Exclusive with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Directors Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg #PiratesLifeEvent

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Last week we had the honor of sitting down with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Directors Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg. They were both charming and a pleasure to listen to. They have been friends since they were little boys and their friendship and rapport with each other was very apparent. Here’s what we learned:

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop- MomStart.com

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop- MomStart.com

How did the movie fall into your laps?

Espen Sandberg: Yeah, it didn’t fall. We chased it. We really wanted to make this movie. And I think the basic reason as you know Joachim and I started making movies together when we were 10. Movies that inspired us back then was you know the Spielberg and Lucas and Zemeckis films. And this franchise just reminds us of that. And it has that unique blend of spectacle and humor and scary parts and also a lot of heart. So that meant a lot to us.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The special effects were amazing. What made you decide to go with dead sharks and how did that come about?

Joachim Ronning: Well, it was in the script (Joachim joked)

Espen Sandberg: It’s a huge inspiration. (Espen joked)

Joachim Ronning: (It was) brilliantly written by Jeff Nathanson. And then it became our job to translate that and to add elements in the action sequence. The idea was on paper but that scene where he jumps over the boat. That’s all coming as we’re developing the idea. But the ghost sharks are part of the look of the ghosts basically. That was important. The design of the ghosts became a long process that we did together with Javier Bardem as well. And the production designers and the VFX supervisors. Going in and trying to find what can give it a ghostly appearance without losing the actors basically. Javier is so wonderful and you don’t want to mess it too much up. So, that’s where it started. And then the ghost sharks came from that trying to be a part of that family, so to speak.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

You work as a team so often, do you have individual roles interacting?  

Joachim Ronning: (Jokingly) We only work every other day.

Espen Sandberg: It’s very easy for everyone.

Joachim Ronning: You know we don’t really know any other way of doing this then being together. For us, it’s a very natural process. And I think it’s a collaborative one. We include the actors and the crew and everyone as part of the discussion basically. And we try to create a safe work environment. You know where every idea is welcome and everybody can be a part of the discussion. And that’s important to us. I think that’s like probably one of the strong advantages that we have as a directing team.

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop- MomStart.com

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop- MomStart.com

Was there any part of the creative talk that you really enjoyed that didn’t make it in the film? Any specific instances?

Joachim Ronning: This has been a very long journey for us. I think almost four years. Almost four years we’ve been working on this movie which is long even for big movies. And of course like in that process 1 ½ year just working on the script there’s always going to be so many different versions and ideas and the process is very long and complex. I think that probably one of the things that we had the most versions of is probably Jack Sparrow’s back story and his origin story, how he became Jack the sparrow and all of that. I remember we had like 10 or 15 versions of that. That was a long and grueling process because the mythology of Pirates of the Caribbean, the series and movies, it’s so at least I think it’s a complex mythology. There’s a lot of fans out there that knows everything. And so it was important for us to be ahead of that and not mess with any previous back stories.

Espen Sandberg: We also wanted to blend that back story of Jack also with Salazar’s. So that their relationship and the revenge story became personal so to speak.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

When you were filming the young Jack scenes was the process similar to Rogue One and filming Leah, the young Leah in terms of the CGI for his face?

Joachim Ronning : I would say yes and no because the Leah was not with Carrie Fisher but we shot with Johnny Depp. So the youthification that we call it. I’ve been misquoted in so many newspapers saying, beautification but it’s youthification. We shot it with Johnny and then spent the year in the computer basically.

Espen Sandberg: “Now we can do 21 Jump Street again!” Espen joked.

Joachim Ronning: Yeah, exactly. He was thrilled when he saw the result. He was a little like freaked out by it looking at it but he loved it. And that was a fun moment.

What was it like working with Johnny Depp? And what was the chemistry like onset?

Espen Sandberg: It’s amazing. He’s so funny. What you see with Jack Sparrow is all Johnny. He’s a genius. I mean for us he’s like up there with Chaplin and the other ones because his timing is just perfect and he has such a weird imagination. So he comes up with the craziest ideas. And for us, the highlight was always going into his trailer in the morning and going through the scenes and the lines and trying to come up with even more cool stuff to do to make it even more funny. And of course when we started shooting he would do something completely different. And everyone was sort of thrown off but that also makes it come alive and funny.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

You said that you pursued this title. Is there a specific reason you wanted to do the next installment in the series or was it just this type of origin story that you were attracted to?

Joachim Ronning: The origin story in the movie came from us actually. That was something we wanted to explore. That was something that as fans of the franchise ourselves we were curious about Jack Sparrow. We were thinking well, that could be cool and they liked that. Disney liked it. And Johnny liked it too. He was a little bit more reserved because he’s very protective of this character of course. He’s a tricky movie character, Jack Sparrow because he doesn’t really have what they call the character arc. He learns nothing during his journey. It’s not richer for the experience. So he was very curious to where we would go with it. And then creating how he got his name and all of that. It’s a little bit risky. But then when we presented it and when we started shooting he really embraced it and that was cool. So that was a big part of what we brought to get the job in the first place.

Why did you want to make this movie?

Joachim Ronning: Why we wanted to do the movie? Like a little bit like Espen was saying, when we grew up you know we were very influenced by Hollywood adventure family movies, movies that inspired us to become filmmakers in the first place. And Pirates reminds us of that. It’s very much that fun movies that gives you energy. We both have kids. And to be able to do that was also a big part of why we wanted to do this. It’s something they can relate to and be a part of. And now we’ve been doing the premieres, all over the world and they’ve been traveling with us. And that wouldn’t work if it was a horror movie. It was a big part of it to make something that we saw ourselves in when we were kids and to make something for our kids.

Disney's "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES"..Director Joachim Rønning on set...©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Were there any other villains that you explored before settling with Captain Salazar?

Espen Sandberg: He (Salazar) wasn’t Spanish when we came but then when Javier agreed to come on, be a part of this then he became Spanish. So I think he was originally British or something like that. So that’s what changed with Javier.

What’s in store for the franchise? Will there be another one?

Joachim Ronning: I hope so.

Espen Sandberg: We wish we had that position. We are fans of the franchise so we certainly hope that it continues. We’ll see. We’re just going to enjoy this now and see how it goes. But we’re crossing fingers.

Joachim Ronning: Yeah, it’s up to the audience I think now. And then Disney will make a decision.

What are you hoping people walk away with from the film?

Joachim Ronning: I think that for us again it’s something that was very important for us that we touch upon a little bit was the emotional core of the story and the kind of family theme that the film has. And that a treasure is not always you know a chest of gold. It could be other things.

Espen Sandberg: Even for a pirate.

Joachim Ronning: Even for a pirate. And I think that was something we really fought hard to do because I was really inspired by the first movie I think in the series that had a big heart. And then of course you have the adventure and you have the scares and you have the comedy. I hope that the audience will moved by it as well.


Photo Credit: Louise Bishop- MomStart.com

You mentioned you started working together basically when you were 10 years old. Are your children in the same boat? Do your kids try to make movies together?

Joachim Ronning: Yeah, I would say so.

Espen Sandberg: They’re best friends actually so they’re super close. And they’re doing a lot of creative stuff so we’ll see.

Joachim Ronning: Yeah, we have five kids between us. I have two, Espen has three.  

Espen Sandberg: Yeah, they’re 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 (years old). Yeah, so it’s a good bunch to travel with.

How did your partnership begin?

Espen Sandberg: Through dance. We were break dancers. We were 10. And we immediately started making movies instead. And luckily we didn’t pursue the dancing career. We went for the moviemaking.

Joachim Ronning: We were in elementary school, my dad bought a video camera so that’s why we kind of drifted into that and became very interested in film.

Do you have any of those early films?

Joachim Ronning: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s hilarious. And we were talking like this (in a high pitched voice).  

What’s it like being part of such an iconic part of Disney history? Is this what you’ve wanted to have that kind of feather in your cap?

Joachim Ronning: For sure. No, it’s a dream come true. I think we grew up with this in movies.

Espen Sandberg: And it’s so much bigger than us. It’s amazing to go to China and there’s thousands of screaming fans. It’s such a global phenomenon and it’s because they love the universe. They love the characters. And for us to be a part of that and keep that story going is really cool.

POTC PosterCheck out these fun Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales activity pages!

Check out my Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales review and Los Angeles Premiere experience. Go see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in theaters now.

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Disclosure- I was invited by Disney to attend this all expense paid press trip but all opinions are 100% my own.

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