Yo ho ho and a bottle of Cristal for Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, and Disney film execs, as Dead Man’s Chest, the action-besotted Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, marauded through a second record-breaking weekend, reaping $62.2 million at the box office to become the most popular film thus far in 2006.
Dead Man’s Chest debuted last weekend with all all-time record $135.6 million (beating the $114.8 million webbed by Spider-Man in 2002), and sits now with a rapacious North American total of $258.2 million after just ten days.
Dead Man’s Chest — which also stars Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom as neophyte buccaneers, and Bill Nighy as a cephalopodic Davy Jones — is well on its way to eclipsing the $305 million domestic and $650 million worldwide takes of its Pirates predecessor, The Curse of the Black Pearl.
“It’s really fun when you’re riding a comet like this,” said Chuck Viane, Disney’s head of distribution, as he swooshed by.
The wildfire success of the spooky comedic swashbuckler has spurred the overall box office to a 5% increase over last summer. “Pirates is the kind of movie that gets people excited about other movies,” said Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations. “A good experience in a theater can beget another,” he said, quoting the Old Testament.
The convoluted plot — involving Sparrow’s debt to the heartless Davy Jones, Will and Elizabeth seeking to right themselves with the law and the East India Trading Company, an unrecognizably dissolute ex-Commodore Norrington seeking to “get his life back,” cannibals, a voodoo queen, a huge mean squid, and an undead monkey — is brilliantly augmented by idyllic tropical scenery, filmed on location in the Bahamas.
In a bit of understandable crowing, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism refers to the film’s local scenery as “sparkling topaz waters caressed by generous swaths of creamy sand – the sky … window-pane clear and the clouds pop-corn puffed to enviable perfection.”
So inviting, in fact, were the Bahamas settings of Chest and the forthcoming third installment in the salty saga, At World’s End, that Depp — who seems in no hurry to abandon the Captain Jack character — just announced he will be moving with partner Vanessa Paradis and their two young children, Lily Rose, 7, and Jack, 4, to a private Bahamas island he bought in 2004 – very Brando.
“We want to spend a lot more time there in the future because it’s a completely different way of life,” said the star. “It’ll be our home base. It’s so beautiful there, so peaceful, free and relaxed.” The family will also retain homes in France and in Los Angeles – lifestyles of the swashbuckling and well compensated.
Bahamas film commissioner Craig Woods almost single-handedly brought Pirates 2 and 3 productions to the islands. After seeing The Curse of the Black Pearl in ’03, Woods began a series of phone calls to the producers in February 2004 “suggesting” Bahamas locations for the sequels. “They were polite,” said Woods of his persistence.
Concerned that he might be overdoing it, Woods sought the advice of Cedric Scott, a Bahamian producer living in California. “Call them every day,” Scott advised. “The hour you stop calling them, you will lose them.”
It would appear he was right: despite stiff competition from other Caribbean and Asian countries, Woods’ enthusiasm — and the islands’ stunning scenery, proximity to the U.S., and authentic piratical history — won out. Disney shot both films on location from May 2005 to March 2006 in Bahamas settings on White Cay, Exuma; and in Grand Bahama. Underwater scenes were shot in an open water tank at Gold Rock Studios on the eastern end of Grand Bahama.
Woods sees the films as an extended bonanza. “People come to a location because a movie was shot there. We have wonderful water-scapes, wonderful shorelines, great marine life – some of the best in the world,” he said. “If you need to shoot great clear waters and wonderful beaches, we can provide that and compete with the best in the world.”
And now they have Johnny Depp.