Bill Nighy is Davey Jones
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl had two CGI sequences in which the cursed pirates turn into skeletons. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has characters who are CGI throughout the entire film. Mainly, Davey Jones, a squid-faced pirate whose tentacles were entirely pasted over actor Bill Nighy’s face.
Gore Verbinski on CG Effects in POTC: Dead Man's Chest
“The biggest challenge was were we going to loose Bill Nighy’s performance, his character, his acting,” said director Gore Verbinski. “Because, really, you put actors together and you shoot a scene and you don’t want to drift away from that and get lost with the clay or the CG clay, so to speak, as you put all that stuff on him. And there were a lot of challenges with Bill’s performance, because he has so much with his chin and there is no jaw line when you put those tentacles on. And his profile is so strong and there really is no nose on Jones. So you have to do a lot of, ‘What is he doing there? And how does that translate into his tentacles and everything else?’”
The artists at ILM used a split screen to compare their animation with Nighy’s actual performance on set. “A lot of animation you are going to work from 12 basic facial impressions and you modify them to achieve your performance. They couldn’t do that with Bill because he never repeated anything and he was so completely unique and original. And all of that stuff sort of translated. I showed him pictures and he knew what he was. He showed up on set with dots on his face and a grey suit. Everyone else was dressed like pirates and he feels like he was a member of Devo or something and yet he completely commits to it.”
Some of the pirates on Jones’s crew had traditional prosthetic makeup, which seemed preferable at first. “He would look at Stellan Skarsgard who had four or five hours in a chair and he wished that he was Stellan, because at least he kind of knows what he’s getting. If you film Stellan in a scene, that’s it, he’s done. I think now Stellan wishes he was Bill, because they can see the end result. They did a fantastic job in retaining Bill Nighy’s character.”
Even Davey Jones’s eyes are CGI. “I originally intended to keep his eyes. I don’t want to not have something going on behind the eyes and that’s the thing that computer’s can’t do very well, little compressions in the eyes. His pauses and drifting off and how the pupils kind of spread when someone is thinking about something or having a memory. Really difficult stuff to do, but we didn’t use any of Bill’s real eyes. We ended up using completely CGI, because it just became too cumbersome to use his real eyes. And also, when we started to look at what we could achieve, we are sort of crossing over a threshold with the work ILM has done with Davey Jones and that was really reassuring. A lot of it is just done by hand. You just constantly script the image and you’ve got Bill and dots on his face and what you’ve shot and you’ve got the animated version of Davey Jones. You step through it frame by frame, and you move and you go, ‘Look at what he’s doing here with his lower lip. And look what he’s doing here. And that pupil is compressing.’ And you kind of really steal his performance. But, it’s not like you put it through a computer and turn a knob and it comes back at you. It’s a lot of talented animators working a lot of hours to retain his performance.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opens to theatres this Friday,
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