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The Pirate of Cropredy

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Mark Kermode | 16:00 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

So here I am at the delightful Cropredy Festival having a wonderful relaxed time among a crowd of happy, easy-going people when my eye catches something that reminds me of some very bad news. Pirate news. Pirates of the Caribbean news. Pirate of the Caribbean news with a bitter and ruthless twist.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Honestly couldn't agree with you more on the subject of Gilliam, however I must take issue with your problem concerning Depp's performance in the Pirates series. Johnny Depp is not the main problem with the films; the main problem is lacklustre writing, poorly executed ideas (the scene in which Sparrow Pulls a boat in a netherworld, anyone?) and ORLANDO BLOOM. Every time that man enters a scene, it is as though someone has thrown a chair into the room.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've started to wonder whether Quixote is better left unmade. It's more Quixotic that way. Hehe. What, you're heard that one before?

    Anyway, the news of another Pirates movie makes me weep more than last week's Alien prequel bombshell.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Dr K

    Assuming that Johnny Depp's agent is on a percentage of what JD earns, I somehow doubt that he would be advising JD to do a Gilliam film in favour of a multi-million dollar franchise.

    The problem I have with Depp's performance in these films is that I can't understand everything he says; he mumbles more than Bale does in Batman.

    What frustrates me about these franchises is that they're not cheap to make, so why not throw some of this money in the direction of the script? These people are to film like Simon Cowell is to music.

    Here's to Pirates of the Caribbean #4. ARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    For a moment there I thought it was going to be that Gilliam was going to direct the next Pirates film. To see your reaction there would have been most amusing.

    I have to say, I'm kind of glad Depp won't be in the Don Quixote film. I honestly find him over-rated as an actor and I'm a bit sick of the sight of him to be honest. I'd be glad to see someone else take the role.

  • Comment number 5.

    I really liked the first Pirates movie, it was really fun but the second was sooo bland.

    The biggest event for me when it comes to new films are the Gilliam's latest. "Brazil" is the greatest film ever made (not "The Exorcist" Mark, even though that's a great film).

    I once met Gilliam after a preview screening of "Tideland" and I loved "Tideland", I though it was a very sweet kids film (and his second best film) and not this "Perverted, sick, twisted and creepy" film that most film critics called it and I told Gilliam this and he tended to agree and he was really nice and we talked for like an hour and half after his Q&A and he talked for so long he was late for his afterparty.

    Something that I hate about the reviews of "Tideland" were the fact people called the character of Dickens a "pedophile" when he so obviously isn't at all, he is a young man with a mental age younger than Jeliza-Rose and their relationship isn't sexual at all, it's a childish friendship, the kiss they share isn't sexual at all, it's just kids playing.

    I know for a fact "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" will be my film the year, it just looks so fantastical.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh and Johnny Depp should quit Pirates 4 and do The Man who killed Don Quixote but that's obvious.

  • Comment number 7.

    Johnny Depp's performance is indulgent, but in the first movie, that wasn't so much of a problem because he wasn't the main character and you didn't really know how to take him. Come Part II, he is suddenly the main attraction and a super-hero, and surrounded by somewhat about 300 other sort-of main characters doing stuff and exploding. Part I was alright for a blockbuster, and then it went downhill. Very, very fast.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dear Dr Kermode,

    I'd be interested to know who else you would put on your list of "must not miss" directors.

    I also think Gillian would be on my list along with Cronenberg, del Toro and Eastwood.

  • Comment number 9.

    I would guess Depp has a lot of fun "making" the Pirates films, hence why he keeps re-doing them.

    I've only seen part 1, which was fun but that's all it was. All the hype it got was ridiculous. It's just a "by the numbers Hollywood Blockbuster", nothing more and because of this I couldn't be bothered with the next two parts.

  • Comment number 10.

    Depp is doing these films to make a buck. Its really that simple. The first one was about wanting to be a pirate/keith richards.
    Now its a joke.
    And its not funny.

  • Comment number 11.

    But Mark, Johnny Depp signed on to Pirates 4 before Gilliam announced he was gonna make Don Quiote.
    Gilliam has been saying for ages he wants to make it, but funding has been an issue.
    I'm sure if had to choose, he would choose Gilliam.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mark, i have a very simple solution to rid such worry from your mind. You stop trying to reassure yourself that Johnny Depp is a person. If he ever was one, that person is long gone now and all is left is a plastic mannequin to be used as a puppet before a camera in order to boost a films grossing.

    It is obvious you are a pushover to him but if you just rid yourself of the delusion that Johnny Depp is anything but a pretty face that has been painted all over the walls of pop cultures city hall, you may see the said film with a little more light.

  • Comment number 13.

    Johnny Depp's performance as Jack Sparrow is a lot like *trailer voice* Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. He's good in the first one (though not as good as Brian Cox OBVIOUSLY) but by the time the third film comes out, he's annoying. We all know why Depp is making another Pirates movie. It's because he knows he can get away with murder on those sets, and as you said about Pirates 2, it's like a latter-day Marlon Brando performance. I'd hate to say it but Depp is inheriting Brando's legacy as a brilliant but self-indulgent, lazy and out-of-control screen talent. And when Keira Knightley, Orloondo Bland and even Gore Verbinski don't want to make another Pirates movie, you know it's time to move on.

    Fingers crossed for The Rum Diary.

  • Comment number 14.

    Interestingly you could blame 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' for Jack Sparrow since Depp took the role to boost his profile and ultimately remount the film just as Gilliam took on 'Brothers Grimm'.

    Aside from the paycheque his kids probably shape his recent choices and you never know maybe Rob Marshall will direct Depp in the way that you think Verbinski didn't.

    Anyway what was Johnny Depp like in that Terry Gilliam film? You know 'The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus'?

  • Comment number 15.

    I completely agree with you Mark! I feel Depp rather selfishly probably reckons he's spent too much time on Don Quixote and senses that it's doomed with Him on the project perhaps. I think maybe he 'needs' another mortgage and that's why he's signed on for another Pirates movie (it's noticable taht no one else has!). There are many many rumours that Depp has unofficially-officially agreed with Nolan to star as the Riddler, portraying the villian possibly with a Shattered-esque multipersonality disorder in 'Batman 3' - I think if he has signed on for Batman 3 he should avoid playing such characters in every single Tim Burton film, as these characters would devalue the impact of Depp's Riddler on screen.
    Gilliam is one of my favorite directors at the moment. He's one of those people who you find it amazing is as old as he is when you've seen him in a documentary or in extra features directing. I can't wait to see Parnassus (which I've heard owes alot to Dr Caligari).

    PS; Mark, could you do a blog on your opinions about cult b-movies in modern times e.g. the big cult fanbase surrounding the 'so bad it's good' Tommy Wiseau film 'The Room' - and how, actors who have had their heyday - besides getting cast in Tarantino's films - turn to amateur b-movies with little distribution for acclaim (this could tie in with your feature on the 'down stairs' of Cannes).

  • Comment number 16.

    that is really really depressing, even if you ignore the pirates stuff, it just upsets me that depp's not gonna be in it. add on the fact that, while i genuinely liked the first pirates film, the fact that they declined in quality so rapidly, on top of the fact that there are so few decent 'forth in the trilogy' films (the only one that comes to mind is phantasm, and i KNOW that most people don't like that as much as i do), is just that added punch in the groin.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dr K.

    I think that you may have been a little harsh with Johnny Depp saying that he is just doing Pirates 4 simply for the paycheck. He has stated that Jack Sparrow is his favourite character of all time and that he absolutely adores playing him. So what if he does that instead of working with Gilliam? If he wants to do Pirates let him do pirates. I think with his filmography he already has under his belt with his Tim Burton collaborations most notably Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, to his work with Gilliam on Fear and Loathing, that he has proven that he is had worked for the art rather than the commerce side. Look at his recent film Public Enemies. Granted, being a huge Michael Mann film it was disappointing but he decided to work with Mann a great director of those sort of stories.

    Maybe it's just that Depp is getting older and wishes to have more fun in his life. Play roles that he enjoys playing and that are easy and makes films that he can take his children to see with him.

    Granted it is a huge shame that he won't be working with Gilliam but maybe this is just a phase. I do not doubt for one second that Depp will return to that sort or filmmaking and working with directors that you shouldn't ever turn down like Gilliam.

    But I do agree that he should maybe take the high road and take a reduced paycheck to work with Gilliam, like Bruce Willis did to work on Twelve Monkeys and like that film make the masterpiece that Don Quioxte should be.

  • Comment number 18.

    Totally agree.
    The thing that always keeps creeping into my head is that in the same way Martin Scorsese has found his new Robert DeNiro in Leonardo DiCaprio I suspect that Heath Ledger may have been the man to become Terry Gilliam's muse. I also reckon he would have been the man to fill Johnny Depp's shoes in Don Quixote.
    SO excited for the Imaginarium.

  • Comment number 19.

    Johnny Depp was under contract to play Captain Jack Sparrow before this Gilliam's film was announced. To leave the Pirates 4, he would have to buy out his contract, which would cost millions. Even if he were to do that he would be dissapointing millions of people world wide.

  • Comment number 20.

    The worst thing in cinema is the fact that money is the most important thing. Ironically I tend to think that if Hollywood made better quality films including blockbusters, people would go and see them more often, meaning films would make more money. Unfortunately is worried generally more about a release date than quality.

    I have got to the point where I have cancelled my see any film at my local cinema because pretty much most of the stuff they are showing is either 'for kids' or complate trash (mostly blockbuster trash). I have no idea why they can't show films like 'Moon' 'Let the Right one in' or 'Mesrine: Part 1 - Death Instinct'. I want good interesting films please Holywood make them and cinemas show the good films that are being made.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think Gilliam is being over sold. He is to the go to guy for when a critic needs to point out an arty respectable director but really, what has he delivered recently? The last thing i liked from him was 12 monkeys, and perhaps brazil which is even further back. He has a long way to go before he can prove he hasn't lost his touch, esp since you seem to find his latest effort a bit off the mark. So depp shouldn't go out of his way to make another gilliam film.

  • Comment number 22.

    To be fair, Gilliam has only made four films since 12 Monkeys. It's not like he's churning out disappointment after disappointment like Ridley Scott has been doing recently. And while I haven't seen Imaginarium yet, I don't think he's lost his touch at all. Fear and Loathing is a great cult movie and Tideland is a sublime if difficult moviegoing experience. Brothers Grimm is rubbish but that's not entirely his fault.

  • Comment number 23.

    While I agree that the movie business is riddled with francises like 'Transformers' and 'Pirates', I can reserve some sympathy and understanding for some actors who work within them. And the same goes for people like Eddie Murphy.

    I don't think THEY'RE doing it for the money - surely they have enough, as you said - but they're doing it because it's the films their kids enjoy them in. Johnny Depp himself said he loved doing 'Pirates' because his daughter enjoyed the film series so much.

    Personally, doing something for your kid's enjoyment (and in turn, many other kids' enjoyment) is not a bad thing to do as a parent.

    Still crap though.

  • Comment number 24.

    I like the first Pirates the other two I loathe so I really don't want a forth. Is Colin Farrell playing Quixote now?

  • Comment number 25.

    Pirates is one of those series that could be used as the definition of the law of deminishing returns (with one notable and incredably annoying exception the one of money). I liked the first pirates film, it was an old fasioned saturday afternoon adventure film with pirates and the living dead, i think it fits quite well in the pirate buckle me swash genre, should have ended there and it works perfectly as one self contained film, saw the pointless second film where nothing really happened and didn't see the third and it would take a lot to drag me to see the fourth, maybe a pestering child might but not much else.

  • Comment number 26.

    mark when pir 4 comes out why don't you go on holiday? i was so bored watching the first film i simply pressed eject on the dvd and turned it off. if you can't go on holiday why not pull a sicky?

    XXMALXX-your local cinema which shows blockbuster/kids flicks is not a cinema it is a moneymaking building. look at the prices of the 'food' and drinks. i live less than ten minutes walk from a cineworld but rarely visit because the films that i want to watch (moon, let the right one in)they don't put them on because they know they can get more people in to watch 'the ugly truth'

  • Comment number 27.

    Terry Gilliams project would undoubtedly be buoyed by the estimable Mr. Depp, but casting for the role cannot be so limited that no other actor is possessed of the comic gravitas required?
    One thing I dislike about the movie industry, is the need to identify individuals with box office $ signs. It is refreshing to occasionally see a film unburdened by a popular face but supported by good works from all the unsung heroes whose names rush by at the end.
    Of course I do also appreciate the good works done by our screen idols past and present, just sometimes a new face, or a breath of fresh air is what is called for.

  • Comment number 28.

    I've heard that Gilliam has been in constant touch with Depp, and knows first hand how much he loathed working with Michael Mann, and how disappointed he was with the finished product of Public Enemies. If true, perhaps this could explain Depp's reticence to work on further auteur movies, and his desire to go back to working on CGI snoozebusters with bland stunt-wranglers like Verbinski?
    After all, why pour so much effort into detailed characterisation for a potential arthouse flop, when you can earn the big bucks gurning to a bluescreen tentacle?
    As long as the words 'Orlando' and 'Bloom' are absent from Quixote's credits, I'll still be delighted to see it at all.

  • Comment number 29.


    Just out of curiosity, how do you rate Depp's turn in The Libertine?

    Personally, I thought it was terrific, a superb film. The Jack Sparrow thing...well, I completely disagree with you on the performance. I thought that it was the only element of the first pirates movie that made it work. Bloom and Knightley are, indeed, ghastly, and there are other faults with the script and so on. However, I thought Depp created an extremely funny and fairly cool character, although I much preferred him in The Libertine. Totally agree that the pirates sequels were utter rubbish. Clearly it boiled down to rushed back-to-back productions because the first had been a smash (akin to the Matrix sequels), plus, they were trying too hard to mould the scripts around the Jack Sparrow shtick.

    Slightly off the subject, I also really like Depp's film, The Brave. Think it's underrated.

  • Comment number 30.

    Really feel for you Doctor K. I liked the first Pirates film as a disposable summer blockbuster, but the second was mediocre in the extreme and the third was headache-inducingly bad. Here's hoping that Pirates 4 has the same kind of production problems that Don Quixote had first time out. On the plus side, at least it's not being directed by Michael Bay.

  • Comment number 31.

    Is anyone surprised that there's another Pirates movie in the works? With the level of success that they've had the box office, it's an unfortunately fact. Just like the undoubtedly upcoming G.I. Joe II, Transformers III, etc. Depp is hugely talented and versatile actor. Personally, I liked him well-enough in the PIRATES films, but the character was completely one-note. I think that he did what he could with it, and I give him credit for it, but the film was such an utter hodgepod (The sequels felt like someone brought Bruckheimer a dozen idea for a sequel and he went FILM ALL OF THEM!) that he, being as talented as he is, was the most memorable thing about them. I've never entirely understood the PIRATES franchise's popularity. The first film was a decently entertaining bit of junk food, although as seems to be the norm these days, way too long. The sequels, however, were like some endlessly repeating a joke that was mildly funny the first time. IT was an endlessly frenetic parade of everything under the sun attempting to entertain the audience without a hint of director or a particular point, and moderate at best entertainment value. Depp's decision is obviously financially based, but given the disaster that came about last time Gilliam tried to make DON QUIXOTE, Depp can perhaps hardly be blamed for being wary. But I don't know if IMAGINARIUM will be their last collaboration. Really, even if you hold PIRATES against Depp, he's still got an impressive enough resume. I'm looking forward to his rumored next collaboration with Tim Burton: a remake of DARK SHADOWS. That's something to look forward to Dr. K. Or at least I think so.

  • Comment number 32.

    Gilliam once said that with film-making it was the attempt to overcome limitations (be they financial or logistical) that led to his strongest creative work - if the absence of Depp can be considered such a misfortune, we should all be glad because it augers well for the film as a whole.

  • Comment number 33.

    Look. At the end of the day, Depp is an integral part of the Pirates franchise; he is a major reason, if not THE reason, why people go to see those films and enjoy them. If the franchise is indeed a bank account, Depp's absence would send them into bankruptcy. This is pretty much certain, no matter what your opinion on the matter is.

    Depp's presence in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, on the other hand, is not something that that entire movie will hinge upon in the same fashion. The vacated role is an original character written solely for the film, with no preconceptions and no place in the original Quixote story to speak of. People will go to see this film because of their liking of Gilliam, the source material, or the genre. Just as Gilliam re-cast Ledger in Parnassus, he can surely make a similar move here and still create something worthwhile.

    Simple as that. I understand everybody's gripe, I really do, but those are the facts. It is impossible for large-scale filmmaking to NOT be an investment, and this situation will be placed alongside many others where that's become objectively apparent.

  • Comment number 34.

    I do realise the production of yet another POC movie is an offensive and ridiuclous notion, however, I also seem to completely understand Depp's decision to make this priority over Mr Gilliam.

    Yes Depp has contributed to Gilliam's world before and yes he's an actor with strong artistic roots, but for him to bow down to the abstract auter once again- I find it somewhat unrealistic.

    He's a changed man since the days of Fear and Loathing. Naturally success has deluded him slightly, but, this passage of time has certainly revealed that he definitely doesn't have strong connections with Gilliam.

    I think we all know what to expect if Depp has that 'special bond' with a Director.

    To dismiss his god-like status in the world of Pirates, for yet another crack at the Gilliam world, (especialy in light of the compassionate Ledger step-in performance) is a bit bonkers.

    By the way, do check out the trailer for James Cameron's new film Avatar if you get a mo- Mark. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Comment number 35.

    Mark... who are your handful? Give me five (four if you count Gilliam) directors that you would say you have to drop everything for?

  • Comment number 36.

    I know what my handful would be:

    - Ridley Scott
    - David Lynch
    - Terry Gilliam
    - Frank Darabont
    - Paul Thomas Anderson

    with a possible rear-guard defence for Alan Parker. His last film was rubbish but he still has the ability to make films as good as Birdy and The Wall

  • Comment number 37.

    Well if it is indeed true that Depp signed on for Pirates 4 and therefore can't do Gilliam's film then it still leaves the problem of why he signed up in the first place. I can understand the first two Pirates sequels as the first was good fun and I think he signed up for 3 films in the first place but surely he's only doing it for the money now. If he wants to make films for his kids to see then he can do a lot better than Pirates 4.

  • Comment number 38.

    Terry Gilliam
    David Fincher
    David Lynch
    Robert Rodriguez (just be he makes damn good films and would to be interesting to see how his works and he seems like a really nice guy)
    Richard Kelly

  • Comment number 39.

    Good call IanSchultz, forgot about Fincher, great director (apart from Benjamin Button)

  • Comment number 40.

    I would guess Mark's handful of favourite directors would be Del Toro, Cronenberg, Lynch, Gilliam, Friedkin. You'd probably say the next ones after that would be Paul Thomas Anderson, Peter Jackson and Ridley Scott

  • Comment number 41.

    I wonder if Mark has a list of directors you should NEVER work with under any circumstances? My guess is the list includes:

    - Michael Bay (obviously)
    - McG
    - Chris Columbus
    - Brett Ratner
    - Any of the Wayans Brothers

  • Comment number 42.

    Oh, and of course, Marcus Nispel and Gore Verbinsky

  • Comment number 43.

    Perhaps he doesn't like working with Gilliam - ever thought about that? :)

  • Comment number 44.

    I completely agree Dr.K I have not seen a single Pirates film because the trailer of Johnny Depp's panto pirate on acid character just totally puts me off and I love Johnny Depp. I think he is daft to turn down a Gilliam film for a few more million. Even if Don Quixote turns out to be terribly awful it would be an amzing expereince I am sure. Go to the light Johnny.

  • Comment number 45.

    It seems to me like all great actors go into some kind of rut when they get into their 50s.

    In his review of Sex and the City on 5Live, Kermode quoted Goldie Hawn's line in The First Wives' Club about the three ages of Hollywood women: secretary, mistress and Driving Miss Daisy. I think that for men in particular there's a similar trend.

    Actors start off in their 20s and early-30s playing young, impulsive, rebellious characters - James Dean in other words. Then from their mid-30s to late-40s, they take on more mature, complex roles, the kind of stuff that Gregory Peck or Cary Grant would do. And in their 60s and 70s, they play the laconic grandfathers, like Morgan Freeman is doing.

    But when an actor reaches 50, the work suddenly dries up, or at least becomes harder to come by. The actor is too old to play the mature father figure, but too young to be the elder statesman. As a result of this, actors will either take lots of roles in bad films or seek to revive a film that boosted their career in the past. Think of John Travolta doing Wild Hogs on the one hand and Be Cool on the other. It's also happening to Tom Hanks - do you really think he would have said yes to either The Da Vinci Code or Toy Story 3 when he was Oscar-nominated every other year?

    By the way, Johnny Depp is 46. Help.

  • Comment number 46.

    Not so sure i agree with the Gilliam nod so much anymore, Brazil is a complete masterpiece and his three 90's movies are all good, but in all honestly Tideland has to go down as one of the worst films i've ever seen, likewise Brothers Grimm is equally poor although it sounded magnificent on paper. Everything about Don Quixote sounds like it's going to be great but in truth nobody knows. In fact Lynch, Cronenberg and Gilliam have all made glaringly poor movies at some stage of their careers, the only Hollywood style directors you can truly count on nowadays are PT Anderson and the Coen brothers. Dont get me wrong Doc your totally right about Johnny Depps career choices, but is Gilliam pigeonholing himself into making quirky films because it's whats expected of him? if so shouldnt he be concentrating more on storyline than visual imagery?


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