JOHNNY DEPP chuckled when asked if he was worried about the notoriously harsh critics at the CANNES FILM FESTIVAL, where his new swashbuckler PIRATES OF THE CARIBBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES played amidst more sober fare.

JOHNNY said that his family — French actor and romantic partner VANESSA PARADIS and their two children — are the only critics he needs.

“My family have seen more of my movies than I have. In fact, a lot more – including this one,” he said at a news conference over the weekend, just before the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequel screened.

“They’ve been angels through this process, because I started out secretly testing characters on them to see how the reactions would be. When my daughter was little, we’d be playing Barbies and I’d start doing these voices. Finally, she just said, ‘Stop.'”

“So they go and see the movies and basically, I can tell by their reaction if I did all right or not. So I’m very lucky in that way. They seem to enjoy them so far. I haven’t been fired by my kids.”

And the CANNES critics…?

JOHNNY, who spent the first two decades of his career in quirky little movies that rarely found much critical support, was not exactly quaking in his pirate boots.

“Yeah, I’ve always feared the critics,” he remarked, laughing.

“They really scare me.”

The fourth movie in the PIRATES franchise, ON STRANGER TIDES casts JOHNNY’S boozy, woozy buccaneer JACK SPARROW alongside a female pirate (PENELOPE CRUZ) and her notorious dad BLACKBEARD (IAN McSHANE), in search of the fountain of youth.

GEOFFREY RUSH reprises his role as JACK SPARROW’S foil BARBOSSA, with JERRY BRUCKHEIMER back as producer on the blockbuster franchise and CHICAGO filmmaker ROB MARSHALL taking the wheel as director. The movie sails into theatres worldwide starting Wednesday.

It was a reunion for JOHNNY and PENELOPE, who previously costarred in 2001’s crime story BLOW.

While the characters of ON STRANGER TIDES are obsessed with finding eternal youth, PENELOPE said that she does not worry about getting older.

“Birthdays are always something to celebrate. I’m looking forward to every step of the way. Maybe because I’m from Spain, that’s looked at in a different way there than, for example, a place like Los Angeles…There are a lot of things that I keep from my roots. And that’s one of them, the way we look at that. I never want to be afraid of that. Change is good.”

At DISNEY, the studio that bankrolls the PIRATES franchise, change was not always seen as good.

As the first movie was in production —PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARLDISNEY executives had hoped for a more conventional swashbuckling hero than JOHNNY’S JACK SPARROW, whom the actor patterned on a cross between rocker KEITH RICHARDS and the cartoon skunk Pepe LePew.

(KEITH reprises his role as JACK’S father in ON STRANGER TIDES).

JACK SPARROW mumbles, minces, prattles and prances. He wears heavy eyeliner and a mess of baubles in his braided hair and beard. His clothes resemble a gypsy’s castoffs as much as the attire of a dashing pirate.

“There wasn’t a group of Disney upper echelon who had any enthusiasm whatsoever for what I was doing,” JOHNNY stated.

“They almost subtitled me.”

But with $2.7 billion in worldwide box office for the first three PIRATES movies, no one at the studio gripes about CAPTAIN JACK’S idiosyncrasies now.

JERRY BRUCKHEIMER has a script for a fifth PIRATES movie in the works and JOHNNY said he’s on board to keep playing JACK SPARROW as long as the right ingredients are at play.

“If you are surrounded by such an amazing and creative force such as Jerry, such as Rob, such strong actors like these guys, I think the possibilities are endless,” JOHNNY commented.

“But really, ultimately and truly, these films are made for the people who go in and they pay their hard earned money to see these things.”

“And if the people get tired of it or something, that’s when it stops.”

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