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Pirates (1986) Poster

(1986)

Trivia

The movie was the Opening Night Film at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival (where it was screened out of competition). To promote the film, Roman Polanski had the ship "Neptune" sail into the Cannes harbor on the festival's opening day, with all the movie's stars on deck in their pirate costumes. But after Pirates (1986) died at the box office, the "Neptune" remained in Cannes for 16 years, anchored next to a stone jetty in the harbor, because no one was sure what to do with it. In 2002, it was finally moved to Genoa, Italy, where it is now a floating museum in the city's port, near the "Molo Veccio" ("Old Pier").
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The movie cost over $30 million to make, and took in less than $1 million in ticket sales. It was one of a number of pirate movies made between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s that were box office bombs, including Swashbuckler (1976), The Pirate Movie (1982), Savage Islands (1983), Yellowbeard (1983), and Cutthroat Island (1995).
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When the film was in development in the 1970s, Roman Polanski envisioned Jack Nicholson as Captain Thomas Bartholemew Red, Isabelle Adjani as Maria-Dolores, and himself as Jean-Baptiste/The Frog. However, Nicholson, who had previously worked with Polanski on Chinatown (1974), drove the director crazy with outrageous salary demands. At one point, when Polanski asked him, out of desperation, "What exactly do you want?", Nicholson replied, "I want more!" In the end, Walter Matthau replaced Nicholson when the film was finally made in the 1980's.
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Debut feature film of actor Cris Campion and actress Charlotte Lewis, who both received 'introducing' credits. Charlotte Lewis later claimed that she'd been forced to sleep with Roman Polanski in order to get the role.
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One of numerous screen-writing collaborations of scriptwriter Gérard Brach and director Roman Polanski.
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Timothy Dalton was to play the part of Don Alfonso de la Torre, but backed out of the movie to make himself available for the next James Bond film, The Living Daylights (1987). He also didn't get on with Roman Polanski. Damien Thomas replaced him in the role on short notice.
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Roman Polanski first wrote the screenplay for this picture in 1974, but couldn't get financing for about a dozen years. While in development at Paramount Pictures, the original budget for the film had been $15 million. Over the 12 years it was stuck in "development hell," the budget ballooned in excess of $30 million, which was a very large movie budget in the 1980's. It was finally made as a French-Tunisian co-production, financed by wealthy Tunisian Tarak Ben Ammar. Beginning in 1984, the movie was filmed in Tunisia, Malta and the Seychelles (which are a set of remote islands off the coast of East Africa).
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The name of the priceless ancient Aztec gold throne was the "Capatiec Hanoccac." The Aztec king it originally belonged to was "Kapatek-Anahuac."
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Over a quarter of the picture's $30 million budget was spent on the construction of the pirate ship "Neptune." According to the DVD extras, the "Neptune" was "a full scale, functioning replica of a 17th Century Spanish Galleon, with intricate wood carving and working cannons. It still holds the record for the largest single prop ever constructed for motion pictures." The "Neptune" was constructed in Malta, and took about 12 months to build, utilizing the craft skills of over two-thousand Italian sculptors and Maltese shipbuilders. Although it is a replica of a Spanish Galleon above the waterline, it has a steel hull and a 400 HP engine underneath. In 2011, the "Neptune" made a brief return to show business, serving as the "Jolly Roger," Captain Hook's ship, in the TV mini-series, Neverland (2011).
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The movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, but designer Anthony Powell lost to John Bright and Jenny Beavan for A Room with a View (1985). Powell had won the Oscar for Costume Design for Roman Polanskis previous film, Tess (1979), and had also won Oscars for his work in Travels with My Aunt (1972) and Death on the Nile (1978).
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Roman Polanski wanted Dustin Hoffman to play The Frog, but the actor wasn't available. Rob Lowe auditioned for the role, but Cris Campion was cast instead.
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At one stage, Roman Polanski was pursuing Michael Caine to play Captain Red.
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The full character name of Captain Red (Walter Matthau) was Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red. Charlotte Lewis's full character name is María-Dolores de la Jenya de la Calde. The nick-name of Jean-Baptiste (Cris Campion) is "The Frog," which is a disdainful term for French people often used by the English.
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First film directed by Roman Polanski in seven years. His previous film, Tess (1979), was an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel, "Tess of the d'Urbervilles."
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The film was nominated for three French Cesar Awards including Cris Campion for Most Promising Young Male Actor (Meilleur Jeune Espoir Masculin) and won two - for Anthony Powell for Best Costume Design (Meilleurs Costumes) and for Pierre Guffroy for Best Production Design (Meilleurs Décors).
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Ironically, the song which Captain Red asks the Frog to sing in the last scene ("You know, that French ditty that I'm fond of") is the traditional song "Il était un petit navire", which is about a group of shipwrecked sailors who are debating how they should cook and eat the cabin boy.
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To this day, this film marks the end of close collaboration of director Roman Polanski and composer Philippe Sarde.
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