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For a long time there was a general belief that pirate movies just didn't work. And then Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl came along and changed all that. The film was a massive hit that launched a franchise. Part of what works so well about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is that every character just has the perfect look. Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow has become iconic, but he's not the only one.
Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa is just as unique visually. From whatever angle you see him, Barbossa stands out in a crowd and you know just who you're looking at even if you can't see his face. It's the mark of great costume design, and yet, it seems that Barbossa could have looked quite different if Geoffrey Rush had gotten his way.
In the Curse of the Black Pearl episode of the Disney+ series Prop Culture, Pirates costume designer Penny Rose reveals that Geoffrey Rush was initially against one specific part of the costume that she had put together for him. He wasn't against a specific hat, but in fact, the entire concept of hats. According to Rose...
When Geoffrey arrived to make the movie I had hats out and he looked at me, he said, ‘No darling, I don’t wear hats.’ I said, ‘But Geoffrey you’re a pirate you’ll need a hat.’ [He said] ‘No, no, no, no no’
I have to say, I'm with Penny Rose on this one. The mere idea of a pirate without a hat is too strange too contemplate. I mean, I'm sure there were actual pirates who didn't wear hats, but when you think of the idea of a pirate they have hats. It's required.
Especially now, looking back at Captain Barbossa in the movie, it's basically impossible to imagine him not wearing that hat. And ultimately, it seems Geoffrey Rush felt the same way. Penny Rose goes on to explain how the actor himself chose the hat he wears in the film...
And then I went to the bathroom and when I came back into the fitting room Geoffrey had this hat on his head. And I said ‘Wow, that looks pretty good.’ He said ‘Yeah, it does, doesn’t it?’ And he never took it off.
Geoffrey Rush might not wear hats in general, but the man knew a good look when he saw it.
The look of Pirates of the Caribbean is one thing that will hopefully survive if the franchise continues. While it seems quite likely that we won't see Jack Sparrow again, and we almost certainly won't see Barbossa, a spinoff or reboot movie that takes place in the same universe should therefore retain the same style. That means costumes that feel like they belong, and also, great hats.