Masters of Design | Pirates of the Caribbean Behind the ScenesApr 22, 2023
Navigation charts. It is called Chinese allegory map or Sao Feng map. Sao Feng has these. He delivers them to Will in Singapore. Do you have the graphics? It plays a very important role because it's the only reason they find Jack Sparrow. It's basically a map to the other world, to Davey Jones' Looker. The route to the farthest gate. Are you solving a mystery? - We want our words to be deep. - That's why the map was created. - The moment. - We had a meeting. Gore knew it was important, so he brought everyone into the room, Crash, Kris, Rick, John and everyone.
We threw out all these crazy ideas, like maybe it's lit from below and throws stars. Maybe it's an origami. Maybe it's the balloon that expands from a Chinese lantern. And one of the references was some kind of ring-type map that everyone liked. But at the end of the meeting we say, "Let's go with the balloon idea." It's like, OK, the balloon. I went and got a Chinese lantern and started painting on it, and it started to feel like a National Geographic craft project. It did not have the coldness of a great map. It seemed silly. It just didn't work.
So this isn't necessarily the illustration, but it's like the feeling of having a cool map. So, there is an area on the map that is the physical world, but beyond that, I was thinking that it needs to have realms that are not in the physical world. - It's like a big combination lock. - It looks one way, you turn it, - something makes sense here. - That's how it is. But when you only rotate one section, it still makes sense, but add another... - In a way it's like, you know, the nine rings of Hades, but it's much more physical.
It starts out, the middle of the map would be literal geography, and then it starts to expand into realms that are a little more metaphysical. This is the real world, the inner world, transition between the real world and the dead. You are now in the dead world. - How did you get out? - In the end you go out to this heavenly kingdom. It is not getting to and from the dead that is the problem. Its coming back. Gore knew he wanted a one-liner shot. The good thing about this type of writing, that's what you have to rotate, this type of writing written on a line.
And he was thinking, but if it's so obvious that it's the same typeface, that's not a big secret because it would clearly line up. And I thought, "Oh, well, you dress him up as Chinese." So when you rotate them together, it becomes English. - Exactly. - But before that he looked Chinese. They are rotating the rings and trying to line up different rings to reveal phrases. As you rotate this, it's that simple. And he loved it, but he said, "Shouldn't it, when the rings turn... Shouldn't the shapes of the countries turn into something else?" And I thought: "Yes, it should become a Chinese dragon." So I started doing a bunch of tests.
I cut out a bunch of rings and started drawing, seeing how the interesting shapes would line up with each other. Sometimes the land formations line up just to be land formations, but sometimes they line up to be magic shapes. Oh, here's something else that's cool is the... the dragon. Do you see the dragon that forms now? This is royal blood. I got a flat tire, so I thought I'd wet it. Then I augmented it with... This is ink, but some of this is royal blood. These are actually my blood fingerprints. So my blood entered this map.
Originally, we hoped to make a paper version of the map, like an origami, that rotated. You know, with the humidity we have down here, which is a big part of the challenge we had, was finding something that wasn't affected by the elements. So we have these brass rings that stand up... like this. Yes, it seems a lot more complex than it should be, but once you realize how much weather can affect it, you get to a point where the rings don't spin anymore. It was ridiculous. Never do that at home. The map has some close-ups, so we had to create the entire map fully detailed in all areas because certain secrets are revealed.
The problem... You want the eyeball to be the solution. The royal nest answered the riddle. - The eyeball rolls past. - Yeah. We lean up, you're a little off, and then you bend over and turn this. This is crucial because we knew it would turn into something more. "Up is down." Well, that's maddeningly pointless. He also realizes that the boat itself in the center, if you flip it over, that inspires him because it's a clue in and of itself. That's where you turn the inner wheel, this ship turns upside down. Not sunset. Sunset. And get up.
If you're smart, if you study it long enough, it will take you places you can't get to any other way. We're good and lost now. It is true that you have to be lost to find a place that is not found. And that's a whole theme in Pirates, that the more modern the world gets, the more efficient it gets, we start to lose some of the magic and lose connection to these metaphorical realms that humans used to be able to get into more. easily than they can today. Gentlemen, I wash my hands of this weirdness. Now up is down.
I have the great privilege of being one of the first people in the creative process when making a movie. What I'm going to do is go in and sit down with Gore and he's going to describe
scenes, characters. And usually it's something that needs to be developed and conceptualized because it doesn't exist in our world. Maybe this look and this could be combined to make it... he's holding this in his right hand. Pirates 1 had the cursed
pirates, the skeletons. In 2, one of the first things he said was, "You know, we have to come up with a new curse." And a plasticine had scribbled a little drawing.
He was like a little pirate with a shell in his eye. He says, "So. What if they were living at the bottom of the ocean?" Initially, you know, when he was
designing these characters, it was just kind of a conglomeration of, you know, shells and mollusks and sea anemones. We realized that we had to start focusing on one element in order for these characters to really stand out individually. It is funny. You look at the expanse of the ocean and you think: "My God, there are only millions of ideas, but there are only a few really good ideas..." You know?
The jellyfish-headed guy didn't quite work, you know. And the sea slug face really pulled it off, I think. I like Sea-Anemone-Mouth-Guy. Because... What did he say? There's something... The challenge is how to integrate certain elements into it and still make it look cool and not look silly. So it was like matching the fish or the creature to the body type and personality. You really didn't want to lose that human aspect because they were once people. And if they become too fish-like, then they become too creaturelike, and you stop believing that they were a real human being.
Uncle Hammer, even though he has a head, you know, head, the rest of his body still has that human look. To the captain's cabin! The puffer fish guy, you know, only half of his face is part of that fish, and the rest of his body, you know, it's a lot to look at Howard Pyle paintings and keep the costume integral to What was happening. in and for the character, too. When we started
designing and talking about the freaking crew, um, Gore said, "You know, we've got to find a captain for this crew and the ship." And that was a very intimidating thought, you know, because we knew he had to be bigger and draw a lot more attention and power than the rest of these guys we were designing.
I am the sea. One of the boys in the crew had some tentacles coming out of his chin. Gore said, "That's cool. It kind of looks like a beard or something." And I immediately thought of Blackbeard and how intimidating that guy looks with this big giant beard and his, you know, just this attitude. And an image appeared in my mind. I said, "I got it. I know it. I know what it is." And I went home, and this was the drawing that I had made. Everything fell into place for him, giving him a peg leg with a crab leg and, you know, a crab claw that he would grab someone with.
Even the hat is a different kind of hat. It has like horns, you know, devilish. Everything about him referenced something classic about a pirate captain. Gore looked at the piece and was absorbed by it. He just goes, "Man, that's the captain of the ship." At full speed and into the abyss. He could see it at the bow of the ship, and the wind ruffling his coat. It became more than just a studio. It became, really, who this character was. I can't be summoned as a mongrel pup. I feel really blessed to be able to have a job and do what I love to do.
For me it is a privilege every time an artist can earn a living doing his art. When you get to work with someone like Gore, it becomes an emotional experience and you feel like you're part of something that's going to last a long time. So there are planks, you know... You know... Play around with that a bit. Even though it's just a movie, you know, it means the world to me. The pride I feel when I see a real drawing projected on the screen, the way I drew it, initially, is just... It's the highest form of praise you could receive.
Welcome to Singapore. I'm Rick Heinrichs. I'm the production designer for Pirates 2 and 3. We're on set in Singapore. It's an ensemble that's kicking off our Pirates 3 shoot. The actors are coming tomorrow, so it gives me time to go in and give them an idea of what we're doing. In the process of working with Gore, we get a sense of place and character from him. We will propose concept drawings that actually give the place a feel. One of the first drawings we did was an image of a woman in a boat under a forest of stilts depicting the water-based introduction to Singapore we had in mind.
And it was like from that inspirational sketch that we took things to the next step and the next step. We are at the corner of the Bridge of Sighs in Singapore. I call it that because we have these wonderful types of bridges that overlap each other. This is where Elizabeth first enters the set. It's a nice way to see, from the water level, how the cabins tower above you. The forest of stilts below gives you an idea of how ramshackle it all is and reinforces our sense of unease and exoticism that accompanies her entry into this world.
Singapore, um, is actually geographically at the crossroads of Asia. And at the time our film takes place, there were a lot of influences from the area, Indonesian, Chinese, Malaysian influences. Behind me is one of the terrestrial alleys that characterize our architecture here. A lot more of this architecture are actually elements that we've pulled from a lot of 18th century, 17th century Chinese references. The market and human activities and restaurants and food, and all that, continue as a backdrop for the action that we are going to have. We like to fight for as much reality as possible.
We have spices and mushrooms and fennel and sugar and cinnamon. And we also have a lot of fish and crabs. Some of them are fake and some of them are really real fish. Something like this, I mean, you just can't manufacture that. The bathhouse is some kind of disgusting example of hygiene. We have a lot of fungus growing outside of the tubs. There would be a lot of people with mushrooms on their shoulders, covering their faces. When the water comes out, we will add some thickeners and give it color. It will look pretty unhealthy. The main Chinese pirate is played by Chow Yun-Fat.
This will be his spa with a sense of history and an imperial dragon behind to give him a feeling of majesty and command. More steam. We would need steam to come out through them, there would be gaps between the boards. It allowed us to have fun with the character of the boards. So one of the fun things we did was design the whole floor to have a meandering plank look. We are below the bathhouse now. This is where all the steam is pumped into the bathhouse. We have a big boiler here. All the piping you see is delivering water to the vats and steam to the air and oil.
All wonderful for our day spa-ers up there. The fun thing we're having fun with this is, once again, creating a damp, fungus feeling and… I actually look around, I think we need more fungus. This is a good place for more mushrooms. So... I'll give that note to someone right away. It's been a wonderful design process, and a great pleasure to be on a set with all these primal and natural life forms. Water, stone, wood. I just don't often get a chance to work with those things in such a rich and integrated way that I feel like the set turned out.
I went to meet Johnny Depp in 2003 I think, or maybe even 2002. And we started talking about his costume for Jack Sparrow, I asked him what kind of pirate he wants to be. He-he Said, "A rock and roll pirate." - I said, "Do you have someone in mind?" And he just said, "This is between you and me, but I want to be Keith Richards." Keith Richards' character is the keeper of the pirate book. I call Captain Teague. Keeper of the Code. The code is the law. Somehow we decided that he would not go looting in the open sea.
He was more of a stay-at-home-in-the-castle type of pirate. We wanted to make it more elaborate. It is Keith Richards, after all. So Johnny's costume is much more of a hard-working pirate, and this one is a bit of an aristocratic pirate. A year ago Celeste and I went to find it to measure it. But just because we knew he was going on tour and to save time, we brought six pre-made silk garments with us tosee what shapes worked best, what colors worked best, what he liked. And indeed she chose a navy silk damask coat. And she had this embroidery that had been an old altar cloth that we had cut up and laid out.
But unfortunately, when we showed the director, he didn't like the color. So I called someone I knew at the flea market in Paris and he sent us a box of old silk damask curtains. And, I think, at this point Celeste was ready with a knife to her wrist because we needed a stunt double and possibly a double. So we had to make three identical costumes from scratch, and there are never enough materials. This is almost a patchwork coat of three drapery sets, so you could make three identical ones. - And the fabric had to be dyed. -She had to dye it because it was too red and on camera it would have been red-orange and we wanted a more blue red.
I had to cut the fronts and then mark all the fronts and you have to mark everything and then send to the embroiderer with a sample so that she can then erase everything on the fabric. Then he embroiders it with a computerized machine. Scan the pattern and then digitally apply the embroidery. The lace was an old piece, and that's one of the things we couldn't multiply. So we had to do it so we could swap it between their jerseys. I think this was a missing piece of velvet. It's actually painted velvet. It is not embossed, as it appears.
We didn't see Mr. Richards again until... ...the week before he shot. So we reappeared in a completely different costume. But he remembered the embroidery. He was really delighted that we had kept it as part of the costume. And I think he was a very, very happy kid. He loved being dressed up. He felt like a real pirate, and I think he got along pretty well. - Respect the Code. - Yes. The code. - There is the Code to consider. - The code? Pirate code. The Pirate Code book. The Pirate Code book was something, when we got our hands on the script and I read it, I thought, "What an opportunity." I knew that Gore is very detail oriented and I wanted to give him options for filming.
There were things that were meant to be in the book. Parlay, it's in the script, it had to be there. Parlay? Then the script line we had about the pirate king being able to call war. Also, there was a pirate code. Blackbeard had a pirate code, and some of the other
piratesof that time had them. For the most part, they said the same thing. It was like, "Whoever sees the ship first gets the first guns, best of the pick." "Musicians must play every day except Sundays." "If you are abandoned, you get a one-shot weapon." That kind of things.
Those are things we put in the Pirate Code book. This is an actual book that a friend of mine had. But I'm going to have these remanufactured and we'll put them in this. I just want to pass it in front of you. The writers were talking about something like this. Gore says, "No, no, no, it's got to be huge." These are fantastic locks. Oh yes, if you can get in there. - Yes. That's... - We're going to do this and this, with these clips. Invent something cool in between. Items where the leather and binding and wood underneath were ripped off.
The old methods where the wood was exposed and you could see how they did it. In addition, there was the paper, vellum or parchment that we were going to use. Paper is supposed to be like vellum. The original, what they used... The vellum is actually from the intestines of... Is it sheep? We had a meeting with Gore and Jerry was there. He was trying to get information from Gore, in the preliminary stages of the book. We have to work on this. - Too contemporary. - This is just size, that's all. Gore says: "It has to be this..." - Just scribbles here, pages stuck... - Jerry chimes in: "Yeah, you have to have recipes for rum." - Maybe a rum recipe there. - Absolutely.
That's what pirates do. They would keep their rum recipe alongside their king's duties. - The brothel in Singapore. - You got the name, Rosie's Tavern. You know, with some X's or something. - Arabic, Chinese writing. - Did they have lipstick in those days? Much of that is already here. - Where? - A lot of it... Inside this... No, I mean, on this page. Alright. I walked away from that meeting beaten. I was like, "I wasn't ready for that. Next time I show you this, it's done." So we have our backup painter, Tony Leonardi... I have to get to work. ...and Jim Byrkit, a concept artist.
I usually work with Gore and we draw a lot. And then Kris Peck asked me to help him with this super accessory. We came up with a little stick figure, hobo type drawings. I would do this in the corner. We would rip the book, then sew it back together and take a torch and burn it. And through the seam or the burning hole, you could actually see some of these stick figures or how to attack a ship, you know, or something. This is actually a rum locker map that a desperate pirate put together. He shows you how to walk ten steps from the palm tree to the rum depot. - The most valuable thing in the book. - Welcome to the Caribbean, love.
Here it tells you who the pirate lords are, what their pieces of eight are, in what seas they are pirate king. And the lords, and how a pirate lord becomes a king. All those things are revealed here. It's like... Actually, I shouldn't be talking about that. We tear and we burn and we take wax and we take fake blood and we take some sunflower seeds and, you know, rum and wine stains. Everything we came up with. We threw in the kitchen sink to get that texture and detail. He weighed like 80 pounds. It has a thousand pages.
I feel like I've pulled a tree stump out of the ground. I've been calculating the weight trying to lift it. Too heavy for an accessory. I showed it to Gore and Johnny and got really good responses from them, so we'll shoot it the next day. And first, Keith was able to open the cover and had to turn three pages. He nailed it really well on the first take. On the second take, ten minutes in between, he's going to open it and he can't open it because it's so heavy. So he put it back and said, "It's the movies, you know.
Luggage never weighs that much." We went behind the set and got a saw and cut half of it. We cut out all the extra pages. The book that was built was a bit too heavy to open. So they're cutting out the inside of the book. - Very well, here is the book. - OK. Pirate movies don't come around often. You know, you look at history, how many pirate movies have been made, only a handful of prop
mastersthat have had that opportunity. So when that opportunity presented itself, it doesn't get any better than that.
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