls stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge. “The stuntmen had to negotiate a 150 foot long rat line, hand-over-hand, while alternating their leg holds on the rope as they went. The physical demands were already extreme, but what we didn't anticipate was bad weather and rough seas. We're not talking just rolling waves…we're walking about a churning cauldron of wickedly, unpredictable, rough water. The seas became too rough for the pick-up boats to navigate, the rat line itself was heaving up and down as much as 10 feet. Conditions couldn't have been worse. We ended up using another vessel that had a roof to get the stuntmen off the rope. The roof had to be reinforced, as it wasn't mean tot carry the weight of people on top. The stuntmen had to time their transfer from the heaving rope to spotters on the boat's roof. The real stunts were performed behind-the-scenes that night!”
As the incredibly brave stunt players climbed the rope between ships, and the marine department crafts desperately tried to remain afloat without capsizing (although at least one did, with no one hurt), executive producer Eric McLeod noted, “Take a good look at this. You'll never see moviemaking on this scale again. Soon it'll all be done with blue screen. This is movie history being made.”
The supporting cast, depending upon when they were needed for filming, would come and go from The Bahamas with regularity. “That was a great luxury,” notes Jonathan Pryce, who plays Governor Weatherby Swann, “because since we started shooting I did both a West End play and Broadway musical in between my work for `Pirates.' It's always nice to come back, see some friends, visit for a few days or a couple of weeks, then go off and do something else.
“It means people are very pleased to see me when I arrive,” adds Pryce with a laugh. “I'm full of admiration for the crew, the majority of whom worked on all three films, and their energy never diminished, nor has Gore's enthusiasm and inventiveness on set amongst this huge machine. Gore always finds time for the actors and the acting, because he knows that's ultimately what the audience focuses on. In a film of this size and success, there's no sense of complacency. It's a bit like doing a musical where there is no place for cynicism. We laugh a lot on `Pirates,' but when you're doing it, you're doing it for real.”
Strangely enough, the very last scene to be filmed for “Dead Man's Chest,” on February 7, 2006, was Johnny Depp's very first appearance in the film as Captain Jack Sparrow, popping out of a casket which has just been hurled into the Turkish sea. At last, Gore Verbinski could concentrate solely on “At World's End,”
Much of “At World's End” is set on the sea, and in addition to the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman, Rick Heinrichs had even more ships to design for the film. The Empress and the Hai Peng are both Chinese junks, but a real study in contrasts. The Empress is the elaborately decorated flagship of Singaporean pirate Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), the Hai Peng a much more modest affair, a junk that really looks like junk, composed of rotting, decrepit wood and thatched roofing on its deck structure. “For the Empress, we were taking off on the idea of Captain Sao Feng as something of a peacock,” explains Heinrichs, “so there are design elements which reflect that, such as the long arc of its shape which seems to almost swoop up into a tail on the rear of the ship. There are sail extensions on the sides of the ship which are almost like feathers that help to drive the ship forward.” Sao Feng's elaborate cabin on the Empress was separately constructed on a Walt Disney Studios sound stage, layered with sensual fabrics, a multitude of burning candles which created atmospheric lighting, and a moon gate entrance.
“It really takes great craftsmanship to make a ship like the Empress,” says Chow Yun-Fat. “The only problem was that because I was born into a family of farmers, I never went on ships. So when I was on the Empress I got seasick after I went on board! So although the ship was beautiful, I didn't have any feelings because I was too dizzy!”
Fully half of the Endeavour, Lord Cutler Beckett's imposing East India Trading Company flagship, was constructed for filming in Grand Bahama Island, with the remainder to be added by CG imagery. Beckett's cabin on the ship was built in the studio, its design reflecting his vaunted view of himself as someone making over the entire world. “There's sort of a Chaplinesque Great Dictator aspect to Beckett,” says Heinrichs, “which we can see in the huge globe that's in his cabin, kind of a counterpart to the big map of the world that's in his Port Royal office. On Beckett's desk in the cabin are toy ships and navigational devices which intentionally resemble instruments of torture. He not only has the world in a vise, but he's going to flay it as well.”
Spending that much time at sea, particularly as fall turned it both cooler and choppier, tested the mettle of even the hardiest “Pirates.” “I mean, you're on a boat 10, 12, 14 hours a day,” notes Martin Klebba. “There's no way to walk away somewhere and collect your head. You're on a boat with another hundred or so people all trying to make the movie the best they can. They kept us plied with lots of water and food, brought boxed lunches to the ships, but you have no control of the sea tossing you about, mentally you get drained, and finally you go back to the hotel, wake up eight hours later and do it all over again. And even in your bed at night, or sitting at a computer, everything is still rocking back and forth. It's like being on a roller coaster.”
“The terrible thing about filming out at sea is that you are used to doing your work, sitting down, and maybe having a coffee and a read,” adds Kevin R. McNally, who plays sea salt Joshamee Gibbs. Every time you sit down somewhere in the Black Pearl, some guy says `Excuse me, I have to move that cannon' or `Hold on, I just have to pour some blood over this guy.' So you just basically spend 10 hours a day circling the boat like a cat trying to find somewhere to settle. It's exhausting.”
Two days before the company wrapped on Grand Bahama, thus completing its Caribbean shoot, it all seemed to come full circle during the filming of a climactic sequence for “At World's End” in which the pirates of the Black Pearl unfurl the Jolly Roger and raise it high over the masts. A speaker blared Hans Zimmer's huge, stirring music written expressly for this scene, and goosebumps started to appear on the arms of virtually the entire company. This was what many civilians think moviemaking is really like: sort of like watching a film, only live.
An apt phrase, to be sure, especially when describing how the Black Pearl was shipped, lock, stock and barrels-literally-in a gigantic float-on/float-off yacht carrier called the Super Servant 3, from Southern Florida, through the Panama Canal, and to Ensenada, Mexico. The Pearl then sailed on her own steam to Los Angeles after shooting finally wrapped on Grand Bahama Island on March 1st, 2006, for more “At World's End” filming back in the Los Angeles area when shooting resumed in August, following the tough post-production schedule on “Dead Man's Chest,” the film's massive Disneyland premiere, and its smashingly successful domestic and international openings. The Flying Dutchman, having completed her duties on the second and third films, was sailed from Freeport to Disney's very own Castaway Cay in The Bahamas, where it now provides amazing encounters for Disney Cruise Line passengers. By the time the company went on hiatus, approximately 35 percent of “At World's End” had been completed, difficult and challenging, but by no means was the company over the hump in terms of what was still required.