On behalf of the PotC Wiki community, I thank Terry Rossio, the man who alongside Ted Elliott wrote the first four Pirates of the Caribbean films, for allowing me to interview him about his work in the beloved franchise he helped to form. Last year, I posted an interview request for Mr. Rossio. Some of you may complain that the interview took so long to be published, but be reasonable, as Mr. Rossio has been working on Godzilla vs. Kong, a forthcoming guaranteed blockbuster. He thanks our patience. After all, Mr. Rossio was very kind to me and answered all our questions.
Many thanks for answering all our questions, Terry. We can't wait to know more about your next films :)
And now, here's the interview:
Thank you very much for letting us, the PotC fan community to interview you, Mr. Rossio. As you may know, we, as fans, seek some contact with PotC VIPs so we can ask them for their experience working with this fantastic franchise created by the House of the Mouse, and discover more about the making of this world. Along with Ted Elliott, you were pretty responsible of creating one of the most successful and legendary film series of all time, which will be remembered for countless generations much like Star Wars or Indiana Jones. We really appreciate you taking time to answer these 25 questions:
1. Tell us about yourself, Terry. How did you get started in the screenwriting business along with Ted? Any influences? – From X9 The Android
In 1977, sitting in a movie theater in Costa Mesa, halfway through watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I decided that I was going to work in the film business. I was just blown away by that movie. But my entire life I had been affected by film stories, from Wizard of Oz to It's a Wonderful Life, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Mary Poppins. The list is endless.
There's an extensive interview I did online that addresses this question in detail. Google Terry Rossio Extreme Interview.
3. From all the movies you have written with Ted, which you consider to be your best? – From X9 The Android
The best screenplay written would be several that were never produced. Probably our adaptation of Sandman. Of the produced films, today I'll pick Dead Man's Chest. The degree of difficulty for that film was insane, following on the success of Curse of the Black Pearl, reverse-engineering a trilogy and re-capturing the magic of the original.
4. Having worked in many of the most successful films of all time, are there any screenplays you wrote or were offered to write but for any reasons weren’t ultimately used or didn’t work out? I think I once read that you and Ted were offered to write a sequel to The Goonies... – From X9 The Android
It's a long list. Neil Gaiman's Sandman, as mentioned above. Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Masters of the Universe. Jonny Quest. Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Iron Man, in the Marvel Universe. Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. There are also screenplays that were tossed out or greatly changed, such as Godzilla and The Lone Ranger, where the final film only partially represents our intentions.
We were never offered to write a sequel to The Goonies, just asked to pitch an approach. Same for Transformers, also the Lego Movie ... sometimes you get a chance at the job, but someone else has a better approach.
5. Before getting on the Pirates questions, how you and Ted were hired by The Walt Disney Company? – From X9 The Android
Disney liked our draft of A Princess of Mars, and so hired us on an overall deal, which led to working on Aladdin and Treasure Planet. Years later, we pitched an approach to Pirates of the Caribbean that they liked.
6. As far we know, you and Ted originally wrote a script for The Curse of the Black Pearl in the early 1990s, in which Will Turner was the protagonist and Jack Sparrow the deuteragonist, and which Spielberg wanted to make but Disney said no. Are there any details about this script you would like to share with us? Did you pictured any actors for Will and Jack at that time? – From X9 The Android
None of that is true. Well not much. We pitched the idea of a pirate film base on the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride as a premise, to an executive at Hollywood Pictures. They were not interested at the time, so there was never a script, no actors were considered, Spielberg certainly was not involved.
7. How hard was the process of developing a trilogy after The Curse of the Black Pearl? And did you always planned to adapt Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides for the fourth one? – From X9 The Android
Developing a trilogy was a lot of hard work, to be certain, and then with success, the politics of studio filmmaking became a challenge. The idea to adapt On Stranger Tides came close to the end of filming the trilogy.
8. While developing the sequels of The Curse of the Black Pearl, are there any MacGuffins or story ideas you and Ted considered before settling on the Dead Man’s Chest and the War Against Piracy? – From X9 The Android
No, amazingly, we were able to proceed with our first (and best) ideas. I went back in and checked our original notes, and there's virtually nothing we came up with that wasn't used. I did find a thematic quote that never made it into the film:
QUOTE: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". Matthew 6:19-21
9. Respect to the second film, a long time ago there was a rumor that its title was going to be Pirates of the Caribbean: Treasures of the Lost Abyss and that Jack Sparrow was going to search for the treasure hidden on the Abyss, the Caribbean’s first pirate ship. Is there any truth behind those rumors? - From Black Caesar
Somewhere there is a person who started that rumor, and I congratulate them, they did a fantastic job! The rumor became so pervasive that at one point, we decided we should adopt it, and weave it into the world building of the pirates universe. We tried a few times to reference the Abyss, just to honor and celebrate the fan base, don't think any mention ever made it to the screen.
10. Did you and Ted had any intention to tease a possible romance between Jack and Elizabeth based on their interactions in The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End? Why they hardly interacted in the third one? – From 188.8.131.52 - From 184.108.40.206
The third film completed the romance between Elizabeth and Will, culminating in their wedding in the midst of battle. Not much room for Jack there, also, consider Jack was dead for the first third of that film.
11. After the conclusion of the Pirates trilogy, you and Ted decided to make On Stranger Tides a stand-alone sequel. Are there any reasons for which you opted to not mention events of the original films nor bring back more characters of the original ones? Naomie Harris once mentioned that she did lines which ended up being for Penélope Cruz... – From X9 The Android
We did not have full creative authority for On Stranger Tides, so it wasn't our decision to make a stand alone sequel. Also, consider that Keira Knightley, at that point, declined involvement in the series, forcing a new approach. I don't see how Naomie could have been given lines for the Penelope Cruz character.
12. Regarding Henry Turner in Dead Men Tell No Tales, his appearance in At World’s End was credited as “Young Will Turner” and early rumors about the fifth film involved a British officer known as Henry Maddox who would intercept Jack only for then fell in love with Carina Smyth. Was that Henry later reimagined as Will and Elizabeth’s son or he was a Turner from the beginning? – From Uskok
I never did a draft of Dead Men Tell No Tales involving the sons or daughters of any of the characters, so I can't speak to that point.
13. Where you and Ted came up with the name Jack Sparrow? Did he was always intended to become the main character of the series? Likewise, Mr. Mercer was named after Ian Mercer? – From Tonino4, not_giorgio and X9 The Android
The name Jack Sparrow was invented by either Jay Wolpert or Stuart Beattie. Jack was never as the main character of the series, he's been a supporting character throughout. Elizabeth Swann is the protagonist of all three films. I don't recall that Mercer was an homage to Ian Mercer, I believe it was a play on the word 'mercy'.
14. The Pirates of the Caribbean universe is so extensive and rich, and as such, it has been expanded in novels, comic books, video games, etc. Have you read any books and comics or played any video games of the franchise? – From X9 The Android
15. Respect to the canon of the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, back when On Stranger Tides was to be released, there was a controversy if Blackbeard was going to appear as a spirit due appearing as a ghost in the comic book The Buccaneer’s Heart. According to one user who contacted you, you said such comic had nothing to do with the films. As with The Buccaneer’s Heart, are there any other Pirates of the Caribbean works you disregard from the Pirates canon? – From X9 The Android
I can only speak to the work I've done, which is on the feature side, also Tales of the Code. And even then, decisions are made in the feature films which violate the story world but I don't have the power to change. Unfortunately, there was never anyone empowered creatively to oversee and manage the entirely of Pirates universe, and coordinate the films with the other ancillary works.
16. Well Terry, in some of the next questions, we want to ask you about some questions regarding the canon. Here’s a question that has intrigued me since the release of At World’s End, but how the East India Trading Company soldiers stationed of the Flying Dutchman were able to breathe while underwater? Because Davy and his crew could do it due being fish-like creatures... – From X9 The Android
The intent was for the Flying Dutchman to stay above water while under control of the East India Trading Company, or to submerge only briefly, to avoid that issue.
17. Over the films, some characters have disappeared and their fates were left undisclosed, characters such as Anamaria, Bill “Bootstrap” Turner, The Spaniard and Angelica? Did you have an idea to what exactly happened to them? Perhaps the Spanish killed the remainder of Barbossa’s crew... – From X9 The Android and Junior Batman
One of the techniques used in creating a series is to intentionally leave loose ends and fates of characters undefined. You need that as material for future stories, otherwise you're painted into a corner. When you embark on future tales, you look back and hope there are untold stories and fates unknown, that can be explored and expanded upon.
18. Was the HMS Endeavour planned as a half private war and merchant vessel of the EITC or was it a former ship of the Royal Navy, which was given to the EITC and privileged to fly and carry royal flags and emblems? – From Gundolf60
I always imagined the Endeavour was specially commissioned and paid for by the EITC as an enforcement vessel to protect the financial interest in all their other ships.
19. Although you mentioned back in 2016 that your original screenplay for Dead Men Tell No Tales (which in my opinion, was far better than the finished film) was rejected by Johnny Depp due the Sea Widow, are there any other reasons for which your script went unused? Why Ted didn’t return and how Jeff Nathanson collaborated with you in the story? – From X9 The Android and Kapetan Lost
I think Johnny was the major factor in the screenplay not being used. Perhaps it was too ambitious? Also, sometimes actor commitments come into play. Initially Keira declined involvement, then later agreed. I did not collaborate with Jeff Nathanson on the story.
20. A major problem many fans had with Dead Men Tell No Tales were the great amount of apparent continuity errors with previous installments, but there’s specially one which got my attention was Will Turner’s fate: back when At World’s End was released, you mentioned that Will would just serve ten years aboard the Flying Dutchman and later be free, but the fifth film retcons your explanation by saying that Will was to serve the ship forever. Did you talked with Jeff about it or Disney decided to change it? – From Kapetan Lost and Gundolf60
I was not involved in that decision.
21. Well, a continuity question respect to Dead Men Tell No Tales that has been in my head since the film’s release is if Jack the Monkey is no longer cursed. The Trident of Poseidon broke all curses and seemingly brought back Davy Jones from the dead, but the Treasure of Cortés was supposedly cursed on land...Is Jack the Monkey no longer immortal? – From X9 The Android
Sorry, I can't speak to that, the screenplay draft I completed did not create those issues.
22. What was your main cinematic inspiration behind the series? – From Tonino4
When we sat down to write the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, we wanted to do a film that might stand alongside Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers, and Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark.
23. Is a Pirates of the Caribbean 6 currently in development with you back as its writer? Did you ever had any ideas of what a sixth installment must be? – From Whoa_MyDude and X9 The Android
The last I heard, there is development on a Pirates film with Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott involved. I don't know anything about possible characters or storylines.
24. Are you happy that the Pirates of the Caribbean reboot helmed by the Deadpool writers is now seemingly cancelled? Did you liked the Aladdin live-action remake? – From X9 The Android
I don't really have a reaction to films in development I'm not involved with, one way or the other, there are so many! I thought the Aladdin live-action remake was very valid. I was able to do some behind the scenes consulting, and I think they did a great job. The main feeling I had, watching the final version, was how well that story from the original works on film, even in live action form.
25. Did you have any new projects coming soon, like Godzilla vs. Kong? How feels working in a writers room? – From X9 The Android
The writer's room for Godzilla vs. Kong was nothing short of magical. So much talent assembled, and we kind of had a great time while doing good work.
Terry, we’re very grateful that you allowed us to interview you. You’re such a good screenwriter and all the movies you have written are awesome. Thanks very much for creating Pirates of the Caribbean along with Ted and making our childhoods the best! We can’t wait to see Godzilla vs. Kong! Good luck!
P.D.: One of my recent favorite films written by Ted and you was The Lone Ranger :) I really loved that film and it's my favorite cowboys movie along Home on the Range! I don't care about what the critics said about it, for me it will eventually become a cult film just like Jerry expects ;)
Thank you for the kind words! :) Terry
I hope all of you enjoyed the interview! Interviewing one of the best screenwriters of all time, creator of one of the most beloved film franchises of Disney, was such an amazing experience.