Aarr, me hearties. If you’re out sailing—or swashbuckling—on Lake Minnetonka this summer, keep a weather eye out for a familiar face. The Twin Cities’ own Captain Jack Sparrow often spends his summer evenings out and about on the lakeshore, commandeering dinner cruises, popping into picnics and taking dozens of photographs with fans.
Now, we’re pretty sure that Johnny Depp (he of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films) hasn’t moved to Minnesota recently. So who is this dreadlocked, kohl-eyed pirate? In an exclusive interview, Lake Minnetonka Magazine got the scoop and unmasked—er, unbearded—our very own Captain Jack.
Lake Minnetonka Magazine: Ahoy, Captain. Who are you, really?
Brendan Anderson: My name is Brendan Anderson. [Laughs.] I grew up in Elk River, Minnesota, and went to school at Northwestern College [now the University of Northwestern ] in St. Paul. I’ve been in the computer IT industry for about 15 years, and I currently work at Cargill in IT. I’m 44 years old, and I live with my wife Christa and our two Chihuahuas.
LMM: What inspired you to become a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator?
BA: Back in 2007, there was a pirate-themed event at my office. They needed an MC, so I volunteered. On a whim, I decided to dress up as Jack Sparrow. I put a simple costume together and people started saying, “You know, you look a lot like him.” The next year, we decided to do another pirate-themed event, and some of us were down at the Lake Minnetonka docks shooting a promo video. I was in costume as Captain Jack, and a mom came up to me and asked if I did kids’ birthday parties. I said, “Yes, I do!”
LMM: You appear at events all over the area, from James J. Hill Days to Duluth’s Tall Ships Festival to the Minnesota State Fair. Any special memories?
BA: About three or four years ago, I was doing an event in Excelsior. A nurse from the Amplatz Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota came up to me and told me the story of a young boy who had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He was a huge Jack Sparrow fan… so I made an appearance [at the hospital] to see this boy, and from that moment on I kept in touch with the family. He passed away two years ago, and I got to attend his funeral. It was a very humbling and touching moment for me. That I was able to make an impact on a boy like that will always stay with me.
LMM: Your costume is very authentic. How did you put it together?
BA: If I were a true pirate, I’d have to say that I stole it. [Laughs.] Most of it I’ve purchased online, and modified and customized it.
LMM: Captain Jack is notorious for his beautiful eyeliner. What’s the secret?
BA: As a guy, I’m not used to putting on makeup, so I used to have my wife do it for me. Eventually I taught myself how to do it. There’s a company that makes the exact [makeup] color palette that they used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so I got a hold of that stuff. I used to do a sponge application, but now I airbrush my whole face—the whole deal.
LMM: How did you master Captain Jack’s distinctive voice?
BA: I watched other people impersonate his voice. You can pick up on some of the inflections and emphasis. I also memorized some of the more famous quotes from the movies. I can only do it when I’m in costume! Basically, the trick is to drop your voice down a couple of octaves, speak slowly and speak with a slur.
LMM: What makes this gig so much fun?
BA: Jack is a very recognizable character. There’s a little bit of all of us that wishes we could be like Jack, with his sense of adventure and carefree attitude. That appeals to a lot of people. And he’s funny! People like to be around those kinds of characters. I’m amazed at the staying power that Jack has. As long as he has staying power, I’ll continue to do this.
From His Fans
“Brendan embraces the [Jack Sparrow] quote, ‘Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.’ He epitomizes that. He’s generous, he’s gregarious and puts up with all of the crazy people who want to see him. What he did for that little boy… How often in life do you get to meet and spend time with your hero?”
—Josie Fisher, nurse at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, who introduced Brendan Anderson to his young friend with leukemia
“I’ve met Brendan and Captain Jack, and they are two completely different people. Brendan is somewhat quiet and serious, while Captain Jack is outgoing and approachable by young and mature fans. I’ve never seen Captain Jack turn down a request to have his photo taken by a fan.”
—Gene Shaw, coordinator of Duluth Tall Ships Festival, where Brendan Anderson has appeared for several years
“My son Parker was so excited [about having Captain Jack at his party] and spoke of nothing else for weeks. I was secretly worried that Jack might not meet my son’s high expectations. Boy, was I wrong! The children at the party were mesmerized, as were the adults. When my son sees Jack at various venues, Brendan always remembers him and makes a special effort to recognize Parker. It was the best birthday Parker has ever had.”
—Ann O’Reilly, whose son invited Brendan “Captain Jack” Anderson to his birthday party
Learn more about Captain Jack and check out his upcoming appearance schedule at jacksparrowmn.com.