By now the fifth “Pirates Of The Caribbean” movie is taking the May box office by storm since the Memorial Day weekend. While critics have pooh-poohed it, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” has rocketed to the top of US film charts, displacing fellow Disney offering “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”.

The movie sees Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) reluctantly drawn into a rematch against an enemy of his youth, the relentless Spanish Captain Salazar who has returned as an undead wraith to destroy him. This new backstory on Sparrow’s past is illustrated in a flashback sequence showing how a young Jack outwitted Salazar to his doom.

So it’s quite a surprise for moviegoers to learn that young Sparrow in that scene was actually 53-year-old Depp with a touch of movie magic.

‘Fountain of Youth’ via computers

Dead Men Tell No Tales” directors Joachim Rønning, and Espen Sandberg revealed in an interview the processes they undertook in order to make Johnny Depp “young” again in his Jack Sparrow character for the flashback sequence. It took their Disney production crew about a year, they say, to complete the extensive “de-aging” special effects, courtesy of the visual imaging outfit Lola. And the results were amazing if Depp’s own reactions to the end product were any indication despite his playing a part in it himself.

Shooting young Jack Sparrow for that brief scene on "Pirates" involved the actor in pirate costume acting out his character’s young self, with CGI tracking dots all over his face.

Then they had a 23-year old stand-in, Anthony De La Torre, to go through the same scene copying Depp’s actions. This was necessary in order to “transplant” via CGI work De La Torre’s skin on Depp’s face. So while Sparrow’s actor is prominent on the scene, the special effects work had the younger stand-in’s skin overlapping his face.

‘Heartthrob’ Depp returns

The result is that the young Jack in the “Dead Men Tell No Tales” flashback does indeed come off as Johnny Depp made young again. Joachim Rønning describes the imagery as having the flashback Sparrow being portrayed by Depp as he was when in the hit 1980s TV series “21 Jump Street”. The actor then was 24, playing a cop with youthful looks who can pass for a teenager.

"The age we went for [young Jack Sparrow] is the end of his teens,” Rønning explains.

Trent Claus, the SFX supervisor for Lola, says they were greatly challenged with the work they put into de-aging a major superstar like Johnny Depp. "We are altering his appearance, but keeping his performance,” says Claus. “He has a very definitive look; everyone knows what Johnny looks." Ultimately, they were pleased by how it turned out for The fifth (and maybe final) “Pirates of the Caribbean” film.