Johnny Depp's portrayal of Capt. Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean" may bear great resemblance to Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.
But as Depp returns to the screen next month as the inebriated, droll pirate, scientists hope to turn the nation's attention to a real-life swashbuckler who inspired the role - Blackbeard.
Next month's National Geographic magazine dives into the waters off North Carolina to show the sunken remains of what is believed to be Blackbeard's ship - with its enormous anchor and dozens of cannons that terrorized seamen from Cuba to the Carolinas.
Blackbeard never killed anyone until the final battle on the day he died in 1718. But he cultivated a terrifying image with six pistols strapped to his chest, smoking fuses in his beard and a habit of pouring gunpowder into his rum and lighting it.
"Blackbeard actively claimed to be the devil's brother," said writer Joel Bourne, who swam through the wreck to see the legendary pirate's armaments. "Why fight, when you could just scare them and make them surrender?"
When Depp and his co-stars Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom return to the big screen July 7 with the sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," it'll be the latest in a long line of movie swashbucklers that are thrilling - but without the ugly underside of real pirate life.
"As much as we romanticize them, their lives really were nasty, brutish and short," Bourne said.
Blackbeard was shot five times, stabbed more than 20 times and beheaded for good measure. No one ever found his legendary treasure trove, despite centuries of hunting. "No one's ever found anything," Bourne said. "But every kid with a shovel and a [small boat] goes out there and looks for it every summer."