Can you believe it's been a whole twenty years since the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl? That's right, this weekend will mark the 20th anniversary of the film premiering in theaters, kicking off the start of what's become a beautiful franchise. It might be a cliche thing to say, but you had to be there to really understand the impact The Curse of the Black Pearl had—especially amongst the kids and teenagers. I, myself, was a kid at the time of its release, and I very clearly remember all the kids at my school having passionate discussions about the film upon coming back in the fall (the movie released over the summer when we were on break). If you weren't there to experience the phenomena in real-time, the next best thing is to read about it.
'Pirates of the Caribbean' at 20: How the Legend of Jack Sparrow Continues to Thrive
It's been 20 years since the movie that started it all
What we're going to do is take you back to the year 2003—literally. This is a reflection of how Jack Sparrow dominated then, and how his legend continues today.
The Expectations Were Low for "The Curse of the Black Pearl"
Prior to the release of The Curse of the Black Pearl, there wasn't much "hype" surrounding the film because the expectations from a performance standpoint was low. A 2003 review from The New York Times sums up the biggest question people had about the film ahead of its release—how a "ride" would be as a movie. This sentence from that specific review says it best: "The action comedy 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl' raises one of the most overlooked and important cinematic questions of our time: Can a movie maintain the dramatic integrity of a theme park ride?"
There were also references to other pirate movies that had underperformed in the 1980s and 1990s. What would be the fate of The Curse of the Black Pearl? Well, that fate was a $654.3 million grossing at the box office globally, which made it the fourth highest-grossing film of 2003. Needless to say, the movie was a massive hit, and proved a lot of people wrong in terms of popularity. Not only that, but the success certainly meant that there would be sequels—four to be exact.
What Were the Stars of This Film Doing in 2003?
Here's what the major stars of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl career's looked like in 2003.
While Johnny Depp was certainly a well-known star in Hollywood by the year 2003, there were doubts from some about whether or not he was capable of being a leading box-office star. The success of The Curse of the Black Pearl helped put those doubts to rest as he became the face of the Pirates franchise, paving the way for him to take on roles such as Willy Wonka in 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The then 18-year-old Keira Knightley had just began experiencing major career success two years prior with the 2001 Disney film Princess of Thieves, where she portrayed Robin Hood's daughter. Knightley's official breakthrough in the industry was the year before the release of The Curse of the Black Pearl, with 2002's Bend it Like Beckham. The success of The Curse of the Black Pearl further catapulted her into one of Hollywood's brightest young talents.
By the time 2003 rolled around, Orlando Bloom was no stranger to successful franchises as he was also a member of The Lord of the Rings series, where he portrayed "Legolas" in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (which was released several months after The Curse of the Black Pearl).
Seven years prior to his portrayal of Captain Hector Barbossa in the Pirates franchise, Geoffrey Rush began gaining notoriety in Hollywood for his role in 1996's Shine, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. In addition to Pirates, Rush would appear in several other films in the year 2003 including Finding Nemo where he voiced Nigel the Pelican, Swimming Upstream, and Ned Kelly.
Also in The Curse of the Black Pearl was a young actress by the name of Zoe Saldana, who was still about six years away from her breakout in Avatar and the Star Trek reboot. While Saldana's role in the film was relatively small, it was still memorable, opening up the door for future opportunities.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" Movie Trailer
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl on DVD and VHS
What Did the Ride Look Like?
While that version of the ride is definitely cool, here's what it looked like in 2002, just one year prior to the release of The Curse of the Black Pearl.
In short—Pirates of the Caribbean was the movie that nobody saw coming. A moderate success? Possibly. A $654.3 million showing at the box office and four sequels? Nah. That totally wasn't predicted.
As we said before, the legend of Captain Jack Sparrow remains supreme.
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