There are some actors that could—literally—read anything and make it exciting. If they wanted to read the ingredients on a candy wrapper and make you weep, or quake in fear their natural abilities could and would produce their desired impact. Those thespians are rare: Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones spring to mind, and so does Oscar® winner Javier Bardem.
Right now Bardem can be seen as the vengeful, cursed undead, Captain Salazar in Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth film in the now-iconic “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise, which returns Johnny Depp to his Academy Award®-nominated role as the outrageous, swashbuckling scoundrel Captain Jack Sparrow. Bardem is joined in this new adventure with Oscar® winner Geoffrey Rush.
Everything about the film is created to make it have that wow impact which includes the very look of the Captain Salazar’s (Bardem) ghostly crew and his particularly gnarly look, half spectral with a deterioration of corporeal flesh and fresh, red blood oozing from his mouth, taking charge of his doomed and cursed ship — The Silent Mary.
The ship which was designed by architect/production designer Nigel Phelps, was inspired to make the ship a “floating Spanish castle” with turrets, swiveling cannons on deck, and statues of medieval knights in full armor adorning her decks and exterior.
According to the press notes, The “cursed” version of the Silent Mary presented a fascinating contrast, a symphony of picturesque deterioration: large gaps in its rotting wood structure; seaweed crawling up the mainsail; kelp adorning the fraying ropes; turrets, cannons, statues, weaponry, all now covered in slimy green moss. The former pride of the Spanish Navy now a terrifying spectre, much like its cursed undead Captain Salazar.
Actors work with their surroundings. The more convincing to them, the better it plays to a world-wide audience. “Both ships are a work of art,” says Javier Bardem of the two versions of the Silent Mary, “but especially the ship that is cursed and becomes the ghost ship. It was mesmerizing and what I felt being on it was the sadness; this eternal pain I always imagined my character and his crew were carrying for so many years because of the curse. The pre-cursed one was the opposite. It was shiny and powerful and completely indestructible. And that’s what the character of Salazar is like when he’s alive. He’s very keen to be the king of the sea and the ship reflected that.”
Bardem is an unconventionally handsome man to get his ghostly look just right, it took him two to three hours a day in the chair under the artful care of Academy Award®-winning makeup and hair designer Peter King. “It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done with the makeup,” notes the actor. “Once it’s on, it really helps you to get in the mood. But also, it doesn’t kill your expression. My greatest fear was that I would not be able to show emotion or feeling with the prosthetics on my face, but that was not the case. I could do that, which is where you see the quality of those makeup artists. So yes, it was a long process of being in the chair every day, but also very rewarding because it helped me to see myself like that and to find the character.”
Describing Salazar and the ghost crew, Bardem notes, “I think they are people who have been abandoned and dead inside, but there is kind of a living rage, a flame of life that they are constantly seeking. They are not figures of death, but of life that could happen soon, and they are trying to reach it.” Adds Peter King, “Creating Salazar and his ghost crew took some three months of concept work, throwing ideas backwards and forwards between Espen and Joachim, Jerry and myself, and my team.”
Filmmaking is a team effort and to that end, director Joachim Rønning add this, “Part of the idea for Salazar and his crew was that on the day that they die inside the Devil’s Triangle, Jack had tricked them into sailing in there. They can still walk around but they may be missing part of their attire and limbs, and some are even missing half their heads. So it’s quite scary, but it’s also a little bit of fun in that they’re walking around with just half a brain.” They’re caught between the living and the dead.”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” now playing.