Back in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit cinemas, making over $ 650 million worldwide and bagging a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. Almost 20 years later and the gamble of a film based on a Disneyland Ride has massively paid off, spawning four sequels to date, with a sixth film in the works, and billions made at the box office. But now Greg Ellis, who played – Lieutenant Commander Theodore Groves in three of the five Pirates movies – has revealed how there was a feeling of “nervousness and low expectations” at the first film’s cast reading.
Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, the 52-year-old – who was promoting his video podcast series The Respondent – said: “I remember the first cast read-through we had at The Viper Room on Sunset, the famous club.”
Depp owned the venue at the time, which is presumably why the script reading took place there.
Painting a picture of the scene, Ellis continued: “It was this strange mixture of LA-based actors, superstars, celebrities.
“There were about eight or nine actors who had flown in from England; literally jet-lagged, pasty faced.”
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The Lieutenant Groves actor spoke of how representatives from Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer were all sitting around the outside of a big long table with Depp, Barbossa star Geoffrey Rush and others.
Apparently many of the actors were smoking and you could hear the coughs from the executives.
Ellis said: “I remember that day I read quite a few characters because only about 15 of the core cast were there.
“There was nervousness and low expectation.”
It had been almost a decade since the last Hollywood movie about pirates (other than Muppet Treasure Island) hit cinemas.
Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine, was a total bomb and led to the closure of Carolco Pictures as a result.
With this in mind, Ellis said of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie: “Nobody expected it to do as well as it did.”
And Disney were particularly concerned with Depp’s Jack Sparrow character, who would go on to be one of the most iconic blockbuster leads of the 21st century so far.
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Ellis said: “Johnny’s career up until that point, he was a superstar who did seemingly independent movies.
“For him to combine with the huge corporate world of Disney and play a doddering, slightly drunken, effeminate, overly-dressed pirate…I think there was a lot of nerves on the studio’s part of how audiences would receive it.”
The Pirates actor even pointed out how Depp overdressed himself by a third for a Jack Sparrow costume fitting as he knew the studio would want to tone down his look.
Even Depp himself has previously claimed, in an interview with GQ, how Disney “hated” his vision for the pirate and were “thinking of every way they could to get rid of me, to fire me”.
Ellis’ new video podcast series The Respondent explores a whole host of topics including positive masculinity, family law, parenting, sexuality, men’s rights, comedy and greek gods.
The actor also explores how families communicate, how we cope with device dependency and finding the good in people.
He argued: “All of that conversation seems to have been very stilted, stopped and stunted in the court of public opinion, [which is] judging everyone and cancelling so many people who are losing their livelihoods.”
To watch the first episode of Greg Ellis’ video podcast, click here.