[SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses scenes toward the end of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”]
The characters in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” weren’t the only ones struggling to find the Fountain of Youth — the filmmaking team behind the adventure film also learned that the mystical site is an elusive goal.
“Deciding what the fountain would look like, that was a long, difficult process, and it ended up being one of the toughest decisions we had,” director Rob Marshall said. “My production designer, John Myhre, who has worked with me on every movie I’ve done and won Oscars for two of them, John DeLuca, the executive producer, who is like my right arm, we all sat down and looked at 60 or more ideas for the Fountain of Youth. It was really important to us. We knew the whole movie was a race to this place and everybody meets there. This place that exists in our imagination, it could be anything. ”
Marshall added: “We looked at everything you could imagine, and in the end, we did something that looked very natural with this sort of circular stone with a very simple drip. We also needed something that could be crushed and broken — so not just a pool of water — for the ending we had in mind.”
The Fountain of Youth as shown in the film drips off a curved rock that, with its simple contours, ancient solidity and textures, is more like Stonehenge than “Fantasy Island.” Marshall said there was a temptation to go big and elaborate with the Fountain of Youth — especially without the franchise’s reliable sea battles in this new sequel — but he and producer Jerry Bruckheimer resisted.
“We began with the idea that this is a secret place where there was a temple, perhaps, once built around this natural phenomenon,” Marshall said. “It’s tricky. You want something new, something that hasn’t been seen before. We wanted simplicity. But we looked at every option. We had a floating fountain at one point, but we thought that was too sci-fi. We had this whole crystal thing we looked at, but that felt overused and overdone. We thought of surrounding it with a lot of tribal things, like totem poles of a kind. We went through every cultural thing and these images of the fantastic. But our story and our movie took us to this place and this Fountain of Youth.”
More than a physical setting for climactic battle, the fountain is also the key to the message of this fourth “Pirates” adventure, Marshall said. When Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) skips his chance to taste immortality, he is revealing the mission statement of the buccaneer film. “The fountain is, ultimately, the antithesis of the philosophy of a pirate. Jack says at the end that he wants to live each day like it’s his last, and living forever takes that away from you. He wants to live on the edge. That’s the thrill of being a pirate. He had the opportunity to live forever but chose the pirate’s way. It’s like he says, ‘It’s a pirate’s life for me.’ ”
“On Stranger Tides,” released May 20, now stands as the highest-grossing film of the year with $790 million in worldwide box office.
— Geoff Boucher
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