Pirates of the Caribbean 5 features no shortage of incredible stunts that had our jaws on the floor while we were watching the movie. From the instantly iconic scene on horseback to the action sequence at the bottom of the ocean, and everything in between, we could tell just from watching that a huge amount of work must have gone into the stunts. And we weren’t wrong!
We were lucky enough to be able to talk to the film’s Stunt Coordinator, Tommy Harper, to get his take on what it was like to choreograph, rehearse, and shoot three of these impressive scenes.
The bank heist.
You know it, you love it: The bank vault heist that resulted in the robbery of an entire actual bank is one of Harper’s favorite stunts from the movie. According to Harper, stunts like this one take months of rehearsals (almost four months for this particular film!) before filming even begins. Because there were horses involved, this one required a lot of coordination.
“We built a whole bank building on top of what we call a gradall, which is kind of like a tractor,” said Harper.
“I had one of my stunt guys driving that inside, and then the wrangler was wrangling horses on the outside. So there was a lot of communication between the wrangler and the stunt driver who was inside the bank just to get it all right. Because those horses couldn’t really pull that whole bank.”
The action scene between Salazar’s Silent Mary and the Black Pearl.
This sequence alone took two months to choreograph. When choreographing a scene like this, Harper’s first step is always to read the script. A lot.
“Pretty much you begin … by breaking down the script. You go through the script completely. I read it the first time, and I [dog]-ear pages where the action is. Then I go back through it again and I highlight all the action. Then I go through it again and I start making notes on every bit of the action – I literally go through it probably 20 or 30 times, because I have to break down the budget, I have to break down the manpower, I have to break down equipment.”
After creating storyboards and breaking down the scene with the directors of the film (Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg), the stunt team goes into months of rehearsals, which Harper shoots and edits to show to Rønning and Sandberg. That process gets repeated until the scene is to everyone’s satisfaction, and after lots of rehearsals the team is ready to shoot!
The underwater action sequence.
This memorable scene sounds like it was just as cool to make as it was to watch.
“The set that was built on a stage [for this scene] was awesome,” said Harper.
“It had these really cool pans of water, and they had these strings that went up to little pieces of wood. And there was this one kid who’s only job was to pull on it every once in awhile. What it did was it made these ripples across these pans of water that lights were going into,” to create the rippling light effect you may recognize if you’ve ever seen a swimming pool at night.
But seriously, how do we get the job of “kid who pulls the strings every once in awhile?” Sounds like a dream job.
Which one of these stunts was your favorite? Buy Pirates of the Caribbean 5 on Digital and Blu-ray now and you can relive the magic over and over!