Geoffrey Rush on Blackbeard

A COMMON enemy unites unlikely allies Jack Sparrow and Barbossa in the fourth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Both are in a race against the Spanish to get to the fabled fountain of youth.

Sparrow has been coerced into helping the most feared pirate of the high seas - Blackbeard - and Barbossa has the new dubious role of captain for Her Majesty's Royal Navy.

"He's such a cunning old survivor," said Geoffrey Rush of his beloved villain.

"He has betrayed the pirate brethren. He's a snob and I think that position appeals to his gentlemanly aspirations, which were there right from the beginning of the first film."

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New characters help to breathe new life into the multi-billion dollar Disney franchise.

Depp, Rush and Kevin McNally (Gibbs) are the only three cast members to return from the original three films.

"By tying up the storylines at the end of the trilogy, there was a great opportunity us to go back to the original spark and energy and enthusiasm from when the first franchise was an unknown quantity," Rush said, whose mother lives at Minyama on the Sunshine Coast.

"It has opened the door for amazing people like Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane."

Cruz steps effortlessly into the role of the beautiful, feisty woman, occupied in the first three films by Keira Knightley.

She plays Jack Sparrow's former lover Angelica, who is anything but angelic, and the daughter of Blackbeard (McShane).

"To put an ex-lover of Jack's in the story is so interesting," said Rush.

"She really gives him a run for his money. There's nothing more interesting than two very sexy people fighting all the time

Cruz was halfway through a pregnancy during filming, not that you can tell in the movie, in which she shares several swashbuckling scenes with Depp.

"She was seriously getting more and more visibly pregnant by the days as we were shooting the movie," said Rush.

"Her sister Monica came in and had to stand in the background in some scenes. She's probably even more beautiful than Penelope, if you can imagine that."

Keith Richards also reprises his guest role as Sparrow's father Captain Teague and, according to Rush, has "the funniest line in the movie".

Other newcomers to the Pirates franchise include Sam Claflin as Blackbeard's pious hostage Philip and Stephen Graham, whom movie goers may recognise from Snatch or Boardwalk Empire, as good-natured pirate Scrum.

On Stranger Tides is more than just a race across the Atlantic.

The warring parties go on a treasure hunt of sorts for the items required for the ritual which must be performed to trigger the fountain of youth's life-giving powers, discovered 200 years earlier by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.

They must battle impossibly beautiful but dangerous mermaids and dense tropical terrain as well as each other.
On Stranger Tides continues in the spirit of the first three films. It's a romping high seas adventure with outlaws to love and hate.

It also leaves the door wide open for a fifth film and Rush says he is keen to don Barbossa's salt-crusted boots and cap one more time.

"The true fans will always know to stick around to the end of the credits, and I think what happens in that is enough for me to go 'wow'. I hope there is a number five. There's more story to be told," he said.

"The bottom line is no one wants to do it if it's not funny enough, adventurous enough, and filled with fabulous new bigger and better ideas. If we're not excited by it, then there's no way an audience will be excited by it."

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