By Ewan Angus
Spanning three films, several theme park rides and more merchandise than you can shake a cutlass at, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become a brimming chest of gold for Disney since the first movie’s release in 2003. So with Box Office sales shooting sky high it was always a franchise Disney wouldn’t let go of. Starring Orlando Bloom, famous for his Legolas portrayal, period actress Keira Knightley and the academy award nominee Johnny Depp as the stories protagonists.
For the next film Disney went out on a limb and got in touch with a certain well known fantasy author. In 1988 Tim Powers, author of the award winning The Anubis Gates and the Stress of her Regard, wrote a historical fantasy novel that dealt with a Pirate named Jack. In the novel Jack goes looking for the Fountain of Youth. Something Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was seen looking for on a magical map of the at the end of the third movie, At Worlds End.
Tim Powers spoke to Edinburgh Napier News about the Disney buying the rights to the book, the transition to film and how it came about.
“As to On Stranger Tides — Disney approached my agent a few years ago asking if they could buy an option on the book, for use in an eventual fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and I agreed.”
The novel, which was released in 1988 to critical acclaim and nominations for the prestigious Locus Fantasy award and the World Fantasy Award is, like all of Powers novels, a historical fantasy. In that it means that real people and real times are the background twisted with a fantasy setting. Meticulous research and historical accuracy are expected when it comes to novels set in the ‘real world’ and the novel takes both of these very seriously.
However, the fate of the fourth Pirates film has been fraught with rumours and problems. Firm supporter of the trilogy and Walt Disney studios chairman Dane Cook resigned recently leading to Depp speculating that the film might not even go ahead. The director of the trilogy Gore Verbinski also announced he would not return to the film before his computer game adaption Bioshock was finished. Since then the Bioshock movie has run aground and the rumours are circulating that he’ll be back on deck for On Stranger Tides.
The speculation was put to bed early last month at the D23 convention as Johnny Depp surprised everyone by appearing on stage in full Jack Sparrow get up to announce that the fourth Pirates film would be aptly named On Stranger tides.
As the film is still in its development stage Powers had to play it subtle when it came to certain questions. When asked about the state of the script and the stage of development he gave a coy reply.
“(I know) Just what everybody knows! Namely that they’re planning to start filming in April or May.”
As for if he’s met any of the crew of the Black Pearl he admitted his distance from the project.
“No — I hope to, sometime! At the premier, for instance!”
So when Powers was asked about the state of development and his opinion on the movie he answered honestly and openly.
“I think it would be terrific if they do it! I’ve never thought that a movie needs to be very much like a book it might be based on.”
As there has been three movies set before this one, each firmly establishing the characters, mytharc and the canon there will be a lot of chopping and changing to the original stand alone novel. Many of the novels characters and subplots will be replaced or removed entirely in order to integrate it full into the Pirates world. these changes and alteration to his novel are something Powers seems upbeat and ok with.
“Well, yes — my book naturally doesn’t fit into the Pirates of the Caribbean world, so I’d expect a lot of deviation. But I have no idea what directions the script writers might be pursuing!”
So with the changes more or less definite and the novel acting merely as a template the movie that emerges, should it emerge, might not be anything like the original. Something Hollywood has no qualms with when it comes to the book to movie transition. Tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release date, the movie is aiming to be out before Disney and Depp’s other offering The Lone Ranger.