“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” introduces a new villian in this fourth film of the blockbuster franchise and reports are he is the baddest of them all: the notorious Blackbeard.
To fill the role of the infamous scourge of the seas, director Rob Marshall looked to Ian McShane, a British stage-trained actor best known for playing Al Swearengen, a ruthless frontier kingpin on HBO‘s Deadwood.
And McShane could not have been happier to step into those pirate boots. “Dark characters are great if they’re written with the subtlety that (Deadwood producer) David Milch wrote them with or the comedy that I think Terry Rossio provided in this particular script,” he says. “You get the best lines. And when people recognize me on the street, they tend to keep their distance.”
Understanding the mindset of the villian of the high seas proved challenging for the actor. “I guess what you do is you get the right costume, from the wonderful Penny Rose, and work with the talented Kenny Myers, who designed that beard that took two hours to apply every day. I’d go into makeup in the morning, sit down and listen to the choice of music for the day, and in a few hours Blackbeard would come alive.”
McShane adds, “Once you got the hat and those boots on, you got out there and just started acting, you know? Filming is such a mixture of concentrating and ‘hurry-up-and-wait,’ especially these big productions. And the 3-D, of course, adds a little more time to it overall. But you’re there to add the menace, and I always go on the old theory of you stand there, plant your feet, look the other actor in the eyes and say the lines. And you try not to trip over your sword.”
Co-starring in a Disney movie provided an unexpected perk for McShane, as this film will draw a larger audience than his previous work, including a few special audience members close to the actor’s heart.
“It’s a fun thing to be able to play something like this because I’ve got three grandchildren,” the actor explains. “They’re not allowed to see Deadwood yet; there’s a lot of work I’ve done that they’re not allowed to see. So at least they can see something with Grandpa in it.”
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