"Pirates" Casting Call Draws 7000 Aspiring Extras,
Sande Alessi Agency Still Seeking Applicants, December 17, 2004
by Diane B. Rooney
Pirates are back big time as a pop culture phenomenon, fuel by the success
of Jerry Bruckheimer's 2003 blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean." Sande
Alessi Casting held its only open call for extras for the films' two sequels
last Sunday at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre on North Vine Street, in a
charmingly seedy area of Hollywood enhanced only by the stars on the Walk of
More than 7000 prospective extras showed up.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" grossed over $305
million in 2003 (behind only The Return of the King and Finding Nemo) and
earned Johnny Depp an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. It also
launched dozens of fan websites, online galleries, and forums dedicated to cast and
crew members from the first film and to pirate history, costuming, and
Sequel production starts in March in Los Angeles, with filming alternating
between there and St. Vincent (with other locations possible) through
February 2006. Principal cast members from the first film Johnny Depp,
Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Kiera Knightley are returning, and Rolling Stone Keith
Richard, an inspiration for Depp's performance, has been signed to play his
father. Hong Kong star Chow Yun-Fat is set to appear as the famous
15th-century Chinese pirate Cheung Po Tsai.
Word of the open call spread like wildfire through fan sites and internet
message forums following initial postings by Sande Alessi, also reaching
registered extras and Screen Actors Guild members. The more than 7000 aspiring
extras began to gather well before the 9 am open call. A few were in full
costume while others suggested how they might look with accessories including
hats, vests, frock coats, boots, swords, prop pistols, beaded hair dangles,
do-rags, tattoos, belts and various types of bling including rings,
necklaces, headbands, and bracelets, usually in multiples.
While the call notice specified people from the Los Angeles area only,
hopefuls with family or friends in LA and flexible schedules came from as far
away as Orlando, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Tennessee. In addition to
snapshots, many brought photos of themselves in pirate costume.
Los Angeles TV stations Fox (Channel 13) was one of several stations that
sent crews to cover the event.
Despite the turnout, Casting Director Sande Alessi was expecting more. "This
was not as big as most open calls, mostly because we did not want to see
children. I was expecting 12-15,000 people. By comparison, we had 6000 for each
of the Austin Powers' sequels." Depending on the film and the types of
extras needed, an open call can draw, on average, from 3000 to 10,000
according to Alessi.
Ms. Alessi and her staff handled all applications between 8:30 AM and 5PM,
collecting contact information, sizes, skills, experience, and photos. Wigs,
eye patches, and beards had to be removed: "We need to see what you really
look like," said Ms. Alessi. They spent the next several days sorting people
into groups (pirate crew, British and Caribbean townspeople, etc), with cards
photos stacked all over the office. She said the open call drew lots of "
great, amazing people" who will be called to appear in the films.
Auditions for pirate crew extras are planned for the third week of January
with director Gore Verbinski and assistant directors. Ms Alessi explained that
in the audition, "They'll select a prop and then be given a scene to act
with it." Pirate crew extras are being selected early so they can complete
training in sword play and other pirate skills before filming starts. They are
meeting with Verbinski because the crew extras are so visible in the film.
Ms. Alessi will be deciding on the extras for the numerous other roles.
According to Alessi, ideal pirate crew extras should be scrawny (historic
pirates tended to live on vegetables and rum), with long hair and beards. She
is especially looking for people with a really emaciated look, pirate
re-enactor experience, sailing or tall ship experience (including the ability
climb masts, rig sails, and row) amputees, and people with removable body parts
such as eyes and teeth.
Although not part of the pirate crew, many female extras are needed, as well
as people to play soldiers, marines, fishermen, and townspeople in Port
Royal and other film locations. Extras of various ethnic backgrounds will be
needed, especially if Chow Yun-Fat's character needs crew members or other
Ms. Alessi stressed that extras would be contracted throughout the year as
filming progressed. She encouraged prospects to provide as many phone numbers
as possible, "even your mom in Texas," so the agency can reach them if their
photo or experience matches the needs for upcoming scenes.
How many extras will be needed during the entire production? "It's hard to
estimate, but I would guess about 7,000, the same number we had for the open
call," said Ms. Alessi. She wants to see more people and urges them to
call the agency hotline at (818) 725-2905 or visit