Imagine a beauty pageant where you have to be ugly to win.
Where the talent segment awards bonus points for swordplay and your answer to the judge’s question draws applause when you mention your dream for world pillaging.
And the prize? Instead of a shiny crown, you end up in a makeup trailer with someone painting your teeth brown.
Welcome to the life of a featured pirate in the new blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," opening Friday. When the film shot on Kauai and Oahu last summer, it turned four ordinary-looking Hawaii residents — Tamayo Perry, Kevin Senn, Michael Rosales and Emerson "Malcolm" Tuitt — into snarling rogues.
They might not have any lines, but don’t mistake any of them for background extras. They were in several scenes, often stride for stride with stars Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush and Ian McShane.
"We are right there in your face," said Perry, a professional surfer from the North Shore who had a bit part in "Blue Crush" and performed stunts for the movie "Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle" as well as ABC’s "Lost."
"It is going to be in 3-D, and you are going to get more of us than you want," he said. "We’re some bad-boy pirates."
The film from Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films began its search for Hawaii pirates last spring. The four men were selected from a pool of nearly 7,000 applicants who answered casting calls in April. And while there are 40 pirates in the movie, the four were part of what the production crew called "the core pirates."
"I had to get pretty nasty to stand out," Perry said. "There were some herniated squints."
At his audition, Tuitt was asked to explain what made him the meanest pirate on the ocean.
"I said, ‘My name is Shadow, my gun is my passport and my sword is my entry,’" he said. "‘I am here to take your gold and your silver. And your women, too.’"
When Tuitt was chosen, the director told him he was too muscular and to quit working out, but the actor couldn’t give it up.
"They utilized my body," said Tuitt, a handyman who had a role in Bruce Willis’s 2003 war film "Tears of the Sun" and worked on "Lost."
"They took off the sleeves of my shirt, left my shirt open, and they put a big X on my stomach like I had a big knife fight. It took almost two hours every day to put on my makeup."
ROSALES DIDN’T shave to keep his pirate scruffy, something that surprised friends who were more accustomed to his usual clean-cut appearance.
But that was just part of the transformation for Rosales, a 30-year-old hip-hop artist whose group Angry Locals is a finalist in the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano music awards. He said his role in the movie was to scowl.
"They said, ‘We don’t want a happy, smiling face. We want you to grow your beard and be scary and mean.’ Honestly … it kind of hurt. But it was fun."
Senn’s part was his first foray into acting since kindergarten, when he was cast as a railroad crossing sign.
The 47-year-old owner of Hawaii Surf & Sail in Haleiwa figured if he didn’t get a part, he would at least meet interesting people waiting in line. But his long beard was a hit.
When he was called back for a more formal audition, Senn was handed a bottle of booze and a sword and told to defend it from another actor.
"The guy before me actually stabbed the other actor," Senn said. "He said, ‘They wanted a mean pirate, and I don’t know how to be any meaner than to stab the guy.’ He didn’t get the part."
Being a pirate actor is a tough job. It isn’t all "argh" and "avast ye matey."
"We were in the water," Senn said. "We were on cliffs. We were in wave machines. There were flames. There were zombies and helicopters flying within what felt like inches of your head."
And there’s pirate discipline to consider, too.
"We speak pirate," Senn said. "We growl a lot. If you say something, the captain throws you overboard."