Pirates (1986 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Tarak Ben Ammar
Written by Gérard Brach
John Brownjohn
Roman Polanski
Music by Philippe Sarde
Cinematography Witold Sobocinski
Edited by Hervé de Luze
Cathargo Films
Distributed by Cannon Film Distributing (US)
Release dates
  • 8 May 1986 (1986-05-08) (Cannes)
  • 18 July 1986 (1986-07-18) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
Country France
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $1,641,825 (US)[2]
$6,341,825 (Worldwide)[3]

Pirates is a 1986 Franco-Tunisian adventure comedy film written by Gérard Brach, John Brownjohn, and Roman Polanski and directed by Polanski. It was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.[4]


Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red and his first mate, Frog, are stranded aboard a raft at sea. Close to death from starvation and dehydration, Red tries to kill and eat Frog, but they are rescued by a Spanish galleon and are forced into slavery. Red inspires the slaves to mutiny and takes control of the vessel. Frog falls in love with the niece of a Spanish colonial governor, and unsuccessfully romances her. Red covets a golden throne that the Spanish have taken from an Aztec king. Through several adventures, Red recruits a crew of cutthroats to steal the throne. Despite their efforts, Red and Frog are ultimately stranded on a raft again, where Red sits on his golden throne and urges Frog to "fatten up".



Riding on the success of the highly acclaimed Chinatown, Roman Polanski began to write a screenplay for a swashbuckling adventure film called Pirates. Originally, Polanski intended for Jack Nicholson to play the central role of Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, a grizzled old pirate, but complications arose partially due to the enormous fees Nicholson was demanding (according to Polanski, when Nicholson was asked what exactly he wanted, he replied, "I want more.") Following this, the production was delayed for a number of years when Polanski was arrested in California on a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, after which he fled the United States to avoid sentencing. Production restarted later in Paris, this time with a different production company, Cathargo Films, and a new producer, Tarak Ben Ammar. The role of Captain Red went to Walter Matthau and the film finally came out in 1986, 12 years after it was first conceived.

A full scale galleon was built for the film in a shipyard in the port of Port El Kantaoui situated at the city of Sousse, Tunisia, adjacent to the Tarak Ben Ammar Studios, which had been constructed exclusively for this production. An accurate replica above the waterline, but sporting a steel hull and a 400 HP auxiliary engine, the "Neptune" was and still is entered into the Tunisian naval register and is currently a tourist attraction in the port of Genoa, where its interior can be visited for a 5 euro entry fee.[5]

Release and reception

The film's original estimated budget, while Polanski was aligned with Paramount on the picture, was $15 million, but the final budget is estimated to have been US$40 million. The reported gross box office revenues in the United States was $1.64 million[2] and $6.3 million worldwide.[3] Despite the film's financial failure, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Accusations against Roman Polanski

On May 14, 2010, actress Charlotte Lewis and her attorney Gloria Allred accused director Roman Polanski of predatory sexual conduct against her when she was 16 years old, claiming that Polanski insisted that she sleep with him in return for casting her in Pirates.[6][7]

See also


  1. "PIRATES (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1986-10-03. Retrieved 2012-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Pirates at Box Office Mojo
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Pirates - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 2012-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Festival de Cannes: Pirates". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. http://www.foto.genova.it/z04cGaleone.htm (in Italian, with pictures)
  6. New Victim Accuses Roman Polanski of 'Sexual Abuse', http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/Media/victim-accuses-roman-polanski-sexual-abuse/story?id=10649953&page=1, ABC News, By RUSSELL GOLDMAN, 14-05-2010
  7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1278722/I-forgive-Polanski-Im-telling-truth-Roman-knows-Actress-Charlotte-Lewis-claims-abused-director-16.html

External links