Rob Marshall knows a thing or two about grand entrances, but arriving on the set of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" by Jet Ski was practicality, not theatricality.
The first day of filming was at a location so remote that it was accessible only by helicopter or boat. "You either had to jump out of the boat and swim to the location, or you had to take a Jet Ski," he recalled Wednesday from a hotel in Madrid, Spain.
When he scouted the location, in Hawaii, he swam and caught a wave to shore; on day one of shooting, he took a Jet Ski. "It was a very James Bond experience.
"It was very exciting. I thought, 'Wow, this is what it's going to be like,' and it kind of was. I felt like, honestly, as we were filming an adventure, we were having an adventure at the same time."
Marshall this week concluded his excellent adventure and European "POTC" tour in actress Penelope Cruz's hometown of Madrid.
The fourth movie in the franchise, now arriving in theaters, had its world premiere May 7 at Disneyland, which also rolled out a black carpet down Main Street and around the castle.
Roughly 20,000 fans jammed the park and 2,000 watched the 3-D movie at a specially built amphitheater on an outdoor screen several stories high and wide.
"My whole family came out to Disneyland for the world premiere, and that was incredible. They stayed with me for a few days," Marshall says of parents Bob and Anne, twin sister Maura, and sister Kathleen, her husband and their young twins.
From there, it was to Russia with love (although Marshall had to skip that stop) and then London, Cannes (where the film received a 10-minute standing ovation), Munich and Madrid.
As the director of the Oscar-winning "Chicago" along with "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Nine," Marshall is no stranger to spectacle. "Pirates," however, is big in every way.
"It's pretty much, in terms of budget, almost three times the size of anything I've ever done. It's built into this kind of filmmaking, the scale comes with it. And, in addition, we shot in 3-D. ...
"Normally, a 3-D film like this -- a live-action 3-D film on very specific, remote locations -- is either filmed in 2-D and then converted later, or you're filming in a stage against green screen. But I really wanted to make sure that with this film, you felt the experience, you felt you were there.
"In retrospect, we might have been foolish, it's so challenging, but it was worth the challenge and the time it took. 3-D cameras are very delicate, there are two cameras -- a right eye and a left eye -- so you're experiencing twice the amount of issues when you're working with two cameras," in jungles, caves, waterfalls, ships, cliffs and London.
He isn't a proponent of shooting every movie in 3-D.
"I feel like the material needs to lend itself to it, to make sense. This felt like a perfect marriage, because there's a world to inhabit ... the pirate world of the 18th century."
"On Stranger Tides" is the first "POTC" film not directed by Gore Verbinski. Marshall and Johnny Depp, who reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, are already committed to another project, a remake of "The Thin Man," and proved to be kindred spirits from the start.
"It happened right away -- when I met him, even before we started work. We were laughing about the same things, with a similar sense of humor," Marshall said.
"We both feel like maybe we were born in the wrong era. We sort of love earlier eras. Johnny really loves the '30s and the '40s, as do I, and the '50s for me, as well," he said. "We just feel like that's where we were meant to be."
Depp is such as "wonderful man, such a wonderful gentleman," it's easy to connect with him.
"I think we also share a similar sensibility about filmmaking. We feel that, as challenging and as difficult and as hard as it is -- because it is, it's a real marathon -- there has to be great joy along the way. You have to have a great experience, because it's your life."
And if pregnancy and piracy unexpectedly collide, so be it. Marshall was willing to let both coexist for Cruz, who played the passionate mistress of an Italian superstar director in "Nine."
"I said, whatever we have to do, we'll do to make it work because she's worth it. ... We tried to move some things earlier for her, so that she wouldn't be showing as much, which was good. That was an adjustment that we made, and we had to be smart about how we filmed her and every once in a while when we needed a silhouette from a long shot, we would use her double."
It was an additional challenge but worth every second, given Cruz's extraordinary range.
"She's a great dramatic actress, as we know, but also a great comedienne. She's incredibly beautiful, of course, she's also great physically as an athlete. ... To go up against Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow, to be able to match him in this film is pretty daunting."
Cruz was the first and only choice for Angelica, a pirate who has a history with Sparrow.
The first three "POTC" movies have made $2.6 billion around the world, but that's no reason to rest on the laurels of the franchise. "In fact, it's the exact opposite. You must, must start fresh and really work double hard to make it new," he said.
"I wanted to make sure we had a completely new journey. I loved that it opened in London, we'd never been to London before in any of the films. I wanted to be on different ships, which we were, the whole sort of second half of the film is a jungle trek to the Fountain of Youth."
Cruz, along with Ian McShane as Blackbeard, Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mermaid, also brought new blood to the series.