If you visited Helensvale in 2015 – a substantial but largely nondescript suburb on Australia’s Gold Coast – you might have been caught amidst a battle between 50 decaying ghosts and 50 members of the British Royal Navy, dressed in full regalia on a football field. No, it’s not a quaint Aussie tradition (but if you’re looking for one, I have heard from my editor that sausage sizzles are quite the spectacle), the pirates were in town and remained stationed there for the year while Salazar’s Revenge was filmed.
The fifth serving from the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise – which landed on screens last Thursday – invaded the area, which by sheer chance is the hometown of its newest star, Brenton Thwaites. “I’ve kind of been moving to America for the last 10 years,” the baby-faced 27-year-old actor laughs, “but every time I try, I get a job back home.” Today, the Gold Coast native has flown almost 10,000 miles to set, so I hold back my moan-ologue detailing my two-tubes-and-a-bus commute that I scripted on the way.
As we sink into fat armchairs in a corner of the studio, Thwaites tells me of his formative years Down Under. “I was very ambitious,” he explains, “I wanted to do darker stuff and I wanted to portray characters like I’d seen in Candy and Good Will Hunting, flawed characters that eventually overcome [their problems].” Now playing Henry in Salazar’s Revenge, a British soldier and son of the cursed William Turner (Orlando Bloom), Thwaites’ CV amounts to a sizeable list of challenging roles. In Home & Away (which seems to serve as a secondary drama school for Aussie actors) he played an abusive boyfriend and thuggish gang member, while he transformed into a “gay heroin addict who was struggling to come out to his father” for naval drama, Sea Patrol.
Just before those debut roles, Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl had its first airing. “To me, it was just another movie coming out,” Thwaites shrugs. In all fairness, he was just 14. “Looking back, it was a feat for its time because it had state of the art CGI, a great story, it was funny, adventurous and action packed and we all just fell in love with Jack Sparrow. I just remember thinking, ‘I haven’t seen anything like this.’”
“It was weird,” he says of his first scenes with the inimitable Johnny Depp. “It still is weird. I don’t think that weirdness will ever go away. I mean, usually after you do a week’s worth of work, it just becomes work. On Pirates, I never lost that sense of excitement.” Shared scenes were aplenty, as the plot intertwines the lives of Henry Turner and Jack Sparrow, with Henry hunting for the captain to enlist him on a mission to free his father. On their escapades the pair meet the empowered and educated astronomer Carina, played by Thwaites’ fellow newcomer, Kaya Scodelario. “She’s a great actress,” he gushes of his co-star. “I saw her work on Skins so I was a super fan and it’s definitely a different side of her that we’re seeing in Pirates.”
Salazar’s Revenge recruited not only new leads, but a fresh directorial duo in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Their inclusion, in part, encouraged Thwaites to audition for the film. “I was excited that these two new directors had a new vision, a passion and excitement for the franchise,” he enthuses. “They have sharp ideas. When they say, ‘we’re going to go big,’ they’ve already got ideas about how to make it bigger.” The most extravagant scenes? “Aboard the ships when we’re doing fight scenes,” Thwaites replies eagerly, the childhood dreams of those brought up on Pirates turned reality. “They include most of the cast at one time, they have a sense of adventure, the supernatural and spectacular about them.”
With Salazar’s Revenge projected to make a cool $1 billion worldwide and Thwaites having scooped CinemaCon’s 2017 Breakthrough Performer award, (the supposed) final chapter of the Pirates of the Caribbean tale is set to end the series on the same exhilarating high it began.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is out now.
See the full shoot in the Summer 17 Issue of Wonderland, out now and available to buy here.
Ben Jones using Bumble and Bumble and MAC Cosmetics
Shreen Gayle at Terry Manduca Agency
Michael O. Williams
Marianna Frannais, Sophie Whitmore and Paula Szuminska