With nearly fifteen years of movie attached to the franchise, many people no doubt grew up with the Pirates of the Caribbean films. With the fifth film now released, we’ve all spent hours with the characters of the franchise by this point. Everyone knows Will, Elizabeth, Barbossa, and especially Jack Sparrow. By now Jack has indisputably become the main character of the films, so we know a lot about his quirky mannerisms and his adventures. But there is still a lot about his history that remains a mystery.
Some details about Jack are right there in the movies, but you might have just never picked up on them before. Others come from the Disney book series released about Jack that chronicle his adventures as a teenager and leading up to The Curse of the Black Pearl. There are even things about the conception of the character that you might not know that played an integral role in forming the character we now see.
As Dead Men Tell No Tales extends the lore of this famous pirate, here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Jack Sparrow.
15 DISNEY EXECUTIVES INITIALLY THOUGHT DEPP WOULD RUIN THE FILM
Johnny Depp is known for being an unusual actor who likes to take bizarre roles, and apparently he surprised Disney executives by bringing that style into the first Pirates movie. During the initial stages of the movie, Depp put his own spin on Jack Sparrow that was inspired by Keith Richards since Depp saw pirates as the rock stars of that era. Though it’s endeared him to fans in hindsight, during preparation it really took the execs off guard.
It seemed like Depp was close to being taken off the role because Disney feared he would cost them money. Supposedly the executives were confused by Johnny’s interpretation and thought he was portraying Sparrow as a drunk. Eventually they obviously gave Johnny their trust and Pirates wound up being one of the most successful film franchises of all time. But always remember that initially Disney feared Depp was going to ruin the movies.
14 JIM CARREY, HUGH JACKMAN, AND CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WERE ALL CONSIDERED FOR JACK
As hard as it may be to think of any other actor as being capable of being Jack Sparrow now, you probably figured that Johnny Depp was not the only candidate for the role. Initially Hugh Jackman was the top choice, hence why the character was named Jack. That wound up falling through, of course, but there were actually a few other names that came up during the casting phase that may surprise you.
Jim Carrey was considered, and might have even fared well in the role given how comedic Jack Sparrow turned out. Christopher Walken played Captain Hook in a production of Peter Pan not that long ago, but he also was considered for playing Captain Jack Sparrow.
Michael Keaton has had the honor of being Batman, but he also nearly had a shot of adding the iconic role of Jack Sparrow to his resume. Even with all those alternate possibilities, fans seem pretty happy with Johnny Depp though.
13 JOHNNY DEPP WAS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH JACK’S FEELINGS FOR ELIZABETH
One of the more remarkable things about the first Pirates movie that a lot of people may not realize is that Kierra Knightley was only seventeen at the time she did the filming for her role as Elizabeth Swann. It was certainly an impressive start for someone so young. But being that young did set her apart from the other cast members in some noticeable ways.
One thing that Depp found awkward about acting alongside Knightley was their romance scenes. In one of the commentary tracks for the first movie, Depp is discussing the film, and when it gets to his scene where Sparrow is stranded on an island with Elizabeth, he has some thoughts on Sparrow’s attempts to romance her.
“Methuselah!” Depp exclaimed with a laugh as Sparrow flirted with Swann. Depp himself would have been nearing forty at the time of the first movie, so he found it weird that he had to feign interest in someone at least twenty years his junior and underage. Ironically, Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard (Aquaman), is actually one year younger than Knightley.
12 THE BLACK PEARL WAS CREATED FOR JACK BY DAVY JONES
While Dead Man’s Chest was a fun sequel to Curse of the Black Pearl, one thing that was an increasing problem with the franchise was that it became overly complicated. The second and third movies in particular throw a lot of information at the viewer that can be hard to follow. One such example would be Jack’s prior relationship with Davy Jones and why Jack needed Jones to attain the Black Pearl in the first place. This is something that is explained within the books.
Jack was working for Cutler Beckett in the East India Trading Company, and in exchange was given the ship the Wicked Wench. Eventually Beckett ordered Jack to transport slaves on the ship, but Jack set the slaves free instead. In response, Beckett ordered the Wicked Wench burned and Jack nearly died trying to save it.
In a final desperate act, Jack called on Davy Jones to save his ship, and they struck their bargain mentioned in the second movie. Though the ship was returned, the hull remained blackened from the fire, so Jack renamed the Wicked Wench to the Black Pearl since it was his charred treasure.
11 JACK WAS BRANDED AS A PIRATE FOR REFUSING TO PARTAKE IN THE SLAVE TRADE
While we’re talking about how Jack got his ship it also seems like a good time to talk about how Jack got branded as a pirate. You might assume Jack got branded with that letter “P” just because he was a pirate for years, so the first time he got caught for it he was marked. In actuality, Jack being a pirate did not hurt his ability to have a working relationship with the East India Trading Company– at first.
That whole slave incident that we mentioned? It didn’t just result in Cutler Beckett ordering the Wicked Wench burned; it’s also what earned Jack his brand.
The majority of the details about this are in the books, but it is definitely alluded to in the movies as well. When Jack and Beckett reunite, the latter reminds Jack of the cargo he was supposed to transport, and Jack tells him “people aren’t cargo.” It’s certainly interesting to see how even a pirate as traitorous as Jack still has some moral boundaries he won’t cross.
10 JACK IS THE WORST SWORDSMAN OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Going by Jack’s sword fight with Will in the first Pirates movie, you might be tempted to call Jack the superior fighter. Jack wound up disarming his opponent and could have killed Will if he wanted to. Yet as Will himself pointed out, Jack only won the duel by cheating. You’ll notice Jack’s fights often involve underhanded tactics, and that’s because Jack simply is not a very good sword fighter.
There is no doubt that Jack makes his fights entertaining, but the screenwriters who created his character have confirmed themselves that Jack is the worst with a sword out of all the main characters. His sword is almost more for decoration, since Jack has shown he’ll gladly run away from a fight rather than get beaten.
As long as he’s willing to ignore the rules of an honorable engagement and win by any means necessary (which seems like pretty typical pirate behavior) Jack can even the odds.
9 ONE OF JACK’S FIRST CREWMATES WAS THE COUSIN OF HIS FUTURE RIVAL, JAMES NORRINGTON
James Norrington started out as a pretty natural adversary for Jack Sparrow. Jack was a pirate, while James served the aristocrats of the world. They got along like oil and water, and after James showed Jack some leniency at the end of the first movie, he came to regret it when he lost everything by the time the second movie came around. James hated Jack, and blamed the pirate for ruining his life.
Given all that, you wouldn’t think Jack would have fond memories of Norrington or anyone associated with him. As it turned out, Jack met James’ older cousin as a teenager. Fitzwilliam P. Dalton III was his name, and he was one of the first members of Jack’s first pirate crew. Dalton eventually betrayed Jack, so the latter also has some reason to dislike the Norrington family. Jack also wound up getting his famous compass from Dalton, so at least one good thing came from Jack’s time with the family.
8 JACK’S STORY DIFFERS IN KINGDOM HEARTS II
The Kingdom Hearts games are quite popular, and fans are currently eagerly awaiting Kingdom Hearts III. Not everyone has played them though, so there are likely a lot of Pirates fans who are totally aware of Jack featuring in the games, or how his story differs from in the movies. The Kingdom Hearts games combine the worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy with original characters, and retell many of the most popular stories in Disney, though there are some deviations in the name of the new overarching plot.
In Kingdom Hearts II, protagonist Sora and his friends visit the world of Pirates, and the story of the first movie plays out mostly like normal. But instead of Jack being cured of the curse of the Aztec gold with Barbossa’s death, his time as a skeleton is prolonged thanks to the game’s antagonists, Organization XIII. Organization member Luxord steals the Aztec gold for himself, and summons a Grim Reaper boss that the player must work with Sparrow to defeat for the curse to be lifted once and for all.
7 THE FIRST PIRATE SHIP JACK CAPTAINED WAS A FISHING BOAT CALLED THE BARNACLE
How big does a ship and a crew have to be for a pirate to be able to call himself a captain of them? Whatever it is you’re picturing, Jack Sparrow might just have found a way to fall short of even the most generous standards. It’s unlikely there were too many historical pirates whose first ship was everything they wanted, but Jack made do with the absolute bare minimum. His first ship was nothing more than a small fishing boat known as the Barnacle.
If you thought Jack and Will making off with the Interceptor in Curse of the Black Pearl made for a skimpy crew, that actually was not much more of a challenge than his first crew. Jack’s first crew consisted of just three people, including himself.
Between that and his dinky boat, Jack’s beginnings were quite humble indeed. Suffice it to say, the Black Pearl was quite an upgrade for the captain.
6 JACK SPARROW HAS A SONG DEVOTED TO HIM
Fans of Lonely Island’s comedy songs are probably already aware of this, but for people who don’t follow the group, it might come as a surprise that there is a song about Jack Sparrow. Lonely Island are the right people to do it too, since it would be pretty weird for there to be a serious song about the pirate. With someone as whacky as Jack, a song about him that wasn’t silly just wouldn’t feel right.
The premise for the song is Lonely Island is trying to do a stereotypical club song, and they invite Michael Bolton on as a guest artist. But Bolton has become so enamored by recently watching the Pirates movies that he can’t think of anything else and keeps interrupting Lonely Island’s rap to sing about pirates and giant squids. Bolton even dresses up as Sparrow for the part, and makes a surprisingly catchy tune about the subject. It’s definitely worth a look if you want a laugh and an excuse to sing about Jack Sparrow.
5 JACK’S DAD IS A FAMOUS PIRATE, BUT NOTHING IS KNOWN OF HIS MOM, NOT EVEN HER NAME
Johnny Depp has openly acknowledged that he was inspired for his take on Jack Sparrow thanks to Keith Richards, and this led to Keith eventually being cast in the movies as Captain Teague. Even just based on his small amount of time on screen so far, it’s obvious Teague is a legendary pirate; you can see that just from the respect other pirates have for him.
With Jack being such a charismatic character, and Teague clearly a renowned pirate, you would expect Jack’s mother to be equally as significant in the story. And yet we know pretty much nothing about her.
By the time we see her in the movies it’s just for a punchline where Jack asks how his mom is doing, and Teague pulls out her shrunken head. Even the books don’t shed much more light on what she was like, simply telling us that she gave birth to Jack in the middle of a typhoon. We haven’t even been told her name, let alone whether she was some legendary pirate.
4 JACK’S TATTOO AND GOLD TEETH ARE REALLY JOHNNY DEPP’S
Jack Sparrow is a role that clearly has meant a lot to Depp. Beyond it just being one of Depp’s most famous and recurring parts, he has taken time out of his life to dress up as the character to visit children’s hospitals on numerous occasions.
Depp’s dedication extends even beyond that; he is so committed to the role that he has even changed his physical appearance to permanently make himself more like Sparrow.
For starters, in preparation for the part, Johnny had real golden teeth put into his mouth by a dentist. Depp actually had too many golden teeth inserted and was asked to remove some before filming. Beyond that, most people remember Sparrow’s tattoo of a bird on his arm. Though it was initially fake, Depp liked it so much that he decided to get the design tattooed to remember the role.
3 JACK HAD SAVED THE WORLD BEFORE THE EVENTS OF THE FIRST MOVIE
In retrospect, Curse of the Black Pearl is a bit of an odd movie given how so many of the characters are surprised by the existence of supernatural things in the world. The main characters encounter Barbossa and his undead pirates and have trouble believing that the Black Pearl is actually real, let alone that cursed gold exists. Jack especially should be quite used to this. Based on his childhood in the books, Jack has already encountered many of these things before.
There have been nineteen books focusing on Jack Sparrow, and the stakes raised higher and higher as they went along. By the final book, the pirate lords were in danger of being destroyed by the Shadow Lord and his Shadow Army, who were arguably an even bigger threat than Cutler Beckett and Davy Jones were in At World’s End.
Jack overcame a curse from the Shadow Lord, eliminated the Shadow Army, discovered the Shadow Lord’s true identity and defeated him. And even with all that, Barbossa still betrayed Jack shortly after the final book.
2 JACK’S GRANDMOTHER TORTURED AND NEARLY KILLED HIM AS A CHILD
Since these are stories put out by Disney, you might think that nothing too dark would ever happen in the plot. The hardships of the time like years of slavery, death by scurvy, or dying in poverty are usually replaced by fantasy fun. Jack, in particular, seems to live nothing but a life of whimsy and charm whenever we see him. But even Captain Sparrow has some dark secrets behind his easy smile.
For one thing, his family upbringing was far from the greatest. Jack was raised surrounded by criminals, and he wasn’t even sure for the longest time if Captain Teague was his real dad. In such an environment you wouldn’t expect a child to be spared the abuse of the world, and in the books, Jack wasn’t.
That abuse came from Jack’s grandmother, a once-famous pirate in her own right, who showed her love through pain. And evidently she loved Jack a lot, because the torture she inflicted on her grandson nearly killed him several times. It was something that played a big role in Jack leaving his home and setting out for adventure in the first place.
1 JACK TAUGHT BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ABOUT ELECTRICITY
It’s a common misconception that Benjamin Franklin is who we have to thank for electricity, but if you check a history book, you’ll actually find Jack Sparrow is the one credited with the discovery. It might sound hard to believe, but Jack himself claimed credit for the breakthrough, and everyone knows he doesn’t lie. You can see the story for yourself if you check out the series of books about Sparrow that have been released by Disney.
The books focus on Jack’s origins as a pirate starting in his teenage years and leading up to the Curse of the Black Pearl movie. They reveal a lot more of Jack’s adventures than what we’ve seen in the films, and have a lot of interesting details.
One little throwaway line from Jack is when he mentions a kid named Benny who he showed a trick involving a kite and a key. Jack comments how he hopes Benny remembers it when he becomes older. So if you believe Jack, then we have him to thank for that life-changing discovery.
Is there anything else you know about Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean that you think people might not know? Share your thoughts in the comments!