CANNES: Johnny Depp swung back into his iconic Captain Jack Sparrow role Saturday at the Cannes premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," the fourth episode in the lucrative franchise.
Three years after "At World's End", Sparrow embarks on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth while also trying to square his feelings for a mysterious woman from his past, Penelope Cruz's Angelica, essentially his female double.
Speaking to journalists after the screening, Depp thanked the cartoons he watched with his children for helping develop Sparrow's character and echoed producer Jerry Bruckheimer in saying that the franchise had no end in sight.
"I have such great respect for the parameters of cartoons and the characters, they can get away with a lot more than we can in live action films," Depp said.
"So I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to find that blend until you actually become Bugs Bunny in human form?', and so I have my kids to thank for that."
"With Captain Jack I feel like there's much more to be had, much more fun to be had," Depp said. "As long as the stories, the scripts are great and you have directors like Rob Marshall we'll be in good shape."
Depp described Sparrow as "a weird combination of an 18th-century rock and roll star, i.e. Keith Richards, and a very romantic skunk."
Spanish Oscar winner Cruz, who worked with Depp on "Blow", said her English had progressed greatly since the 2001 cocaine smuggler biopic and that the toughest thing playing opposite Sparrow had been "keeping a straight face."
Despite the film not being in competition at Cannes, the entire jury headed by Robert De Niro attended the evening's gala performance, as did US star Jane Fonda, wearing a diamond and sapphire necklace.
Crowds thronged the street outside the Palais des Festivals despite drizzling rain, many brandishing "We love you Johnny" signs. One woman carried a sign saying she had hitchhiked from Britain in the hope of getting a ticket.
The film is shot in 3-D, the perfect format for the obligatory cutlass swinging and sword stabbing from which pirates make a living, and sees rival English, Spanish and pirate ships racing to track down the magical elixir.
Sparrow's gold-toothed walking haberdashery is true to form, the corners of his mouth and eyes twitching as he plots a series of escapes from certain death and tries to learn Angelica's neat trick of "lying by telling the truth."
The story takes us from the muddy cobbled streets of 18th-century London -- where Angelica is trying to raise a crew for a ship and Sparrow is facing execution -- across the seas to lush Caribbean islands.
The film rollicks along, action scenes alternating with tete-a-tetes and plenty of laughs, including relatively subtle jokes aimed at adults, such as Sparrow's deadpan "I agree with the missionary's position."
Depp swings into an aristocratic Judi Dench's coach to nibble her ear and make off with her jewellery -- "Is that it?" cries the grande dame of British acting as the dashing buccaneer makes off.
And Rolling Stone Richards, whose idiosyncratic demeanour and speech is the inspiration for Depp's portrayal of Sparrow, makes a cameo appearance as the pirate's father.
"Does this face look like it's been touched by the water of life?" the wizened rock star growls at his son in a dimly lit tavern.
Young French actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey plays a mermaid who can't quite bring herself to drag sailors to the bottom of the sea, and Ian McShane plays the fearsome Blackbeard, whose facial hair took two and a half hours to apply.
McShane said it was "nice to play an evil character... that I could actually see with my grandchildren," while a visibly nervous Berges-Frisbey talked about the challenge of playing a being "between human and creature".
"I still can't really believe what happened," she said, her voice breaking up.
The series has already brought in 2.6 billion dollars (1.8 billion euros), a figure producer Bruckheimer describes as "wonderful", and the film leaves the door for another instalment open wide enough for further billions to be made. AGENCIES