The rum-swilling Captain Jack Sparrow is back, and Johnny Depp couldn't be happier.
He's been playing outlandish characters for years, but it wasn't until his turn as the selfishly charming raider in 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean" that he earned his first Oscar nomination. The popularity of his character was a vindication of sorts since the studio was initially nervous about his quirky portrayal, which was based on the oddball combination of rock legend Keith Richards and the amorous cartoon skunk Pepe LePew.
"I mean, bless 'em, [the executives] did panic on the first one, and probably to some degree for good reason," says Depp. "I think it's a prerequisite to become an executive: you have to have that capability to panic instantly and do your best to resolve it as quickly as possible. But really it was a case where the audience, the viewers, actually came in and they were the ones that saved me."
Now Depp's returning the favor with the eagerly awaited sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Jack Sparrow is no mere imaginary friend for a man who was sad to finish shooting the original film because of "separation anxiety." Some creative psychoanalysis would probably be in order to examine just how much of Depp is actually in the character, which he falls into effortlessly.
"See, I'm never aware of it, that I'm in character. It never feels like I'm in character," he confesses. "It always feels like you have those moments just before the take and it kind of winds down after the scene is done."
Depp, who has already shot most of the next "Pirates" film, is ready for more sequels if Disney greenlights them.
"I just feel like I'm not done ... like there are more things you could do," says Depp. "Because, I suppose, with a character like this, the parameters are a little broader, so there are more possibilities I think. And he's a fun character to play. I was really not looking forward to saying goodbye to him."
In his latest adventure, Captain Jack searches for a key to unlock a chest belonging to the legendary pirate Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Because of his colorful cheekiness, returning director Gore Verbinski is always careful to balance Jack out and is thankful that there's slightly more to the drunken, rascal's character.
"He's such a piece of garlic in the soup that you need seven straight men against him. He can't just rub against one," says Verbinski. "He needs to rub against a series of archetypes and a series of plot constructs. Also, the thing about Jack's character is that there is an honest streak. I think that's what we always keep coming back to. Jack thinks he's a bad boy, but he would love to not be as kind of good as he really is. He just hates that about himself."
On his quest, Jack must decide whether to sacrifice his friend Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in order to escape the Kraken, an enormous squid that acts as Davy Jones' aquatic attack dog. The Kraken destroys entire ships with its giant, muscular tentacles and emits a foul-smelling substance, which Jack experiences face-first.
"God, that was horrible," recalls Depp. "But the good news is I was expecting the worst and it was horrible but it wasn't as bad as I suppose it could have been. I didn't inhale any of the slime which is good."
Despite the huge action scenes, such as grappling with the Kraken, sword fighting inside a giant wheel or escaping cannibalistic islanders, Depp's favorite scene is more low-key and shows just how much Jack really likes the beautiful Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley).
"The most fun was just one scene that comes to mind is when Jack realizes that there's a moment when Elizabeth is talking about how she wants to get married," says the actor, referring to the scene where Jack points out that a captain can officiate a marriage. "And he has that sort of moment of weakness of 'Ah, well ...' That was a lot of fun to play."
Although Depp admits that he gravitates towards the more offbeat characters, he thinks it's just a matter of opinion of what's considered straight or weird.
"I think everybody's nuts. I mean, I really do," he says. "And the weirdest thing in the world is to see some guy who is just super earnest. He's probably crazier than any of the guys I've played. It'd have to be something underneath for me to make that work. Otherwise, there are a bunch of guys out there, actors, actor types who do that kind of thing very well. It's probably me missing something."
For now, Depp is still happy to have Captain Jack in his life since there's about 70 more days of principal photography for "Pirates 3."
"We've got a few more months to go," he says. "It's the home stretch, so I think probably the last month I'll start going into that deep, dark depression."
"Pirates" sails into theaters nationwide on Friday, July 7.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times