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Pirate islands of Hollywood: The little secrets behind the film maker's Caribbean dream scene
Crystal clear, innocently and tempting glistens the seawater in the Caribbean sun. There’s a sense of freedom, adventure and zest for life in the air. It’s the place where the adventure spectacle "Pirates of the Caribbean" is set. But where exactly do you find this kind of location? – The perfect set for this film was as difficult to locate as a real pirate’s treasure: "We had to search the Caribbean for months", says director Gore Verbinsky.                                                       

By Bernhard Grdseloff
Freedom, adventure: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom
Freedom, adventure: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom
Captain Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Elizabeth (Keira Kneightley) on Petit Tabac in the Tobago Cays: Dream set...
Captain Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Elizabeth (Keira Kneightley) on Petit Tabac in the Tobago Cays: Dream set...
...historical costumes: Mr.and Mrs. Meuwissin
...historical costumes: Mr.and Mrs. Meuwissin

The production team definitely wanted to shoot the film in the Caribbean. Surely, there are exotic looking places around Australia and Thailand, but "there’s a quality to the water, sand and palm trees in the Craibbean - so we knew we wanted to go there", says Verbinsky. Soon though, the film makers found out that the Caribbean is not the Caribbean.

"I’m sure we looked at a minimum of twenty different islands", remembers the whiz director. "We were looking for a lush, cul-de-sac-shaped bay without a hotel right in the middle of it – there’s just no such thing". Not quite.

The search squad finally found what they wanted north of Grenada. The scattered Grenadine islets with their white palm beaches were exactly what Hollywood imagined the Caribbean to be like. Yet these were nearly 2,000 km from Jamaica and Port Royal - the place where the story is set.

So the film cracks simply rebuilt a true-to-the-original copy of the location. 18th century style piers and storage houses emerged in Walilabou Bay of St. Vincent. The different shooting sites were spread across the sea within a radius of 70 kilometers: Union Island, the Tobago Cays and Petit Tabac, where in the end Captain Sparrow and gorgeous Elizabeth are marooned by the evil Barbossa.

The film work turned the entire archipelago into one great masquerade.

"We were allowed to stroll through the background as rich inhabitants of Port Royal dressed in magnificent robes", recall Maria and Fritz Meeuwissin, a Dutch couple living on a yacht in Bequia. Entire ships were given a historical costume: the "Scaramouche", for instance, a plain two master from Union Island, made it to an impressive Portuguese merchant ship.

Now the Scaramouche has gone back to sailing tourists to the Tobago Cays, and the smoke of the film team’s pyrotechnicians has passed over. Only Stephen Russell, on whose property the reconstruction of Port-Royal now stands, is still dreaming of the great pirate’s treasure: "I want to make the shooting location into a theme park..."

Marooned in the Tobago Cays

Dream holidays and pirate films are based on the same recipe for success: white palm beaches, tropical and exotic nature, and the turquoise blue sea - seasoned with a touch of freedom, adventure and zest for life. These were the ingredients producer Jerry Bruckheimer and whiz director Gore Verbinski blended masterly to create the entertaining adventure spectacle "Pirates of the Caribbean". Johnny Depp as the charming rogue Captain Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom as the adventurous Will Turner (photo) fight for enchanting Elisabeth against Barbossa, the creepy captain. The baddy finally maroons his persecutor and the lovely girl on a lonely dream island. Who wouldn’t mind that happening to them? – At least for the short time of a holiday...

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