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We Sail With the Tide - 2010
by Terry Rossio
Записки Терри Россио во время съемок фильма «Пираты Карибского моря: На странных берегах» (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).
Не у всех сайт открывается, в том числе и у меня тоже. Многие жалуются. В своё время я скопировала себе все дневники по 2, 3 и 4 фильму. Потихоньку хочу их перевести. И добавлю в блог оригинал для тех, кто хочет читать на английском, но нет доступа к сайту Россио.
We Sail With the Tide - 2010. Из дневников Терри Россио. Часть 2 >>
We Sail With the Tide - 2010. Из дневников Терри Россио. Часть 3 >>
We Sail With the Tide - 2010. Из дневников Терри Россио. Часть 4 >>
An ongoing question has been the fate of our beloved characters Pintel and Ragetti, whether they should be 'brought back' in the story of the fourth film, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (OST). Because we have two world-class actors (Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook), the roles have to be meaty enough to be worth their time, no one is going to ask them to stand in the background as part of a ship's crew. But to make their roles significant lays an extra burden on the narrative, at the cost of screen time for new characters. One idea is to split Pintel and Ragetti apart, meet them individually, each part of different crews, each thinking the other is dead, and let them reunite in the final battle. A draft was written exploring that idea. In the end, Rob Marshall was unsure that their subplot would survive the requirements of story clarity and a reasonable running time; it would be a tragedy to have their tale truncated or end up on the cutting room floor. One of the toughest decisions on the production, but the choice was made to wait, and attempt to being them back if there is another sequel.
Preproduction meeting, with the studio, aiming to keep the budget below $300M; the number that would make them happy is $275M. (Why does this happen on every film, we're always $20-30 million over with the estimate?) And that number does not include extra costs to shoot in 3D, but also doesn't take into account tax credits. The jury is still out on 3D -- would the added feature justify the higher cost? It's not just the equipment and post production expenses, but the likely slowing down of physical production based on the added time delays on set to get the 3D right. Even two or five or 10 minutes per shot adds up, and could add expensive days to the production schedule.
So far the biggest give-away due to budget is the historically-accurate Frost Fair sequence on the frozen Thames river. It's not just the cost of the set, the background extras, the design work, and the creatures, it's putting snow on the ground throughout all the London sequences, and using CGI to see each character's frosty breath as they exhale, etc. A painful but logical cut, as the location is present in the story mainly for spectacle, to showcase the unique historical location, and to provide a varied environment to enhance the Jack and Angelica sword-fight. But a setting is not a story point, and it's always better to protect the story beats over setting.
Meeting with Johnny Depp at his production offices in Hollywood, I presented him with a gift: a Barnabas Collins t-shirt. Got it at the "Dark Shadows" convention held in Burbank that year, and by the way that was a fabulous affair, Jocelyn and I got to see David Selby speak, as well as Jonathan Frid; chatted with both Lara Parker (Angelique) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans). In truth, Dark Shadows was a big influence on me as a kid, running home from the bus stop to make the 3:30 P.M. broadcast. Anyway, I was compelled to buy this one t-shirt, which depicted (unauthorized, of course) Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, with the sentiment, 'Barnabas for President.' I wanted Johnny to see it, just an indication of how excited the fan base was to see a Dark Shadows movie with him in the pivotal role. Johnny graciously accepted the t-shirt, appreciative if somewhat bemused, as I imagine anyone would be.
Rarely does the nuts-and-bolts negotiations business side of studio filmmaking reach all the way to the screenwriter, but we got word that the studio and Kevin McNally are far apart in their deal for Kevin to participate in ON STRANGER TIDES. I am asked whether the story specifically needs the Gibbs character, or whether the role could be played by someone else; one of the other pirates. I was happy to insist that the Gibbs part had to be Gibbs and none other, that only the original, authentic Gibbs would do, and they ought to pay McNally his due!
Speaking of budget, some reporter from the Times came in, got a few quotes and has now put out a story that the budget on Pirates4 has been 'slashed' and that we're not allowed to shoot on the water, etc. Now that misinformation is all over the Net, and is sure to be repeated and henceforth regarded as fact. But the truth is, at $285 million, the budget on Pirates4 is actually higher than Pirates1 and Pirates2, and by the time we're done, who knows, after adding 3D, we're not that far off Pirates3. It's a complete non-story, manufactured by a reporter trying to create an economic angle to tie into the recession. Each of the previous three films went through the same process of cutting a scene or two to stay on schedule and fiscally responsible; it happens on every production, business as usual. The decision to place sections of the film in London and on an island jungle was story-based, and certainly didn't save us any money. Typical entertainment reporting, spin the tale however best to garner a click, and to hell with the mundane truth. It's just annoying to know that I will have to listen to variations of, "So I heard they cut the budget way back on this one" for the next several years.
Rob continues to make "micro-changes" to the production draft. down to grammatical fixes, and citing (or not citing) background characters, etc. This might be a good sign, perhaps he doesn't intend to make many changes on set? Some of the changes create a dilemma for the script department: how much of a change constitutes something worth a whole new revision set to be distributed, is it worth doing that for a change in verb tense?
We throw a going-away party at our house in Topanga canyon, prior to heading out to Hawaii for filming. Featured entertainment, a Karaoke contest. To help spur competition, Jocelyn and I impetuously make the winning prize a brand-new Apple iPad. I'm out in the first round despite an impassioned rendition of "I Think I Love You" in the style of David Cassidy. There are some fantastic singers in our crowd, who knew? We even cast four judges, including Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess columnist. One thing you learn pretty quickly, a lot comes down to song choice. The climactic Final round features the birthday-boy Kevin McNally against Greg Ellis, whom, we didn't know at the time, sang lead in the original cast of "Starlight Express." Kevin pulls out a Cinderella story victory with an enthusiastic rendition of "Born to be Wild" fronting three hastily-recruited backup dancers and sporting a torn t-shirt. Now we have to go out and find him an iPad, which are in short supply, but Greg Ellis overcomes his iPad envy to hook us up with a contact at a computer store in Manhattan Beach, so we are able to send McNally off to Hawaii with his prize.
Got official production stationary, the logo looks like an oil slick with the words "On Stranger Tides" floating on top, which is not an altogether encouraging portent.
Rob's opening quote at the film budget meeting with the studio, "They're giving us a lot of money, we should be able to do it for this."
Jerry Bruckheimer's quote at the film budget meeting with the studio, "Everyone is covering their ass, they don't want to not make you happy, so they ask for everything, but one truck makes a huge difference."
As a writer, why not be open to ideas and suggestions? Brig Taylor solved the problem of what do they need from the mermaid -- a tear. Jocelyn suggested tears of joy, not sorrow. Scrum invented his own props, Susan (my assistant) suggested the twist that the Spanish are intent on destroying the temple, Johnny requested a priest character, etc. Everyone contributes.
How is Rob's and John's dog, Gilley, going to get to Hawaii? U.S. Customs has strict laws regarding importing animals to the islands, we all know Rob and John simply cannot live without their scruffy beloved pet and unofficial film mascot. Now when you imagine Gilley, you're likely to picture a sweet loving Benji-type critter, but no. What's cool about Gilley is that for the most part, he just doesn't give a shit, and lets you know it with continuous cool disdain and disinterest, so when you do get that rare appreciative look or lick, it really means something. Rumor has it that the Governor of Hawaii is being contacted for a special dispensation and Gilley will fly in via private jet, but that could be just a rumor.
Making plans, there is an opportunity to fly to Hawaii on Bruckheimer's corporate jet. The question Jocelyn and I debate: would it be it rude to show up at the plane carrying golf clubs?
The studio at this point is focused on the page count of the screenplay, which is coming in at around 118, but they'd like it down to 114. But nobody is proposing any scenes to cut, just shortened. This really makes no sense. Once you get to the point where you're shooting a scene (you've built the set, sewn the costumes, flown in actors, crew, etc.) it doesn't cost any more to say one or two more lines of dialogue. No one would tell an actor on set to not improvise a line or two, or explore saying a line a different way, which is the same thing -- so why can't we put that into the script? What happens is we end up cutting descriptions, which also doesn't actually save any money, and those descriptions can be (in fact usually are) necessary to understand the context of a scene, what the tone should be, and can inform everything from an actor's performance to the director's staging, and can be key information for the various departments, influencing props, background, art design, transportation. Makes no sense, but even if you point it out, you can't win because people agree with you ("Yes we know it's dumb") and then still insist on the cuts.
Speaking of page count... the studio focus on page count is especially egregious in the context of the storyboard process. Just saw the initial storyboards for the carriage chase sequence, and it's -- not kidding -- 80 pages long with four shots per page, double-sided... a whole new set of stunts, locations and set-pieces not present in the script, and for the most part, generic. Where's the logic in working the screenwriter to trim a quarter of a page, when the board artist is free to come in and sketch out twenty extra minutes of screen time?
Another meeting with Johnny at his offices. Rare for him, he's about 15 minutes late arriving. I hatch a plan. When he arrives, all apologetic, I stand up and say, "I am sorry, but I have to strike you." He looks shocked. Bruckheimer and the other executives look shocked. "Not for being late," I say, "But still, I have to strike you, immediately." He says all right, and I step forward and slam him backwards in his chest, pretty hard. "That," I explain, "is for being named fucking Entertainer of the fucking Decade." And I hit him again. "How am I supposed to have a story meeting and deal with someone who has been named goddamn Entertainer of the Decade?" Johnny laughs, and I'm thankful he gets the joke. (The night before, "Entertainment Weekly" had just given Johnny that title. Sometimes you do whatever comes to mind to break the ice and set the tone...)
On Kauai, one of the hotel's main ballrooms has been elaborately set up for a walk-through tour. The intent is to transfer the vision of the movie from the director to the main departments, the studio, the actors, even reporters and marketing pros; also, to inspire all the troops at the beginning of this long adventure. And so different sections of the room are set up corresponding to different film locations, featuring concept art, scouting photos, props (guns, cannons, rigging), blueprints, set models, weapons and even costumes. It's quite amazing, if a little bizarre, as everything is arranged and presented so artfully, with proper lighting and even appropriate background music, it's like touring a museum of artifacts for events that have yet to occur. The vast center of the room is kept empty, the ballroom will also serve as the venue for the cast & crew read-through.
There's a draft controversy brewing regarding the upcoming read-through, do the actors read from their old drafts, which have been in their possession for several weeks, which contain their notes in preparation for the reading, or do we issue new drafts to everyone, which are more up-to-date, but won't give them time to prepare? But then again, why rehearse off the out-of-date drafts? Resolution: give them new drafts and let them use their old drafts if they choose.
There is a real art to reading descriptions during a cast and crew read-through; you can't read them all, or the event would be far longer than the actual movie, but you have to pick and choose enough of them so everyone knows what is going on; also, you have to integrate the descriptions with the dialogue, or the rhythm of the performances gets thrown off. Peter Cohen is a master at editing a script down to what needs to be read, and then performing it with the actors, infusing the action beats with energy and enthusiasm.
Kauai resort hotel ballroom for rehearsals, they'd taped down a remarkably accurate outline of the ship onto the ballroom floor, complete with a raised platform to indicate the elevated decks with ship's wheel. Let's pretend!
Spoke to Stephen Graham, and he's so completely delighted to be a pirate, he loves his outfit, and has embellished it with various items, each with its own history, the details of which he is happy to share: the spine from a friend who he had to eat to survive (a very large man); the ring for a whore whom he asked to marry, but she said no; the jawbone of his dog that was eaten by a shark, and then he killed the shark, now the precursor to the swiss army knife -- used for eating, sewing, as a weapon, and digging.
Rob presents concept art of the 'human' version of our mermaids, not as described in the script, where the Syrena would still be covered with scales and have gills. His concern is that we can't have a bunch of naked mermaids running around, even in the dark, impossible to film. I feel we've dropped into the uncanny valley, where a design is not human, but still human enough to be disconcerting, and not alien enough to be different from human. I indicate a clear preference is for real breasts, not scale-covered, and most agree; especially if we're to play a convincing love story, we need a transformation from the marine-look to human-look, not marine-look to slightly less marine-look. (After weeks of debate, the strategy is to re-stage the mermaid attack so for the most part, the mermaids do not leave the water.)
At dinner, Kevin McNally tells a hilarious story that cannot be printed here, involving his wife and an ill-fated attempt to spice up their marriage sex life with a candlestick.
On the island, first day, driving around lost, trying to help McNally find a cell phone. T-Mobile is only available through Costco, but they won't let us in without a membership. So he bails on golf to deal with it, and I continue on, searching for the course, which turns out to be set gloriously along the beach. So far Hawaii is pretty much just as gorgeous as advertised.
At the read-though prior to the read-through, Greg Ellis is asked to read Johnny's role, kind of put on the on the spot, but he rises to the occasion. Later, he mentions, the difficulty was deciding how much of Johnny impression, Jack Sparrow imitation do you do, for the sake of the read, how much do you go for it?
On Kauai, go to the Fourth Mate Production offices to get my crew photo and badge, up on a high floor, an amazing, sweeping view of entire bay, the water a gleaming deep blue in the sun. There is a copy machine in front of the floor-to-ceiling picture window, and I am sure, of all the copy machines in all the offices in all the world, that one has the best view.
At the read-through, huge square table in the ballroom. Ian is amazing, the singing is beautiful, all the actors are happy (which is weird). It's actually difficult to get so much praise, especially Johnny saying it's the best script of all.
First day of actual shooting, remote beach on Kauai, ride into set on the back of a jet ski. (Br took a photo of this event and tweeted it, and it got picked up by a website, for my Mom to see, thank you Jerry.) About an hour later, we hear a noise and look up, it is Johnny Depp arriving via helicopter, descending upon us like some minor God in a Greek play, he exits the copter in full Jack Sparrow regalia, and you can sense the collective excitement, now it feels that we've started to make this movie!
At the end of the first day, I'm given a choice: fly back via helicopter (fast and scenic) or travel via jet ski to the boat. Caveat, the tide was up and the surf now much worse, so the ride via jet ski out to the boat was bound to be dramatic; one had to hang onto a float on the back of the jet ski and get towed through high crashing waves. Choose your poison! I voted for jet ski, partly because I consider helicopters not the safest of contraptions, but also to not take up room, give the spot to a crew member who truly needed to get back faster.
So the ride out through the surf was everything promised. We got in line and waded out into the water and waited our turn as the jet-skies did a merry-go-round; it becomes clear that each trip is different. Giant waves thundering in, you have a half-second to grab on the back of the float, then the marine pilot guns it, trying to avoid the worst of the crashing water. I watch as one jet-ski-float combo goes flying into the air, the passenger thrown free. I step forward but too soon, it's really someone else's turn; and a good thing, as that is a rough ride, blasting through five waves headfirst. My turn comes and I grab on, and my pilot is good, he guns it, racing sideways along the face of the waves to avoid the crests, turning straight-on when needed, and I make it to the boat soaked and thrilled, and climb aboard to thunderous applause, given to each passenger who survives.
How long will Tracey Jacobs (Johnny's long-time agent) be in Hawaii? She says, "I've got a meeting on Monday at Bruckheimer Films, so I guess I'll be back by then!" And since the meeting is with Jerry, she knows she's got a ride. Meeting is for THE LONE RANGER project, and the way she says it, I'm not sure she realizes I co-wrote that script.
The time change being in Hawaii, coupled with several of the Brits' obsession with soccer, creates a 4-in-the-morning event down at the hotel bar to watch the World Cup. Jocelyn made it down; Sam Claflin had to endure good-natured teasing regarding his passing out and drooling on the couch.
Second day of shooting, the Barbossa poison frog scene; there is a colorful lizard on Executive Producer Mike Stenson's back, dropped down from out of the trees. That only happens in the movies.
Because they never have a trailer on set for the screenwriter, we actually had it written into the screenwriting contract this time that they must provide a trailer. So I get to set and of course there is no trailer, and the line producer seemed surprised one is needed. Back to sharing a trailer with Jerry and whatever actor's trailer happens to be open. The irony is that the writer actually needs a trailer, we actually use it!
Eventually a trailer shows up -- cute little bugger, half the size of everyone else's trailer and twice as old, clearly a local rental. But we love it. Susan arranges Burning Man-style Christmas lights, and we have the best most funky trailer on set. Later we find out it (reportedly) was George Clooney's trailer, the one he drove around the island for THE DESCENDANTS movie.
Jocelyn flies back to Hawaii on Jerry's corporate jet, sitting with Tracey Jacobs. She can't help but overhear Tracey talking to Jerry, she has no fear, totally thrashes him, and Jerry loves it, thrashes her right back. The topic of Dark Shadows comes up, and Jocelyn shows Tracey pictures of our dogs, Maggie Evans and Quentin Collins, also our cat, Josette Collins. All character names from the soap opera, we are such fans. Tracey says, "We have to get Terry to work on the movie!" and Jerry says, "No, I won't let you have him!"
Down at the bar, Kevin McNally has this cork trick he does... holding two corks between thumb and finger, and somehow he twists his hands and pulls them away from each other. You try to do it and you get tangled. It looks very cool and I can't help but wonder if there is a way to put it the movie, if not this one the next, if there is a next.
Night shooting, on the ridge, botanical gardens. Disappointed to see Johnny pop Gibbs in the nose, "Three Stooges" style... I think audiences want to see a competent and capable Jack Sparrow, my fear is that if he doesn't take the proceedings seriously, the audience may laugh in the moment, but won't buy into the story in the long run.
Shooting the sneaking up on the Spanish Camp scene, Johnny is adding a hat to a hat by repeating the word "stirrings"... scene is designed for the word to be said twice and he's doing five... I have to think it will be cut back in editing.
Racing around with Chad Omen in the botanical gardens, that's the fun of being a producer, you can kind of do what you want on set. Chad is upset when we come back and the designated Bruckheimer golf cart is not where we left it; turns out his own assistant took it on an errand.
Dinner with Chad at Waikiki hotel. He tells the (rather elaborate) story of the ISO setting controversy. Darius refuses to go below 1250 for the look he wants, but the editors are receiving footage with a different rating, and any lightening of the image on their end will create interference pattern. But Darius won't shoot higher. There's concern we'll have a film that is too dark. Jocelyn points out that the ISO can be changed on the Red camera using the RAW footage. Chad says no, he's looked into it, and it can't. (Later Jocelyn is proven to be correct but Chad won't admit it.) Between the editors, the cinematographer, the camera manufacturer, the post group, the producers and director, there's huge uproar, conflict and finger pointing. There was an attempt to fix the camera, but that creates a new issue. We're in a shakedown period when using a brand new rig constructed for this shoot, with no ability to go back and reshoot anything.
Shooting day for night on the beach. But later, in the botanical gardens, on the screenplay sides (which are pocket-sized printed pages of the scene to shoot that day), noticed the beach scene previous was marked DAY. So did we shoot day for night or not? Only Darius knows for sure...
At the poolside cabana, I take a photo of Sam Claflin and Astrid Bergés-Frisbey together. Who knows, might be of interest some day. Sam is totally smitten with her, and who wouldn't be? But the word is she has a boyfriend. Still, they're both young and gorgeous, so one can't help but speculate, wouldn't it be sweet if her other relationship wasn't so serious and they end up together? A couple weeks later, at the airport, waiting for Astrid to arrive back in the islands, Sam comes running up, saying "She's here, she's here!" after spotting her out on the landing field. Yep, smitten.
Rob Marshall on the challenges of shooting a film in 3D, "It's like theatre club geeks meet science club geeks, know what I mean?"
Father's Day. Got a call from Janay. She's working on a birthday present. Called Dad. Played soccer, Greg plays with his son. Chad has breakfast and hike with his daughter.
At the soccer game, I'm playing defense opposite Sam, and I have a perfect view of a play, Sam, at a full run and in the air, makes a behind-the-back heel interception and no-look pass... one of the most athletic, natural and stunning physical moves I have ever seen, a moment of sublime beauty.
Invited to Geoffrey Rush's hotel room, for the screening of AT WORLD'S END. Wow what a crazy movie. Geoffrey commented, "I haven't seen it since the premiere. My wife was mad at me for abandoning her on the red carpet, in favor of Jack the monkey. But I woke up in the middle of the night, the night before the premiere, and called the trainer. I knew the red carpet would be all about Keira and Johnny and Orlando, I needed something to get some attention." How cool is it to sit behind Geoffrey, and get high fives from him at every cool moment of the film?
Interesting watching that film in Geoffrey's room, I can't help recall the discussion to cut the wedding scene in the middle of the battle, that it was too over the top, unbelievable. And Ted arguing that Will shouldn't ask Elizabeth to marry, even if he wanted to, that she should ask him. Long discussions on that point. To me that moment plays as the highlight of the film, yet it was something that various factions wanted to change. Thankfully Ted took the time to go work with the stunt coordinator and integrate the dialogue into the choreography, which helped to keep the scene in place, and convince all that it would work.
Afterwards, I realized that I left my backpack in Geoffrey's room, so I had to go back. I ran into a supermodel in the hallway, one of our mermaids, searching to find Geoffrey for late night drinks. Probably completely innocent, but still, oh, to have a fraction of that man's charm! Supermodels never go in search of the screenwriter! (Get your mind out of the gutter, it was just drinks, they headed to the bar, and Geoffrey held court until sunrise, his group of admirers growing to two dozen, oh, to have a fraction of that man's charm!)
On set, you overhear snippets of conversations, especially around video village. Topics include sight-lines, actors' chairs, care and feeding of extras... the pirate who falls on every take... local extra looking into camera. Gossip on whether star actors will show up to feed lines. Is the leading lady is pregnant? Crossing! Someone calls for a rock, and a rock appears. It's delightful controlled chaos.
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