Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg revealed that the scene with McCartney, in full swashbuckling regalia, was originally intended for the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, who portrays Johnny Depp’s father in the Disney franchise.
“We had even written a scene for Keith,” Rønning said. “And then because of some scheduling issues, he couldn’t come to Australia to shoot, so we sat down with Johnny and kind of brainstormed, like, ‘Okay, who could fill his shoes?’ Because we felt like we should have something. We should honor the tradition of showing a Jack Sparrow family member. And we made a very short list, and of course, at the very top of that list was Sir Paul McCartney.”
The actor then picked up his cellphone and texted McCartney – “I don’t know what kind of club these people are a member of, but he had the phone number,” Rønning said – and, after exchanging some pirate lingo via text, the cameo was all lined up.
As audiences seeing Dead Men Tell No Tales in theaters this weekend will attest, McCartney plays “Uncle Jack” to Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, which means in the Pirates universe, Richards and McCartney are brothers. Depp and McCartney’s scene together takes place in a Caribbean jail cell where both Sparrows await execution.
In the scene, McCartney also sings a sea shanty. “The scene starts with him singing a song, and at the very end of the day, we needed to do a wild take to just record him singing,” Rønning said. “Nobody else is working on the set so on the soundstage, it’s completely quiet, and we’re only rolling sound. So I’m sitting there behind the monitors, listening in with earphones and basically recording Paul McCartney. That was a big, big moment.”