Actor Johnny Depp a star on St. Vincent

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent -- Johnny Depp's performance as the tooth-challenged, swashbuckling, liquor-soaked Capt. Jack Sparrow in Touchstone Pictures' "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" earned him not only an Oscar nomination and top award from the Screen Actors Guild but also won him a devoted set of fans and a return invitation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The film, which was shot in various locales on St. Vincent and surrounding islands over a 10-month period in 2002 and 2003, simultaneously opened in SVG and in U.S. theaters on July 9, 2003.

"We were told that it's unusual that a U.S.-produced film debut anywhere except the U.S. on opening day," a tourism official said. "The producers did it to show their gratitude to our people for their support during the filming. Everyone here already has seen it at least two times."

Many scenes from the movie were shot at a stage set built along the sea on St. Vincent's west coast, which has become a popular tourist attraction.

Wayne Halbich of Baleine Tours, who offers daily powerboat tours along the coast to the Falls of Baleine near La Soufriere Volcano in the north, said he always "pulls into the lagoon where many scenes from 'Pirates' were shot. Tourists love it. Most have seen the film, and they take photos of the beach and rocks and movie set."

Up close, it's easy to see that the pier and jumble of buildings, which appear authentically aged on the screen, actually are made of flimsy plywood and will probably not stand much longer.

The rock arches, however, at the entrance to the small lagoon are the real thing; several of Depp's fellow mateys hung from, swung from and fired from the arches at enemy ships.

Although room occupancies all over St. Vincent soared during the filming, it was a mixed blessing, according to several hoteliers.

Jean-Michel Kent, general manager of the 10-room Villa Lodge Hotel on Indian Bay in Kingstown, said that "we were full during the filming with cast and crew members, but since no visitors could get a room, they gave up on us and went elsewhere, even to other islands. I hope they haven't forgotten that we're here and now need their business."

Restaurants, too, benefited from the movie. Ocean Allegro, a Mediterranean-style waterfront restaurant in Kingstown, served as the unofficial after-hours hangout for many of the cast and crew.

Lisa Cham Roberts, owner and manager, said that Johnny Depp "was a very entertaining guest."

"He and his pals were here almost every night and the place was packed. We hosted the wrap party, which involved not only the cast and crew but lots of locals." -- G.N.M.

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