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Busy day for the Pirates photo call and press conference

(From Left) British actor and producer Ian McShane, Spanish actress Penelope
Cruz, US actor Johnny Depp, Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, French actress
Astrid-Berges Frisbey and British actor Sam Claflin pose during the photocall of
"Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides" presented out of competition at
the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2011 in Cannes AFP/Valéry Hache

Johnny Depp swung back into his iconic Captain Jack Sparrow role Saturday at the Cannes premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," the fourth episode in the lucrative franchise.

   Three years after "At World's End", Sparrow embarks on a quest to find the Fountain of Life while also trying to square his feelings for a mysterious woman from his past, Penelope Cruz's Angelica, essentially his female double (http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/mediaPlayer/11010.html).

   The film is shot in 3-D, the perfect format for the obligatory cutlass swinging and sword stabbing from which pirates make a living, and sees rival English, Spanish and pirate ships racing to track down the magical elixir.

   Sparrow's gold-toothed walking haberdashery is true to form, the corners of his mouth and eyes twitching as he plots a series of escapes from certain death and tries to learn Angelica's neat trick of "lying by telling the truth."

   The story takes us from the muddy cobbled streets of 18th-century London -- where Angelica is trying to raise a crew for a ship and Sparrow is facing execution -- across the seas to lush Caribbean islands.

   The film rollicks along, action scenes alternating with tete-a-tetes and plenty of laughs, including relatively subtle jokes aimed at adults, such as Sparrow's deadpan "I agree with the missionary's position."

   Depp swings into an aristocratic Judi Dench's coach to nibble her ear and make off with her jewellery -- "Is that it?" cries the grande dame of British acting as the dashing buccaneer makes off.

   And Rolling Stone Keith Richards, whose idiosyncratic demeanour and speech is the inspiration for Depp's portrayal of Sparrow, makes a cameo appearance as the pirate's father.

   "Does this face look like it's been touched by the water of life?" the wizened rock star growls at his son in a dimly lit tavern.

   Young French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey plays a mermaid who can't quite bring herself to drag sailors to the bottom of the sea, and Ian McShane plays the fearsome Blackbeard, whose facial hair took two and a half hours to apply.

   The series has already brought in 2.6 billion dollars (1.8 billion euros), a figure producer Jerry Bruckheimer describes as "wonderful", and the film leaves the door for another instalment open wide enough for further billions to be made.

   Speaking after the screening, Depp said he had his children to thank for making him watch years of cartoons and thus develop Sparrow's character.

   "I have such great respect for the parameters of cartoons and the characters, they can get away with a lot more than we can in live action films," Depp said.

   "So I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to find that blend until you actually become Bugs Bunny in human form?', and so I have my kids to thank for that."

   Answering journalists' questions, Depp described Sparrow as "a weird combination of an 18th-century rock and roll star, i.e., Keith Richards, and a very romantic skunk."

   Bruckheimer quashed rumours that the film marks the beginning of a new trilogy, saying a decision had not yet been made on any future instalments.

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