It began with a set-sweeping fire and ended with mild dysentery. But producer Jerry Bruckheimer insists that the only curse attached to his $125 million supernatural swashbuckler is on the screen, as a gang of bloodthirsty pirates -- led by ''Quills''' Geoffrey Rush -- sets out to undo a spell that not only turns them into skeletons, but celibate skeletons, unable to enjoy sex, food, or even a good plank walking.
Enter Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a flashy rogue with awful teeth, a deep tan, and mysterious motives. ''[Johnny's character] is a bit of a seesaw,'' says Bruckheimer. ''He's always slurring his words. You never know if he's drunk or not.'' Bottle of rum presumably in place, Sparrow teams up with a blacksmith (''The Lord of the Rings''' Orlando Bloom) to rescue a comely lass (''Bend It Like Beckham'''s Keira Knightley) who unknowingly holds the secret to breaking the hex.
It may all sound a bit spooky for a movie inspired by Disney's beloved theme-park ride, but, as Rush points out, the 17th century wasn't all parrots and peg legs. ''The reality of pirates is a very brutal and tough world,'' says the actor. ''But there's also the legend. And you've got to have a bit of both.''
Speaking of truth versus legend, Bruckheimer downplays talk about a blaze that destroyed $300,000 worth of sets (''It was minor damage'') and illness that plagued some crew members while shooting in the Caribbean. ''Anytime you leave the U.S., somebody's gonna get something,'' he notes. Still, he'll cop to the fact that the location shoot -- on sun-soaked St. Vincent -- was hardly a vacation. ''It's a working-class island,'' says Bruckheimer. ''It doesn't have the five-star hotels. So the crew loved the weather, [but] I'm sure they weren't crazy about the accommodations.''