Cotton was a pirate who operated in the Caribbean during the Age of Piracy, most notably during the mid-18th century. Prior to joining the crew of the Black Pearl, Cotton had his tongue cut out, due to an encounter with Mungard. He subsequently trained his loyal parrot to speak for him—though how he, as a mute, achieved such a feat remains unknown.
Not much is known of Cotton's early life, but it is known that he would still live in Shipwreck Cove by the mid-1720s with his loyal parrot. One night, he would join a group of pirates as the Auctioneer led an auction on two wenches, Scarlett and Giselle. The bidding would end with the Marquis D'avis winning with seven hundred and two goats. After accidentally shooting at the Pirate Code, a pirate named Mungard ordered the Code locked up and warned the crowd of pirates that if any of them speak a word of what occurred, that he would have their tongues. It was then that Cotton and his parrot assured Mungard that mum's the word.
However, Mungard ended up cutting off Cotton's tongue anyway, though it is unknown if Cotton's tongue was cut before or after Cotton spilled the beans about Mungard. For the next few days, Cotton would subsequently teach his parrot how to talk for him; though how he, as a mute, achieved such a feat is unknown.
Jack Sparrow's crew
At some point, Cotton and his parrot joined the crew of the commandeered British Royal Navy vessel HMS Interceptor under Jack Sparrow. He had been hired by Joshamee Gibbs in Tortuga. As Sparrow examined the crew, he asked Cotton if he had the courage and fortitude to follow orders and stay true in the face of danger, but as Cotton could not talk his parrot had to answer for him. They sailed through a storm, during which Cotton and the other crewmen were soaked in the rain. He looked over the rail of the Interceptor into the sea as the ship passed through a dangerous passageway the next day. He stood at the helm with his captain, and shared an awkward look with Sparrow. They later arrived at their destination, Isla de Muerta, where Jack Sparrow and William Turner went into the island alone. Will later came out without Jack, but the crew kept to the Pirate's Code and went on without him. When the Black Pearl attacked the Interceptor, Cotton loaded and manned the cannons on the top deck as the Pearl chased their ship. The Interceptor later turned around to fight the Pearl and its crew, and the ships opened fire on each other. He survived and was taken prisoner with the other crewmen. They were imprisoned, left in the command of two cursed pirates. However they were later freed from their cell by Elizabeth Swann and took over the Black Pearl. They refused to help her rescue Will and Jack from Isla De Muerta, they later rescued Jack from the gallows and he became captain once more.
The pirate crew had numerous exploits over the next year, though their most dangerous came when Davy Jones unleashed the Kraken to settle a debt owed by Jack. Jack ordered Cotton and the crew to set out for land to avoid the beast. The Black Pearl landed at Pelegosto Island and the crew were captured by the Pelegostos, the native cannibalistic tribe; the crew members consumed were made into two giant bone cages in which the surviving crew was kept, Cotton and several other crew members among them. His parrot had flown off and later met Will Turner. The crew within the two bone cages swung back and forth from the bridge where the cages were hung, finally grabbing hold of the roots and vines on the cliff side, beginning the climb up. With Will Turner's help, Cotton and the crew managed to escape, and Jack rendezvoused with them at the Pearl. Cotton's parrot returned to his master as they set off aboard the ship with the help of Pintel and Ragetti.
When the crew of the Flying Dutchman held back the Motley Crew, Palifico held a dagger to Cotton's throat. Cotton later joined Jack's quest to find the Dead Man's Chest, which took them to Tia Dalma's shack, and a run-in with Davy Jones. Jack then sailed the Pearl to Tortuga, where they had to gather ninety-nine souls to pay off Jack's debt with Jones, which lead to a confrontation with James Norrington who joined his crew for the quest. After the journey to Isla Cruces, Cotton participated in the fierce battle against the Kraken after Jack failed to obtain the chest. He was one of the few to survive the Kraken's attack on the Pearl, during which Captain Sparrow sacrificed himself to save his men.
At Tia Dalma's shack, he mourned Jack's death, drinking to Joshamee Gibbs' toast. Through his parrot, Cotton voiced his agreement to join the quest to World's End, endeavouring to bring Jack back from Davy Jones' Locker. Cotton and the others were surprised to discover their new captain would be Sparrow's old enemy, Hector Barbossa. The crew first infiltrated Sao Feng's bath house, hoping to steal the Mao Kun Map and acquire a ship and a crew. As his parrot remained with Tia Dalma in the streets of Singapore, Cotton and several others swam to the sewers, and started to drill through a gate to Sao Feng's boiler room. As they drilled, the noise was silenced by music played by Tia Dalma, Barbossa's monkey and Cotton's parrot. They finally broke through, and Marty knocked out the Boiler Room Attendant. After tying up the attendant's assistants, Cotton took control of the steam controls while the others set bombs and preparing weapons for Barbossa and Elizabeth Swann, who were above them in the bath house. After Sao Femg shouted "weapons", they threw cutlasses up to Swan and Barbossa, unintentionally causing conflict between them and Feng. As a large group of East India Trading Company soldiers lead by Ian Mercer, they set off the bombs, blowing up a squad of soldiers about to shoot Swann, Barbossa and Feng. They ran up to the bathhouse to participate in the fight, which took them outside into the streets. Cotton hid inside a barrel, occasionally looking out and firing a musket at the Company soldiers. He and the other crewman were joined by a large amount of Chinese pirates as they boarded a new ship, the Hai Peng.
They sailed through an icy sea, eventually reaching the passage to the World's end; a massive waterfall. Cotton held onto the rigging as the Peng fell over the edge. They arrived at a beach in Davy Jones' Locker, where the Black Pearl appeared from a mountaintop, carried by Tia Dalma's crabs, with its captain atop the crow's nest. The crew lined up to be examined by Sparrow, who deemed Cotton appropriate to join him, as well as his parrot. Now that the crew had regained both Jack and the Pearl, they had to return to the living real, but nobody aboard the ship could solve the riddles on the map. Jack, however, eventually discovered that they were to tip the ship to return to their own world. Jack and the crew rocked the ship by running from one side to another, eventually tipping it over and returning to their world. As several crewmen rowed to an island and discovered the deceased Kraken, Cotton remained on the ship under the command of Will Turner. Turner, however, lead a mutiny along with the Chinese pirates, and Cotton was held hostage. Sao Feng arrived aboard his flagship, the Empress, along with Lord Cutler Beckett of the Company, aboard the HMS Endeavour. During the negotiations, Jack asked if any of the crew actually came to rescue him because they missed him, and Cotton was one of the few to raise his hand. Cotton fought against the Company soldiers, and escaped aboard the Pearl. Cotton was present during the Fourth meeting of the Brethren Court along with other members of Jack's crew.
As the East India Trading Company Armada arrived, Cotton's parrot flew away as he saw the size of the Company's fleet. During the battle around Calypso's maelstrom between the Pearl and the Flying Dutchman, Cotton remained aboard the Pearl, steering the ship as they sailed past the Maelstrom. However, Barbossa took the helm, pushing Cotton away and sailing headfirst into the whirlpool along with the Dutchman. As the two ships fired all of their cannons on each other, Cotton stood behind Barbossa. When the Dutchman crew swung aboard the Pearl, Barbossa threw Jelly backwards into Cotton, who beat him with his sword. Cotton also fought Morey using the ship's wheel as a weapon. Cotton took the helm after duelling the crew, but accidentally crashed into the other ship. Cotton survived the battle, and was reunited with his parrot. He and the rest of the crew fired on the Endeavour along with the Dutchman (now captained by Turner), destroying the Company's flagship quickly. After Barbossa's second mutiny against Jack, Cotton remained in service aboard the ship, now under Barbossa. His further fate is unknown.
Personality and traits
Cotton was an older man with a thick white beard. The man seemed to have some affliction to his right eye for he seemed to keep it shut. He was of normal height and lean built that made his an excellent helmsman. Among the clothes he wore, Cotton wore a faded blue bandanna and a dull yellow shirt, possibly to mirror his parrot. He also wore is standard brown vest and pants as well as a neckerchief.
Prior to losing his tongue, Cotton seemed to be a big talker. For example, when the pirate Mungard threatened anyone who spoke about his heinous act of having shot the Code, the pirates present all looked to Cotton for emphasis. As a mute, Cotton became very compliant. It is unknown how, but Cotton was able to successfully train his parrot to talk for him. He also seemed to very knowledgeable with a ship's helm.
Behind the scenes
- Cotton was played by the late David Bailie in The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, At World's End and Wedlocked.
- The only known time that Cotton speaks was during Wedlocked, which takes place before the events of The Curse of the Black Pearl, because by that time, Cotton is already mute.
- During an interview released on May 2017, Bailie stated that after At World's End was released in theaters, he along director Gore Verbinski and writer Terry Rossio talked about the possibility of including a subplot in the then untitled fourth film, where it will be revealed that Cotton could speak and that he only refused to speak due being in a catatonic fit. The film, entitled On Stranger Tides, was released in 2011, but without Bailie in the cast and without Verbinski as director, being the latter replaced by Rob Marshall.
- From the dialogue in Wedlocked, it's implied that Mungard was the one who cut Cotton's tongue out. Though if the cutting happened before or after Cotton spilled the beans about Mungard, is unknown.
- In Terry Rossio's original script for Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cotton was present along most of the Queen Anne's Revenge's crew in the story, likely implying that he survived the capture of the Black Pearl in case he was present during the attack. In the finished film, just Marty, Murtogg and Mullroy, three crewmembers of the Black Pearl were seen, likely implying that, in case he participated, Cotton didn't survive the attack.
- According to David Bailie, if Cotton had been able to speak in the movies, he would have made him a comic and funny character, but according to his words, he never did because he was "intimidated" by director Gore Verbinski.
- Tales of the Code: Wedlocked
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (First appearance)
- The Accidental Pirate!
- Revenge of the Pirates!
- The Capture of Jack Sparrow!
- Going Overboard!
- The Eye of Despair!
- The Sails of Doom!
- The Black Skull!
- The Star of the Sea
- The Eyes Have It!
- The Return of Jack Sparrow
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
- LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Non-canonical appearance)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (film series)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Visual Guide
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide
Notes and references
- Estimation based on David Bailie's age during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and the fact that TCotBP takes place in the 1730s.
- Tales of the Code: Wedlocked
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
- Original 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Stars on Regrets, Triumphs and a $2 Million Snack Budget at The Hollywood Reporter
- While it is shown that Mungard was the one who cut off Cotton's tongue ("If any of ye speak a word of this, I'll have your tongue"), it is unknown if Cotton ever spoke a word of it before his tongue was cut out.
- Pirates of the Caribbean DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES Screenplay by Terry Rossio