Los Angeles Johnny Depp scored a double hat trick with Captain Jack Sparrow.
First, thanks to the success of 2003's "The Curse of the Black Pearl," "Pirates of the Caribbean" became a trilogy.
Depp also achieved a three-part personal coup with the role: unbridled creative expression in a spectacular commercial success with a film he can happily share with his kids.
But with the second "Pirates" picture, "Dead Man's Chest," in theaters July 7 and filming nearly wrapped on the third, the 43-year-old actor is reluctantly preparing to put aside the roguish pirate he describes as "part rock-star, Keith Richards-kind-of-guy and part Pepe Le Pew."
"It's always hard to say goodbye to a character at the end of a shoot, but with Captain Jack especially," says Depp, who exudes the same magnetic charm in person as he does on screen. "I've really come to enjoy spending time with him, or as him, whatever it is. He's definitely a big part of me."
Depp even wears Sparrow's gold and silver teeth off screen: they're bonded to his own.
It took 20 years in the movie business to bring the actor to the place where Captain Jack Sparrow could be born. The flamboyant character, who remains lovable despite lying, cheating and drunken-staggering, was inspired by the whimsy of cartoons, Depp says. Like Bugs Bunny, Jack Sparrow has an appeal that transcends age and gender.
Cartoon characters "are not bound by the same laws as regular human-being actors," Depp says, his brown eyes and shaggy hair peeking out from under a gray fedora. "So I thought that would be a fun way to approach a (movie) character, to push the boundaries. That's where I was coming from when the 'Pirates' thing cropped up, so it was kismet in a way."
The stark originality of the character initially scared studio heads, says producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
"They said, 'He's gay, he's drunk. Oh my God, what are you guys doing?' But once we cut a scene together, they saw the fun of it," he says.
That fun was tripled when Depp agreed to reprise the role - twice.
"None of us would be back if Johnny had not wanted to play this character again," Bruckheimer says.
In "Dead Man's Chest," crafty Jack Sparrow seeks to avoid paying the debt he owes to undersea overlord Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Sparrow tricks young lovebirds Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) into helping him, and the three take off on an adventurous escapade that includes fighting sea monsters, infiltrating an island community and searching the watery underworld for the legendary "dead man's chest."
The film has heart, Nighy says, attributing the appeal of the first "Pirates" movie to Depp's depiction of Sparrow.
"It must be one of the most popular performances of recent times," Nighy says. "Not only is (Depp) an assassin in terms of comedy and everything else - he's a brilliant guy - but he brings to it, and to the movie as a whole, a big-heartedness. It has good spirit."