Why Keira Knightley Thought The First Pirates Of The Caribbean Would Fail

admin2021January 8, 2023

Despite being among its top-billed cast members, Keira Knightley was rightfully skeptical of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Although Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl grossed nearly five times its budget at the international box office, Keira Knightley thought the movie would fail, for a good reason. The first movie spawned the unexpectedly successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies franchise. According to Box Office Mojo, the subsequent three films were among the Top 100 Lifetime Grosses for any movie. Knightley’s initial concern over the film’s status was warranted, a feeling she shared with fellow crew member Richard Curtis, the director of Love Actually.


The recently aired ABC show The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later – A Diane Sawyer Special celebrated the 20th anniversary of Love Actually, wherein Curtis reminisced on a conversation he had with Knightley at the time of the film’s production, “I remember sitting down with Keira while we were shooting and saying, ‘What are you doing next?'” Knightley replied, “I don’t think it’s going to work. It’s a pirate film, and they always fail.” While Knightley’s assumption was generally correct, the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was aptly titled, as it broke a long-standing genre curse and dispelled a pirate movie trend.

Related: Bruckheimer Is Right About Pirates Of The Caribbean 6’s Future

Keira Knightley Thought Pirates Of The Caribbean Had A Genre CurseThe Pirates of the Caribbean Elizabeth Swann Knightley

Knightley also said to Curtis that pirate movies “always fail.” Until Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, pirate films did have a checkered history, with the genre having been incredibly unsuccessful before the first film’s release in 2003. Given their torrid box office performance and the largely negative critical response that most other pirate films experienced, it’s unsurprising that there is an appetite for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be rebooted. Although it would be compelling to see a refreshing iteration of seaside action-adventure on the silver screen, the genre hasn’t passed the box office test with flying colors.

Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Success Did Break A Movie Trend

Elizabeth Swann looking serious in Pirates of the Caribbean 1

Pirate-themed movies were undoubtedly at their peak during the Golden Age of Hollywood, but interest waned until 2003, breaking a pirate movie trend. Errol Flynn’s flicks like Captain Blood and Against All Flags captured audiences with swashbuckling staples like treasure and high-seas adventure, but the key to the success of these films was off-camera talent. Studios treated these early pirate movies like film noir movies, often hiring top-tier directors, composers, cinematographers, and writers to helm the pirate pictures. Despite the release of classics like Treasure Island and The Crimson Pirate in the 1950s, the pirate genre had largely lost its allure by the decade’s end.

Perhaps the most notorious example of this drastic dropoff in audience investment was 1995’s Cutthroat Island, a film that lost over $80 million, the largest financial deficit for a film company ever at the time. Understandably, the genre remained relatively untouched until Disney tried their luck with Treasure Planet, an animated sci-fi adaptation of Treasure Island that lost nearly $102 million domestically. Given the colossal losses that pirate movies had endured before the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Keira Knightley’s thought that the first movie would fail was more than justified.

More: Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Villain Costume Reveal Makes The Sequel Better

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