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Locations And Sets
"Although we filmed the first three ‘Pirates' movies mostly in the actual Caribbean,” notes Jerry Bruckheimer, "for ‘On Stranger Tides,' we required landscapes so beautiful, they're almost otherworldly.” After extensive location scouts, the filmmakers settled on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Oahu, each offering their particular attributes on both land and sea.

"Both islands, especially Kauai, have these extraordinary jungles, mountains and shorelines,” says Rob Marshall. "They're so lush, oversized and just stunning. Oahu also has beautiful landscapes, and we also did all of our shooting at sea there of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.”

"It's a sign of things to come when the first day of filming a big adventure is almost as adventurous as what you're putting up on screen,” laughs Bruckheimer in recalling June 14, 2010. The almost-inaccessible Honopu Beach on Kauai's fabled Na Pali Coast is a magnificent stretch of sand surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs rising to 1,200 feet. As a protected site by the State of Hawaii, the only way into this natural wonder was either by helicopter—with Johnny Depp surreally emerging from a chopper in full costume, hair and makeup as Captain Jack Sparrow—or by sea.

However, since boats are not permitted to actually land on the beach, the only way in for most of the company was by Zodiac craft and then either transferring to Jet Skis or getting towed behind on water sleds through what turned out that day to be a rough, punishing surf. And since the Jet Skis weren't permitted to actually stop, everyone had to jump off or get yanked off the skis or the sleds. Of course, most of the crew, with first assistant director Peter Kohn preceding them (as he would for more than 100 days to follow), was exhilarated when they finally made it to the beach. As for the needed equipment, most of it had to be sling-loaded and brought in by helicopter.

"We always like to say that if there's an easy way and a hard way to do something,” notes Executive Producer Barry Waldman, "we'll choose the hard way every time. Two days before we shot on Honopu Beach, the swells were only two feet. Of course, on the day that we started shooting, they were five feet. But filming on Honopu Beach is one of those things that, if you do it right, adds enormous value to the film.”

Adds Executive Producer Chad Oman, "I thought it was great seeing Rob Marshall being pulled up on a Jet Ski right up onto the beach for his first day of filming. What a great introduction to making ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.' Most of us had all been through making three ‘Pirates' movies, but for him, it was a whole new experience, and it was wonderful to see him bringing his excitement and enthusiasm to the project.”

"The Garden Island,” as Kauai is rightfully called, served up numerous landscapes well beyond Honopu Beach for a bewildering number of environments required for the film, as well as a considerable number of background players. In fact, an estimated 7,000 men turned up for open calls in both Kauai and Oahu a month and a half before the cameras turned, many decked out in pirate gear, including bandanas, headscarves, earrings and tattoos (mostly real).

Several were selected, but six lucky candidates living in Hawaii actually became a core group of Queen Anne's Revenge pirates, each with their own unique (if not eccentric) personalities: Tamayo Perry, a world-class big-wave surfer; Kevin Senn, who is nicknamed "Top Hat” for the Lincoln-esque top hat he always wears; Michael Rosales, a rap artist of Filipino descent, whose artist name is Mic3; Emerson (Malcolm) Tuitt, the only true pirate of the Caribbean, originally hailing from the Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles; strikingly tall Rey Payumo, who has delivered mail for 20 years; and Thomas Smith, a horticulturist by trade.

Following the waterlogged and sun-drenched first day's shoot on Honopu Beach, the company then proceeded, for a full month, to film on numerous locations throughout Kauai. Such locales as the grounds of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Lawai, Kipu Ranch, Grove Farm and Valley House Ranch provided rich landscapes for thick jungle growth, rivers, chasms and cliffs, much of it ruggedly challenging for the cast and crew to access and film, especially with the two-camera, 3D rigs.

But shooting in paradise certainly charmed the cast. "On my first day of shooting in the jungle,” recalls Sam Claflin, "we were waiting for the camera to set up. Malcolm, one of the pirates from Hawaii, picked up a coconut which had fallen off a palm tree, took one of his prop swords, and whacked it open. Soon we were all drinking coconut milk, right there on location. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life, and I feel blessed for the opportunity to work there.”

Although known to most tourists merely as the "Blue Room” or "Blue Cave,” to the native Hawaiian people in their richly poetic language, Waikapala'e on Kauai's North Shore—just across the road from Ke'e Beach, where the company also filmed—is a place of great and sacred cultural significance. The exquisite cave grotto was chosen as the entrance to the caverns that lead to the Fountain of Youth, perhaps appropriate since the Hawaiians believe that the waters in Waikapala'e have their own life-giving power. Appropriately, the day's filming there began with a powerful blessing ceremony conducted by a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. In fact, the "On Stranger Tides” company made certain that whenever filming on or near sacred grounds, such ceremonies were always conducted before the cameras turned.

The weather gods were unusually kind to the production throughout filming in Kauai, except for one day in which a drenching rainstorm covered the entire island, forcing Johnny Depp and Kevin R. McNally to film a scene inside an 18th-century paddy wagon (which actually takes place in England), rather than on Ke'e Beach. The next day, though, skies cleared enough to allow Depp and McNally to shoot an important sunset scene on the beach, with enough clouds moving in to suddenly create a perfect image with radiant light. All agreed that, with all of the technological advances in film made over the past few decades and computer-generated imagery capable of manifesting virtually anything, nothing could match the perfection which nature herself bestowed upon that landscape.

"That's why we go to such locations,” confirmed Jerry Bruckheimer, "for exactly such moments as that.” "Kauai was phenomenally beautiful and perfect for us,” adds Geoffrey Rush, "because we were shooting in really surreal-looking bamboo forests and finding wild and rugged cliff faces and extraordinary jungle. It added so much to the film.”

The final location in Kauai before the "On Stranger Tides” army moved to Oahu had its own honored pop history…the shuttered remains of the legendary Coco Palms Hotel near Kapa'a, one of the primary locations for Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii” and the very place where he sang the title song in that early '60s classic. Marshall and company shot in the vast coconut grove for which the hotel was named, with 773 palms harvested before filming to prevent the heavy fruits from falling on the hapless heads of cast and crew. The harvested coconuts were then taken by local residents to take full advantage of the nourishing meat and milk of the tropical fruits.

And for good measure, Geoffrey Rush hosted a screening of "Blue Hawaii” for several of his friends in his Kauai hotel room. "We recast every part in the film with actors from ‘Pirates,'” recalls screenwriter Terry

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