With the Pirates of the Caribbean movies more accessible than ever, and a summer season void of blockbusters, this month we’re diving deep into Disney’s swashbuckling series. Grab your cutlass and hoist the colors: here be Polygon’s take on all things PotC.
After the critical failure and colossal box office haul of 2011’s On Stranger Tides, something had to be done to save the stray-but-viable Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
The answer was obvious: Hire Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem to dwibble oily spittle fwom his mwouth wike a big piwhate baby.
Though known as a handsome Spanish star, Bardem had a history of playing peculiar baddies before stepping on board Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In 2007, he picked up his Academy Award for playing the bolt-stunner-wielding assassin Anton Chigurh in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. Five years later, he faced off against James Bond as the blonde, jawless genius Raoul Silva in Skyfall. If the role required hair, makeup, or costume special effects, Bardem was game, and Dead Men Tell No Tales demanded his greatest transformation.
In directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s fivequel, the undead captain Armando Salazar appears to be floating in the water even as he walks the dry deck of a ship. His hair ebbs and flows in the air, suspended by an invisible tide. A crackling set of scars give him a facade akin to Frankenstein’s monster. Plus he’s choking on goo! Disgusting amounts of sludge seep out of his mouth as he talks to the mannequin playing Will Turner’s son.
As mom-blog Tools 2 Tiaras reported at the time of release, Bardem was not fond of the leaky gunk, but was more than happy to reveal the secrets of the ooze. “It was a liquid,” he said. “They told me it was supposed to be like chocolate, chocolate my ass. That tasted worse than that, so, and they were supposed to put it on the teeth. I said give me that, so I drunk it and then I went to play the first scene, I think it was with Geoffrey Rush and it starts to pour out of my mouth and he was very disgusted. [LAUGHTER] And I thought it was like a rage pouring out, right? It’s not blood. It’s like the rage of the character coming out, like something more physical, like a bull.”
We gave Bardem an Oscar for sporting a horrible bowl cut, but he earns a Razzie for spitting pure rage on Geoffrey Rush? Hollywood makes no goddamn sense!
I wish I could say “I will never forget the time I saw Javier Bardem heave black grease out of his mouth as he pontificated on the woes of being an undead sea captain,” but the truth is I could barely remember whether or not I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales in theaters. All I remembered was a hazy memory of Bardem’s goop acting. Was it even as gloriously vile as I thought, or had Rønning and Sandberg’s messy character choice been fused with another daring act of oral expulsion that I held in high esteem?
Looking back at Dead Men Tell No Tales, which just arrived to Disney Plus in July, and at my own history of watching characters with leaky orifices, the answer is that the secreting Armando Salazar that I knew was more of a construct than I had ever believed. Without being on the set with a measuring cup, I’d estimate Bardem spits out about 1/4th of a cup of black good out of his mouth in his first scene. Spooky, but nothing a few paper towels could handle.
So how did I conjure this exacerbated imagined version of Salazar? Who set the bar for spewing liquid out of one’s face? After a journey through the mind, it’s clear that when I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales the first time, I was under the influence of Kids in the Hall. While I think Bardem deserves an Oscar for bringing obsidian spit up to the big screen, Dave Foley deserves at least 14 Emmys for going the distance in 1995.
Foley was a comedic iconoclast who never saw a bag of foul-looking liquid he couldn’t hide under his quote and expel for laughs. In another sketch, he went four minutes on a mock date with a stream of blood shooting out of his ear. In “Personal,” his boss character is the victim of “brown stuff” coming out of his mouth. It’s tremendous.
Kids in the Hall was in constant rotation on Comedy Central in the late ’90s and early 2000s, molding the senses of humor of young lads like I. Twenty years later, when Dead Men Tell No Tales graced the screen, my brain was ready for Armando Salazar to close-talk spit all over his victims while enunciating his words. Foley ran the first leg of the race, and Javier Bardem grabbed the baton. But the performance didn’t sit well with audiences who weren’t as familiar with the art of performative gushing: The movie once again made millions around the world, but wound up with a dismal 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Though Salazar met his end in the final scenes of Dead Men Tell No Tales, Rønning and Sandberg are set to return as directors of Pirates 6. To them I would say: double down. Hire Dave Foley. Get the black goo crankin’ this time. People understand now.