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While also always featuring plenty of dazzling visual effects, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have consistently harkened back to the days of classic action-adventure movies -- using huge sets and stunt teams to pull off large scale and ridiculous sequences. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is no exception to this tradition... but it may still surprise you to learn about the practical creation of the film's notable spinning guillotine scene.
Earlier this month I sat down with directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg and the Pirates of the Caribbean 5 Los Angeles press day, and my first question for the filmmakers was about the massive action sequences that the film manages to pull off. I specifically asked if there was any scene that proved to be the most difficult -- and while they didn't precisely answer that query, they did note the realness of one of Dead Men Tell No Tales' most fun moments. Said Ronning and Sandberg,
Joachim Ronning: There's a scene where Jack Sparrow is strapped to a guillotine [and does that spin]. It's one of the luxuries to have making a movie on this scale, the resources that you can come up with something and then like six months later they spend millions of dollars and built the thing! And you get to strap Johnny Depp into it and spin it around!
Espen Sandberg: All day long!
In the sequence in question, it looks as though Captain Jack Sparrow may finally pay for his life of crime... but things don't exactly work out as his captors intend. While he's originally sentenced to get his head chopped off via guillotine (introduced as a new invention), a poorly-executed rescue mission cause these plans to go awry. With Jack still strapped in, the back of the guillotine platform comes loose from its structure, and winds up spinning around an axis -- with the death machine's blade repeatedly coming close to decapitating the pirate.
The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales directors also offered up in the interview the way in which they approached these special sequences in the movie. Evidently it involved not only a lot of conferencing with the franchise's biggest star, but also a fair amount of looking back to some of the true masters of the craft. Said Joachim Ronning,
The franchise has a lot of [practical action sequences], and also talking to Johnny Depp about his inspirations for the character and going back to the Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin of it all. We really worked hard to take the action sequences and those kind of funny set pieces to the next level.
Hit play on the video below to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales directors not only discuss their work on the guillotine scene with Jack Sparrow, but also the massive action sequence that kicks off the film and involves dragging a bank through a fully-constructed village: