Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
This could be a controversial choice. The quality of the Pirates of the Caribbean series is diminishing with each new entry as is Johnny Depp’s reputation as an A-list actor, with much of his recent output being flops at the box-office. However, since playing Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) the man, for me at least, can do no wrong. In fact, I could have easily chosen a few other Depp characters for this feature such as Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) or Sheldon Sands from Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). I even like his performance in Dark Shadows (2012). You can moan all you want about the film, but Depp gives a gloriously over-the-top B-Movie performance that even Nic Cage would be proud of. Yes, as you can tell, Depp is one of my favourite actors, and that is all because of his iconic role as one of the most famous fictional pirates in the history of motion pictures. I first saw The Curse of the Black Pearl with my dad when it was released in cinemas in 2003. I was ten and I absolutely loved every second of it; from the tense atmospheric opening, to the wonderfully choreographed swordfights, the amazing skeleton pirates, the hilarious comedy, the exotic settings, and the grandiose ships. It was truly a dream movie for a ten year old boy.
The thing that really struck my imaginative, impressionable young mind was the character of Captain Jack Sparrow. And what a character he was. A cross between a swaggering drug-addled rock star a la Keith Richards and a buffoonish buccaneer, Depp’s Captain was the epitome of cool. From the moment he first calmly stepped off his sinking boat and sauntered across the pier at the film’s opening, Captain Jack’s reputation as one of the screen’s most charismatic rouges was sealed. There are a multitude of reasons why Captain Jack is my cinematic idol. Firstly, there is the look. The dreads, the bandana, the Van Dyke beard, the jewellery and trinkets, and the eyeliner (I know, a pirate who wears eyeliner!) combine to create a resolutely outlandish image that perfectly suits the character’s personality, whilst at the same time making him look effortlessly cool. Then there is the voice and personality which are, like his physical appearance, completely over the top. Depp forgoes the traditional Cornish accent associated with pirates in favour of a voice which lies somewhere between cockney, estuary, and your typical English rock musician speech. He has some cracking lines of dialogue as well, such as “welcome to the Caribbean, love” and “but why is the rum gone?”. He is also completely barmy, mad as a box of frogs with a penchant for rum and adventure. To top it all off, there is the walk. This is perhaps the single most iconic element associated with the character. He sways like he has uncontrollable sea legs and has just downed about five bottles of rum. The walk has become so famous that on a night out when someone is wobbling drunk you are guaranteed to hear a passer-by comment that they are walking like Jack Sparrow.
The most appealing aspect of being Captain Jack is, however, freedom; the freedom to do what you want, to sail the seven seas without a care in the world, to search for treasure and drink rum all day long. That is why I wish I was Captain Jack Sparrow. Now, bring me that horizon…