Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom are pleased to be Pirates

Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom reprise their roles in the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean film and Javier Bardem joins the cast as a villain

After playing the same role over 14 years in five Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, American actor Johnny Depp is still having plenty of fun with the character of Captain Jack Sparrow despite his real-life financial and relationship woes.

The 53-year-old, who reprises the swashbuckling role in Salazar's Revenge - the fifth and latest film in the mega Pirates action-adventure franchise - says that the part makes him "feel like a child again" every time he does it.

Speaking to regional media at a press conference held in Shanghai recently, he says: "When you have a character like this, you can go anywhere with it. It's the chance for you to be completely irreverent.

"And you try every time to push it a little bit more, to find the humour and absurdities in the role and represent what we all want to be, once in a while."

From an actor's point of view, the role certainly offers him a lot of creative freedom.

His very first turn as the eccentric, but charismatic Jack Sparrow in The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003) - which he famously concocted from a combination of The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew - even earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

When you have a character like this, you can go anywhere with it. It's the chance for you to be completely irreverent. And you try every time to push it a little bit more, to find the humour and absurdities in the role.

ACTOR JOHNNY DEPP, on having fun with his character of Captain Jack Sparrow

What is left unsaid is that the role could also be the lift that his career so desperately needs, after having led a string of major box-office flops, such as The Lone Ranger (2013), Mortdecai (2015) and Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016).

The Pirates movies, on the other hand, have consistently done well at the box office, each grossing at least US$600 million (S$833 million) worldwide. Two of the films, Dead Man's Chest (2006) and On Stranger Tides (2011), even crossed the coveted US$1 billion mark.

If Salazar's Revenge lives up to expectations, it could be the next big money bank for Depp, who is reportedly mired in financial woes due to an extravagant lifestyle costing upwards of US$2 million each month. The troubled actor also finalised a messy divorce from actress Amber Heard, 31, in January.

That is, of course, if the movie's box office is not marred by the fact that hackers have stolen a copy of it and are threatening to leak it unless the film's producer, Walt Disney, pays them a "huge sum" in ransom money. So far, Disney has reportedly refused to cooperate.

Still, no matter what happens, the franchise's loyal fans will likely turn up in droves to see the new movie in cinemas.

Depp's Spanish co-star Javier Bardem, 48, who joins the franchise for the first time as the raging villain Salazar, is certainly excited about the prospect of his movie being watched by a large audience.

The Oscar-winning actor of No Country For Old Men (2007) fame tells The Straits Times and other Asian press at an interview: "There are those movies that you do where critics hate and no one sees - I've done some of those. And those kinds of movies are easier to come for me than a movie like Pirates.

"So when you get something like Pirates, it's difficult to say no because you know that the quality is high on every level, from the cast to the crew to the special effects.

"And you're going to be well paid and well taken care of and people will hopefully see it - and these are all important things too."

Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, however, who reprises his pirate role of Captain Hector Barbossa for the fifth time here, has never approached a blockbuster movie such as Pirates any differently from the way he approaches any of his more so-called prestige films, he says.

The 65-year-old, who has a Best Actor Oscar for playing a mentally unstable pianist in Shine (1996), says: "When I first got the script for the first Pirates movie, I didn't think of it as a popcorn movie. I saw it as a curiosity because the pirates genre was so taboo at the time - no one had made a successful pirate movie since the 1950s.

"There was a big imagination in the writing and there was a lot of room to play very adventurously in trying to discover what this could be. So to me, playing Barbossa in the Pirates movies would be as interesting and challenging as playing something like the Marquis de Sade or Peter Sellers," he says, referencing the critically acclaimed biopic roles he played in Quills (2000) and The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers (2004) respectively.

He pauses and adds: "Also, it is only with a movie like Pirates where I find myself getting fan mail all the way from China.

"And these fans are the ones who really study these films closely and know all the forensic detail, the minutiae of all the plot developments and the characters. So they're the ones I listen to because the critics tend to not notice that it is rather operatically constructed writing here."

Like Rush, film studio Walt Disney is choosing to listen to the fans - it has brought back the franchise's old favourites Orlando Bloom, 40, and Keira Knightley, 32, this time around, after the pair were conspicuously absent in the previous film.

Never mind that Bloom will be seen in only three brief scenes, while Knightley will be in just one.

The actor says: "I've always had fun making the Pirates movies, so when they asked me to come back, it was an easy decision.

"Jack Sparrow is so authentic and irreverent and I'd say that's true of Johnny Depp as well. It's always fun to see him in his element."

Returning to the role partly also has to do with pleasing his four- year-old son Flynn, whom he has with his ex-wife, supermodel Miranda Kerr, 34.

He says: "My son loves the films and, you know, there will always be room for a pirate movie because kids love pirates.

"Before he even knew I was in these pirate movies, he wanted to dress up like a pirate. So as high as the quality of the Pirates Of The Caribbean films are, I think they also just provide great entertainment for everyone."

•Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge opens in cinemas tomorrow.

For your viewing pleasure

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Pleased to be Pirates'. Print Edition | Subscribe