Pure fictional creation of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” saga, Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is nonetheless inspired by authentic pirates, without forgetting a nod to one of them on the Black Pearl.
First installment of the multi billionaire Pirates of the Caribbean saga, subtitled The curse of the Black Pearl, the film by Gore Verbinski then offered Johnny Depp a role to his measure, completely whimsical and facetious, full of humor. With the actor, the pirates have never seemed so sympathetic. Disney production also obliges, obviously …
Still, his character, Jack Sparrow, is inspired by two authentic pirates, and not really children at heart for once. One was Captain Jack (or John) Ward. A character not well known because of very fragmented sources. The latter was born around 1553 in Faversham in England, and died in 1622 in Tunis. First corsair then pbarbaresque irate, he operated from the coast of Tunis under the name of Yusuf Raïs, after converting to Islam in 1609.
The other influence is that of Jack Rackham (1682 – 1720), nicknamed Red Rackham or Calico jack; an 18th century pirate who owes his nickname to the very colorful and ornate clothes made of banners he wore. He is best known because he counted among the members of his crew the two most famous women in the history of piracy: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. His crew will give the governors of the Bahamas and Jamaica a lot of trouble.
Beyond the influences of Jack Rackham on the creation of the character of Jack Sparrow, there is also the one appearing on the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp’s ship. Its black flag, nicknamed the Jolly roger, is a skull surmounting two crossed sabers. But a one-eyed skull! The eye patch is the only thing that distinguishes this fictional pavilion from the real one of Jack Rackham.
Some pirates hoisted the black flag to invite the pursued ship to surrender without a fight. If the latter refused to stop, the pirates then hoisted the red flag to indicate that they were attacking and that the fight would be merciless, synonymous with “no quarter” or “death for all”.
The first appearance of the Black flag was reported in 1700 by the captain of the British ship HMS Poole, attacked off Santiago de Cuba by a French pirate named Emmanuel Wynne. The latter wore a black flag with skull, crossed tibias and hourglass. As a symbol of the little time left for the opponent to make a decision to fight or surrender.