It's official: Pirates are the rock stars of the new millennium. ''I'm sitting on a barge in the Caribbean,'' says Orlando Bloom, calling from the set. He's back to reprise his role as the hapless Will Turner, who teams up with his future bride (Keira Knightley) to help the swaggering Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) fend off nemesis Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his army of creepy undead soldiers. ''We've all got trailers [out here] and we're filming in that transparent turquoise water. It's quite glamorous.''
Even so, the globe-trotting back-to-back shoot of the two follow-ups to 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has often felt more like a nerve-jangling plank walk for all involved. ''The size and scope is enormously ambitious,'' says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who decided to shoot a Pirates twofer to avoid future scheduling nightmares with his increasingly Oscar-nominated cast. Bruckheimer's airtight plan sprang a leak once hurricane season hit the Caribbean during production last fall. ''I think every movie made is over budget and over schedule,'' Bruckheimer says. ''This picture had some weather problems. We had to take a hiatus early. But you make compromises and get it done.''
The filmmakers were dead set on amping up the realism, which meant more shooting on an actual boat docked just off the coast of the Bahamas. ''Somehow I thought it would be on soundstages, [but] most of it was on the water,'' says Naomie Harris (also in this month's Miami Vice), who plays a voodoo priestess. ''Loads of people got really sick. There were literally two people crawling on their hands and knees.'' But Bloom understood the necessity of the high jinks on the high seas. ''It's frustrating for everybody at different times,'' he says. ''But we're making a pirate movie, dude.''