Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
- Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem
- Director(s): Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
- Producer(s): Jerry Bruckheimer
- Screenwriter(s): Jeff Nathanson, Terry Rossio
- Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
- Animal Coordinator: Absolutely Animals, Performance Livestock
- Release Date: Friday, May 26, 2017
- Rating: Outstanding
Featured Animal Action
Since Pirates of the Caribbean is a period piece, as you might expect, the film features many horses, horseback riding, etc. All horseback riders were stunt riders or experienced actors who were skilled at riding, mounting and dismounting. All running/galloping scenes were well choreographed, and actors used caution while on and near animals. The horse(s) rearing was a trained behavior. The horses were specially trained “falling horses” and “lay down horses” that fell on cue onto a soft landing area. When teams of horses pulled wagons or carriages, the drivers were experienced and teams of horses were familiar with each other and accustomed to the pulling action. Whenever horses were seen tied to posts/fences, they were attached to lead ropes tied to posts.
In the scene where the camera sweeps through a courtyard and we see a man with a little dog and a horse and carriage, prior to filming, trainers handed the animals to the extras. When the bank vault drives away, the people with the animals held by ropes, react. In another shot, the bank vault itself is pulled by several horses. In this scene, wranglers hooked up the horses to the bank hitch and the six riders got on their horses. Wranglers on foot stayed with the horses until they were ready to start filming. The man driving the bank had a walkie to cue the rest of the team. On action the wranglers cued the horses to canter and the ropes pulled taught. There is a moment when the horses have to 'strain' to pull the bank, but they were not really staining hard as the majority of the weight of the bank building was being driven by a car, not pulled by the horses. For this they got ten yards down the road pulling the building. After filming the scene, the horses were given shade and water. In that same “bank pulling” scene when the horses pull back and whinny, the brace behind the horse team is attached to two large ropes. These ropes go all the way through the Bank and out the other side, and were attached to a heavy vehicle. There is a small amount of slack in the ropes to allow the horses to move forward slightly to give the impression the Bank is about to move. On action, one of the trainers encouraged one of the lead horses to move from side to side to simulate activity/excitement.
When we see the horses “pulling the bank” down the street, with some of the fellow pirates riding the horses, only half of the harness horses were hitched to the tracking vehicle pulling the bank. The horses were prepped for this action, and were trained at home with a vehicle similar to those used to train trotting horses. They were settled when harnessed in and not affected by the rigging or people on the vehicle.
The action required the tracking vehicle with the six horses attached to drive down the street towards the town. The Bank was NOT attached, but driven behind the tracking vehicle. The camera angle would give the impression that the Bank is attached to the vault horses. Once the vehicle was moving at the correct speed, the horses were at canter speed and comfortable to run at speed for short distances.
In the scene where Jack pushes the actress off the roof, she lands on the back of the cart and the horses start galloping and the cart takes off, the cart was placed in position and all the work done before the two horses were hitched up. The wagon has a hidden box area where a stuntman will be laying and driving the wagon. There will be straw in the wagon. Grahame has been told by production that the horses would not be attached to the wagon as the stunt woman falls onto the wagon. The alley opened to a wider street that is open and the horses and wagon area were able to turn right or left. After hooking up the horses to the wagon Grahame drove the wagon down the alley at a slow canter and turned left after the alley so the horses could get the feel for the area and start to pattern in one direction. After the horses were finished wranglers unhooked them and rinsed them off, let them dry and covered them with blankets before putting them in the pasture.
In the scene where Jack falls over the gate and there are pigs in the vicinity, trainers placed straw on the ground. They brought the pigs to the area and placed food to keep the pig in place. Both untethered pigs were happy to feed amongst the mud and unperturbed by the action around them. Later, when we see the pig’s head go through the wall of the pub that was a fake pig’s head. In that same scene where we see a rat crawl over the Jack’s compass on the bar, the trainer placed the rat on one side of the bar, and baited the rat by placing peanut butter on the compass. On action, the rat walked straight to the compass.
Outside, when we see a team of oxen in the rain when Jack walks outside the pub, the wranglers hooked the steers to the yolk of the grinder and they walked in a circle turning the grinder.
In the scene where we see the actress in the jail cell and see a couple rats crawling on the sill behind her, prior to filming the trainer placed three rats on the sill and gave each rat an almond. The rats milled about in the area for three takes before being wrapped.
Likewise, in the scene where we see the rats sitting on the witch’s shoulder, the trainer placed the rat on the actress’s shoulder prior to filming, and rewarded the rat with food. After shooting the scene, the rat was rewarded with food. When the witch throws the rat in to the fire, the rat was a fake.
In the scene where we see the execution area and a horse and carriage pulls up holding Jack, the carriage was held to their horses at the holding area and walked to their starting position outside the Town Gate. This area is approximately the size of half a football field and allows the drivers to make turns during resets. The area was large enough for cast to also assemble and wait until they get into the carriages. On action, the carriages started their run from Position A outside the Town Gate and move at trotting pace through the gate and into their end positions in the Square.
In the same sequence when Jack is rescued and gets into a battle with the soldiers, the horses were all in the background. The carriage was rigged up and walked onto set from the holding area and in through the Town Gate. The carriage and Pete were placed in their normal end position next to the Gallows. There was gunfire on set today at the start of each fight scene so Grahame Ware (Horse Master) was also in costume and standing near the horses during rehearsals and filming. The gunfire was black powder and soft wads. They make a thud rather than a bang, and the trainers were not concerned by this noise.
In this same sequence when the guillotine wagon is driven into the square harnessed by eight horses, the wagon was attached by rope to a heavy vehicle. The rope had a quick release operated by a wrangler. Once harnessed the team was prepped by walking and then trotting around the perimeter road of the set. The safety rider was in costume and always placed in front of the team. In Execution Square, the guillotine had been removed. They took several shots of the horses’ hooves galloping into the square as well. All safety precautions were taken.
In the scene where we see the Capuchin Monkey crawl onto the actor’s soldier, both monkeys had been carried to set on the shoulders of their trainers. A separate trainer was also on set in charge of food rewards and other training equipment if needed.
Both cameras had a narrow focus on the actors’ faces and upper bodies. On cue, the trainer gave a command and one of the monkeys used on the scene climbed up the actor’s back and onto his left shoulder.
Many of Geoffrey Rush’s scenes are very similar to the latter. He’s very good with the monkeys. This is his fourth film working with them, and he knows the protocol.
In the scene where the monkey grabs the ruby and runs away with it, the trainer used a buzzer to call the monkey to him. The monkey was rewarded with food.
In the scene where Jack is at the helm of the ship and the monkey jumps from the floor to the ship’s wheel then hands the compass to Jack, the scene was accomplished in several shots. First, the trainer placed the monkey at his first position behind the camera. On cue the trainer instructed the monkey to jump up onto the wheel and then onto Jack's shoulder and then to hand over the compass. The trainer was dressed like the actor in the scene, so it was easy for the monkey to achieve this action.