In a wholly unexpected turn of events, Disney has publicly apologized to Johnny Depp for the company’s role in the strained relationship between the talented actor and Walt Disney Pictures and has extended an offer to him to reprise his legendary role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
It’s a dream come true, and beyond that, it’s cause for celebration as The Walt Disney Company has finally initiated steps to repair the damaged relationship between Disney Studios and actor Johnny Depp–damage wholly caused by the company’s pride.
Johnny Depp began his acting career in the mid-1980s with a role in Wes Craven’s horror flick, Nightmare on Elm Street. Though the part was minor at best, Depp’s performance in those brief moments in front of the camera forever sealed his identity as an actor. Following that role, Depp was approached by other directors and production houses, and as time went on, Depp’s manager surely had his hands full as the young actor had an almost magical ability for attracting roles, offers, and extremely lucrative contracts.
Just three years after the world was first introduced to the dark-headed and debonair Depp, he was cast in the television series 21 Jump Street, a role he played for four consecutive years. Though he wasn’t a fan of the show’s ideology, he honored his contract before going back to feature films, and in 1990, Depp became an overnight sensation, rising to fame “with his shy, funny, and heartfelt portrayal of a lonely and misunderstood individual” in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. His performance helped garner box office returns of nearly $90 million on a film with a budget of just $20 million.
Hollywood took notice, including the part of Hollywood known for classic animated and live-action films, Mickey ears, and magical theme parks. Though it would be 13 years before Depp blew up the box office with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney was well aware of the young actor’s talents, and Walt Disney Pictures wasted no time purchasing a ticket on the Johnny Depp blockbuster film train. Talent like that was a once-in-a-lifetime find.
The 1994 film masterpiece Ed Wood marked Depp’s first appearance in a Disney film, but no Disney-Depp endeavor performed at the box office like films in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The world was first introduced to the incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow in Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, and instantly, Depp had tripled his fanbase, and Disney saw similar returns in box office revenue. The film shattered expectations, drawing in more than $650 million globally. The unbridled success of the scurvy, supposed “one-and-done” film was largely Depp’s doing as fans just couldn’t get enough of the swashbuckling alcoholic trickster with an affinity for words and eyes that told more stories than his mouth.
Four more Pirates films followed, each with Depp channeling his inner Sparrow and each bringing massive returns at the box office. Between The Black Pearl in 2003 and the fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, in 2017, Depp’s acting genius led Disney to a global box office gross of more than $4.5 billion and paved the way for endless revenue in merchandise sales, as well as the creation of dozens of audio-animatronic Captain Jacks to be placed inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disney Parks.
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In September 2008, Disney said that the Studios had petitioned the Pirates of the Caribbean star to apply his acting prowess to a new role: that of the Mad Hatter in a Tim Burton/Disney collaboration on a live-action version of Alice in Wonderland. The Guardian reported on the deal, pointing out that “the multiple Depp roles suggest that [Johnny Depp] is fast becoming Disney’s most important banker.” The success of Disney’s first Alice film with Depp in the leading role would only confirm this.
In between Pirates films, Depp made four other films for Disney: the aforementioned Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Lone Ranger (2013), Into the Woods (2014), and Tim Burton’s Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). Combined, those films amassed more than $1.8 billion. On May 27, 2010, just 85 days after the theatrical release of Depp’s first Alice film for Disney, The Walt Disney Company made a landmark announcement on the company’s website, heralding the success of the nonsense-filled Burton/Depp endeavor.
Then-Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, Rich Ross, praised “the creative talents of Johnny Depp,” and said that in light of the success of the film, Disney’s marketing teams would join forces with the company’s partners “to find every opportunity to bring this creative masterpiece to fans around the world.”
By their own admission, Disney simply could not wait to share the wildly successful film–and, more importantly, the acting talent behind that success–with the world.
In less than three months, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp as a version of the Mad Hatter that no one could have expected, had shattered the $1 billion theatrical glass ceiling to become only the sixth film in motion picture history–at that time–to achieve such a feat. The film ranked third, just after James Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar.
Disney’s official fan club has touted the actor as “a rarity among actors,” and in 2015, Depp was honored by Disney, receiving the coveted title of Disney Legend–the company’s highest honor, reserved for those who “have significantly contributed to the company’s legacy.” During the Disney Legends Ceremony that year, CEO Bob Iger shared a lengthy montage of Depp’s career, created by the company, and gushed as he spoke about Depp’s successes as an actor, his long-standing reputation for kindness and generosity toward others–especially patients and young fans in children’s hospitals around the world–and his contributions to The Walt Disney Company.
Fans attending the ceremony had no idea that Disney had worked feverishly to orchestrate Depp’s appearance during the ceremony. Iger introduced Depp, and immediately, the crowd of thousands rose to their feet, all cheering, some screaming, and some overcome with tears of joy. And Disney’s CEO was among them.
What a difference a few years and the lies of a real-life evil villain can make.
Just three years later, Disney abandoned Depp in perhaps his greatest time of need. The same company that made billions because of Depp, that honored Depp for his contributions to the company, that went to great lengths to promote Depp and his roles in its films, and that chose Depp as the surprise guest of honor at its most prestigious and well-attended event disassociated with him–only four days after Depp’s hateful, vindictive ex-wife began her calculated mission to systematically destroy Depp’s career, his reputation, and his future.
In 2018, Depp’s villainous ex-wife Amber Heard penned an opinion editorial for The Washington Post, brimming with lies and misleadings aimed at tearing down the beloved actor. Following the couple’s divorce in 2017, Heard, who has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder, set out to punish Johnny Depp for not falling prey to years of her attempts to control him and force him into a life with her in which he would forever be regarded as unworthy and undeserving–a life of continual verbal and physical abuse and emotional and mental torment.
Disney is said to have dropped Depp, turning its back on him four days after Heard published her maniacal manifesto, booting him from the Pirates franchise and stripping him of the role he created as Jack Sparrow. Without proof, without cause, without time for the due process of law to play out, Disney deserted one of its own and never looked back.
Following the verdict in the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial in 2022, during which the jury named Heard the abuser and the perpetrator of all sorts of chaos and violence during her marriage to Depp, there was a public outcry for Disney to do the right thing, to apologize to Depp for judging him prematurely and aligning with the side of Depp’s abuser, and to work to make amends for the company’s awful treatment of Depp.
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But Disney refused. The company stayed silent, as though Depp were unfamiliar to them. Disney’s treatment of the defamed actor would forever mar the company’s reputation–and rightly so.
But late on Friday, in a move that sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood and around the globe, Disney issued a public apology to Johnny Depp, accepting responsibility for its actions against Depp in abandoning him, refusing to stand with him, and for elevating itself above even the United States legal system as the company bailed on Depp after becoming aware of Heard’s villainous allegations.
The apology was shared on behalf of the Disney Company, signed by CEO Bob Iger, and reads as follows:
“It is with a deep sense of remorse and an undeniable heaviness on our corporate consciousness that The Walt Disney Company wishes to offer Johnny Depp our most profound apologies for decisions made in 2018 and beyond with regard to Mr. Depp and challenges with which he was presented within his personal life–premature decisions on the part of the company that served to heap additional challenges and distress upon Mr. Depp during an already very difficult time in his life. Mr. Depp is unrivaled in his acting prowess, and his kindness and dedication toward fellow human beings–especially children–are unmatched and serve as an inspirational picture of the value found in humility, kindness, and compassion.
Mr. Depp has contributed to The Walt Disney Company in countless ways, not the least of which has been his flawless embodiment of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise–one of Disney’s most successful endeavors to this day–and one to which Walt Disney Pictures warmly invites Mr. Depp to return, effective immediately. Mr. Depp has been made aware of the Studios’ wishes for his return to the franchise, as well as the company’s wishes to make amends with Mr. Depp.
In recent weeks, The Walt Disney Company has experienced trying times, including the very difficult decision to reduce our global workforce by 10%, but trying times often bring about new perspectives, new opportunities, and a renewed appreciation for what has been. Such is the story of The Walt Disney Company with respect to its very damaged relationship with Mr. Depp, the responsibility for which the company humbly accepts.”
Oh, if only that statement were made. If only Disney would come to its senses with regard to its egregious mistakes in abandoning Johnny Depp and in refusing a stance of solidarity with the defamed and embattled genius of an actor and honey of a human being.
But alas, today is April Fools…
so the aforementioned statements and apology remain only in the hearts and minds of fans and other compassionate individuals around the world who believe in humility and in doing the right thing–even after doing the wrong thing.
Here’s hoping Johnny Depp continues to “follow the stars” toward his beautiful, well-deserved “rendezvous beyond that beloved horizon” because the only “fools” in this scenario are those employed by Walt Disney Pictures who continue to feed their pride and dig their heels in the ground.