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The mysterious tail ... er ... tale of "On Stranger Tides" mermaid, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey

The mysterious tail ... er ... tale of "On Stranger Tides" mermaid, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey

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Astrid Bergès-Frisbey wasn't quite sure what she was getting herself into when this Spanish-French actress first went in to audition for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I did that audition in Paris. And the only information I had to go on was this one short scene from the movie and the name of my character, Syrena," Astrid recalled. "But since the name 'Serena' means 'mermaid' in Spanish, I wondered: Is that the role that they're looking for me to play in 'Pirates'?"

Ms. Bergès-Frisbey's suspicions were confirmed by the time she made it to the second round of "On Stranger Tides" auditions out in LA. When - as she was introduced to "Pirates 4" director Rob Marshall - Rob's first question for Astrid was "Do you swim?"

"And even though I couldn't speak English at that time, I said 'Yes, I swim.' And that is how I got this part," Astrid smiled.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which isn't to say that playing Syrena was a walk in the park for this 24-year-old actress-model. As she recounted last week when we spoke at the "Pirates 4" press junket, Marshall had some very definite ideas about how he wanted this "On Stranger Tides" character to be portrayed.

"Rob wanted the mermaids in his movie to be different from anything that had ever been seen before. Something that was closer to the original myth," Astrid explained. "Which is why we then worked on having Syrena move more like a fish, rather than a good swimmer with two legs and a tail."

As you might expect, this meant that Ms. Bergès-Frisbey  and her fellow mermaids spent an awful lot of time in the water. Especially when Marshall & Co. were shooting "Pirates 4" 's Whitecap Bay sequence late at night in Falls Lake on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot.


(L to R) Sanya Hughes, Brea Barrett, Gemma Ward, Jorgelina Airaldi, Antoinette Nikprelaj,
Toni Busker and Daphne Joy. Photo by Peter Mountain. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"When you're shooting a scene in the water, it's hard," Astrid continued. "Being in the water for long periods of time changes your perception of everything. You don't hear the same. Your eyes sting from the chlorine. And it's just really tiring."

But that said, Bergès-Frisbey was really grateful for all the help & support that she got from the "On Stranger Tides" production team. Especially those folks who handled the hair, make-up & visual effects aspects of her character.

"My days were long because Syrena's make-up process was long. Since my character is basically naked from the waist up whenever she's in the water, they had to glue my hair into place. Plus blend my body make-up in with the CGI costume that I wore. But the make-up people always made an effort to make me as comfortable as possible," Astrid said.


The "On Stranger Tides" camera crew gets ready to shoot another part of that film's
mermaid sequence in Universal Studios Hollywood's Falls Lake. Photo by Peter
Mountain. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And the folks who were handling the CG side of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" always made sure to keep Bergès-Frisbey in the loop as well. They were constantly showing Astrid rough FX footage. So that she'd know what her mermaid tail was supposed to look like in the finished film and then adjust her performance accordingly.

"You can do a lot with CGI. But you can't do it all. So I did everything that I could so that the people who were doing the visual effects would then have less work to do later," Bergès-Frisbey explained. "And because Rob Marshall is so meticulous, he wants everything as real as possible, keep the scenes exactly as we shot them ... Most of Syrena's movements in this movie are mine."

But the upside is ... Because Astrid watched Disney's "The Little Mermaid" hundreds of times when she was a kid back in Barcelona, she had a pretty good idea of how mermaids were supposed to move. More to the point, if Bergès-Frisbey ever needed to consult a true mermaid expert, she could just call up her own 7-year-old sister.


Early concept art of Ariel and Sebastian from Disney's "The Little
Mermaid." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"My sister is such a big fan of the Little Mermaid. She was so excited for me. She was 'Oh my God! You're playing a mermaid! How is it possible? How do you breathe underwater? What is your hair color? What's your tail look like?," Astrid laughed.

Well, we'll all get to see what Syrena's tail looks like when "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" opens in theaters on May 20th. But as for Ms. Bergès-Frisbey ... She still can't quite wrap her head around the fact that she got to be part of this multi-million dollar Jerry Bruckheimer production.

"I was part of the production for virtually the whole shoot. The only place that I didn't get to go to was Puerto Rico," Astrid remembered. "And even when I wasn't on  the schedule, if I wasn't supposed to be filming that day or that night, I still used to go down to the set just to watch them work. It was such a great learning experience."


Sam Clafin and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey on the set of "Pirates of the
Caribbean: On Stranger Ties." Photo by Peter Mountain.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which brings us to the inevitable Johnny Depp question. As you might expect, Ms. Bergès-Frisbey was initially nervous when she first began working with the guy who plays Captain Jack Sparrow.

"But who can't be nervous in front of all those marvelous actors? But you can't be 'Oh my God! I'm in front of Johnny Depp' and still act," Astrid stated. "But Johnny & Rob, they were so welcoming.  They took care of everybody on set. Especially those of us who were new to the production. I'm really happy to have had the opportunity to work with all these marvelous persons."

So - if given the chance to be a part of "Pirates 5" - would Bergès-Frisbey again sign up to be part of Captain Jack's crew?


Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Mickey Mouse at the world
premiere of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger
Tides" at Disneyland. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez
/ WireImage. All rights reserved

"I would be excited to be part of another 'Pirates' movie," Astrid concluded. "I had so much fun and I learned so much while making this one. And who knows? In a 'Pirates' movie, even the characters who die then can come back and appear in the next one. I really hope that they do ask me to come back. Because I'd love to work with this marvelous team and family again."

Which bring us to the end of this mermaid's tail ... er ... tale. Unless - of course - Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films calls Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in for yet another mysterious audition in the not-so-distant future.

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  • Rob Marshall did a very good job for the movie Pirates Of Caribbean 4 !!! CONGRATULATIONS ROB !!!!! ;) I LOVE SO MUCH MERMAIDS AND MERMEN !!!! I'm a very good swimmer , i practise swimming since 21 years now !!!! The mermaid tails in the movie Pirates Of Caribbean 4 : On Stranger Tide , are very BEAUTIFUL , GORGEOUS , MARVELLOUS !!!! Astrid aka Syrena is GORGEOUS !!!!!! The Costume designer did an EXCELLENT JOB !!!!!!!! DEFINATELY !!!!! =)=)=)=)=)=)=)=)=) It's A REAL PLEASURE FOR ME TO SEE THE MERMAIDS SCENES !!!!  By the way , i will have a REALISTIC mermaid tail soon !!! I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE IT !!!!! So if they want a mermaid and a merman in the next movie Pirates of Caribbean 5 !!!!! I'm HERE !! I CAN PLAY THE PART !!!!! YES YES YES !!!!!  :) :) :) :) :)

    XOXO

    Fedhi Benattou .

  • This is soo cool i loved seeing Astrid as a mermaid, obviously she was meant for that part and i would be so excited to see her in another pirate movie!!!  The mermaid tail and scales looked so real! I especially loved the part when she transformed from mermaid to human.

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