Now this is how you get me interested.

Over the weekend, Greg Ellwood and I both attended the "Alice In Wonderland" press day in Hollywood, where I sat down for some one on one talks with cast and crew while Greg sat in on the press conference.  He already brought you the news on "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" straight from Johnny Depp's mouth, but today, there's even more news on the next installment in the series, which seems to be quickly taking shape now.

It appears Blackbeard will be a major part of the new film.

And even more interesting?  Ian "Deadwood" McShane is playing him.

If you factor in Penelope Cruz appearing in the film as well, along with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, this is starting to sound like it could be more fun than the first three films, with a much richer cast.  I'll take McShane and Cruz over Knightley and Bloom any day of the week.

Look, I know we don't need more "Pirates" movies any more than we need more "Die Hard" movies, so maybe you're wondering why I'd bring the snark regarding one franchise but not regarding the other.  It boils down to potential.  I think John McClane is not a character that works in any context.  I think his greatest strength was the idea that he found himself in extraordinary circumstances one time and somehow survived.  Everything else feel incredibly forced to me.

The world of the "Pirates" films, though, is obviously overflowing with supernatural threats, other pirates, warring factors, and a whole ton of potential.  You can tell any story as long as it has to do with seafaring, and the characters will make sense.  Dropping the characters played by Knightley and Bloom makes sense because their story finished, but there's no reason you can't tell other stories in that world and introduce new characters.

Depp sounds intrigued by the direction the series is heading, based loosely on the novel by Tim Powers, and the idea that Jerry Bruckheimer, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio found a story they liked a lot and bought it to adapt is at least promising.  Here's Amazon's description of the novel:

"World Fantasy Award–winner Powers (Three Days to Never) demonstrates a precise control of complex narratives in this reprint of his rollicking and enchanting 1987 novel. Puppeteer John Chandagnac, bound for Jamaica to recover stolen money from his uncle, becomes Jack Shandy after pirates attack his ship and force him to join their crew. Shandy's struggle to accept his new life grounds the story for readers, even as Blackbeard and vodun magicians whisk everyone away to dreamlike lands where the Fountain of Youth itself awaits. The chaotic sea battles sing, though at times key events happen so quickly that they get lost in the shuffle as Jack tries to comprehend where he's going and what's at stake. This dark fantasy tale will appeal not just to pirate fans but also to anyone who appreciates Powers's talent for blending the most unlikely elements into a brilliantly cohesive whole."

Fountain of Youth.  Check.  Blackbeard.  Check.  Certainly sounds like what we're hearing about the new film so far.  With casting this far along, it sounds like it should be smooth sailing for director Rob Marshall as he preps "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" for a May 20, 2011 release.

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