The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is one of the most successful live-action properties that Disney has ever produced. The first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl was something of a surprise hit, considering it was both a pirate movie and a film based on a theme park attraction. Neither either of those concepts were sure bets. The first film's success led to the fast tracking of a pair of sequels, and according to director Gore Verbinski, making those movies was something akin to being on an out of control theme park attraction in itself.
Gore Verbinski recently sat down with Collider and spoke at length about the original trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films that he directed. Making the first movie was apparently quite fun since nobody was sure it was going to work, which Verbinski took as a challenge. The two sequels to The Curse of the Black Pearl were filmed together, which made it a very different experience. The movies were made with an eye toward release dates, forcing the movie to push on quickly, which was then complicated by outside forces. As Verbinski explained,
We got hit by a hurricane, half the set got wiped out. Our tank didn't work. We had to pull stuff back to LA. It was pure survival mode by the time we got to the third one.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and At World's End were filmed back to back with release dates a year apart. Gore Verbinski explains that there wasn't even a single page of a script for the third movie when filming on the second part began. Regardless, the plan was to film both movies straight through with no breaks. Unfortunately, some breaks were forced to occur by circumstance.
It all started when a water tank that was needed for filming some scenes was not completed on time. This forced a pause in shooting while the production waited for said tank to be done. Unfortunately, the apparatus was taking too long, which forced filming to move out to open water. In addition, the original delay meant they were now filming in open water during hurricane season. And then an actual hurricane actually hit.
These facts, along with the fact that shooting on water in general is just not cheap, have made all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies incredibly expensive to produce. At one time, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was the most expensive movie ever made. That title is currently held by the first Pirates movie not directed by Gore Verbinski, On Stranger Tides.
The incredible expense has been worth it, because all the Pirates movies have made so much money at the global box office that they've been incredibly profitable even factoring in that sum. The last film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, had its own production issues and wasn't a smash domestically, but still made plenty of money overseas.
To be clear, while Gore Verbinski says making these movies was ultimately just a case of trying to survive eventually, he also says he's pretty happy with the movies that were produced. They did eventually spawn two more movies, and the franchise is still very much alive.