For many years cinema's high seas were still. Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power's legendary screen brigands had long-since departed to Davy Jones' locker and Hollywood's pirate spectaculars mothballed on a Burbank backlot. Then Jack Sparrow happened. Initially a sozzled cameo inspired by a Rolling Stone, Johnny Depp's legendary ligger has become the biggest selling point of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. A bajillion dollars later, he's back for more piratical antics in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. So what explains Cap'n Jack's enduring popularity? And just how pissed is he? Who better to explain the alchemy than the man who helped create him, Pirates co-writer Terry Rossio.
"When Johnny Depp came to the role, his interpretation was a wholly amazing creation, because you just couldn't anticipate the addition of the drunkenness or the insanity or the almost ambiguous sexuality. His embracing of the wordplay took it to a whole different level: it's less subtle, but so theatrical and flamboyant." His Swagger
"This comes from the belief that he's in tune with some aspects of the world that nobody else is, and that's what makes him frustrating. Barbossa is fascinated by Jack because he has some kind of power that you can't defeat. It's like trying to
slash a sword through smoke." His Dodgy Morality
"The Pirates films are morality plays in a sense, summarised by Jack's line, 'There's what a man can do, and what a man can't do.' You're always grappling with situational ethics, who to root for. You can be in favour of a bad man if he's facing a worse man; you can be against a good man if he's at odds with a better man." He's Not The Lead Character
"No iconic character has ever been embraced without a straight man. In Pirates, you had to have Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. If they don't play it straight, Johnny Depp can't do what he did. It would make as little sense to do a Jack Sparrow sequel as it would to make a second Lord Of The Rings film about Gandalf." He's Bugs Bunny
"In the French Comedia dell'Arte, traditionally the real hero is the tricky servant, who kind of winks at the audience and knows what's happening. Another inspiration was the Native-American Indian concept of 'The Trickster', who upends everything, and whatever you think the plot is, the plot isn't. The closest that we had in the American tradition was Bugs Bunny. The fascinating thing about The Trickster is that things don't always go well for him, but he has enormous faith that if he just hangs in there, reality itself will come to his aid."