Despite the talk around town in recent days, actor Johnny Depp has made it clear that he has no intention of returning to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, much to the dismay of his fans.
As soon as the last film in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise debuted in 2017, surely The Walt Disney Company began plans for the sixth installment of the multi-billion-dollar film franchise. But things seemed to take a different turn in late 2018, after Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard penned a scathing opinion piece for The Washington Post, titled, “I Spoke Up Against Sexual Violence–And Faced Our Culture’s Wrath.”
Disney Takes a Step Back
Disney seemed to begin distancing itself from Johnny Depp, though it might not have been apparent to most people–even Depp’s fans. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hit the box office on May 26, 2017, as the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and, like its predecessors, the film was extremely popular with fans.
Disney was all-in when it came to the fifth Pirates film and when it came to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack. Disney went all out when promoting the new film, and on April 26, 2017, just one month before the new film debuted, Johnny Depp surprised and delighted thousands of fans inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland Resort in California as the incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow. Guests were thrilled to see Depp at the attraction, and some simply couldn’t fathom that they were laying eyes on the actor himself. (You can see the video of those reactions here.)
But despite Depp’s impeccable talent creating the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, for embodying him flawlessly, and for delighting Pirates fans in the parks, Disney seemed to begin falling out of love with the Edward Scissorhands alum, and as time went on, it became very clear that Disney and Depp had grown apart–but not because the company had scrapped plans for a sixth swashbuckling film.
In April 2022, Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard took the stand (though it was a bit like a stage) in a Fairfax County, Virginia, courtroom. Over a six-week period of time, the public had a front-row seat to the drama that had played out between the formerly married couple during their short but tumultuous relationship. Depp was the plaintiff in the defamation case, in which he accused Heard of destroying his Hollywood career by defaming him. Because Depp’s claims focused on the damage Heard had done to his career, Disney representatives were called on to testify about why the company had all but abandoned the talented actor.
New Reports About Disney’s Interest in Depp’s Return as Captain Jack
There’s never been a question that Disney has plans for a sixth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But the question about Disney’s interest in Depp reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the next film has been the subject of debate for more than a year now. In March 2023, ScreenRant reported that not only was a sixth Pirates film on the table at Walt Disney Pictures, but one of the franchise’s previous writers was back in his role and already working to develop the script:
Director Joachim Rønning is also set to return. In late 2022 Jerry Bruckheimer provided a promising update regarding the Pirates 6 movie, saying that writer Ted Elliot is in the process of developing the script. The script is still in development, so fans will likely have to wait until mid-to-late 2023 or 2024 at the earliest.
In recent days, the internet has been abuzz with news of Disney’s interest (or lack thereof) in Depp’s return to the franchise. But that “news” is really just more of the same. The story in The New York Times claims that Disney Studios President Sean Bailey discussed the sixth Pirates film during an interview, saying, “We think we have a really good, exciting story that honors the films that have come before but also has something new to say.” And when asked whether Johnny Depp would reprise his role in the film, Bailey would only say that Disney is “noncommittal” regarding a reprisal, indicating a lack of decisiveness about whether to bring Depp back.
But while Disney might not know how to feel about Depp’s potential return, Johnny Depp has made it very clear how he feels about such a prospect.
Depp Has Been Clear About His Plans to Return to Disney’s “Pirates” Franchise
There’s nothing unclear or uncertain about Johnny Depp’s plans for returning to Disney to reprise his iconic role. Not only has Depp left Hollywood once and for all in recent months, but he has also made his feelings about returning to Disney unmistakably clear.
During the Depp v. Heard defamation trial in 2022, Johnny Depp was clear that he had no interest in returning for a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film. Under oath from the stand, $300 million and one million alpacas.”testified about Walt Disney Studios and the actor parting ways, saying that because of Heard’s allegations, he had become “guilty until proven innocent.” He further testified that he would never work with Disney again–even if the company drew up a contract that included “
Yep. That’s why there was so much “alpaca” talk during the trial.
At the time, however, another Hollywood insider said that Depp “will work again” and that “someone will give him a chance.” The insider expounded, explaining that Depp “is very likable and very talented” and that “a studio will just have to gauge and see it worth the risk and value.” The insider continued, saying that Depp “also won public opinion” and “gained a whole new fan base through [the trial].” “Yes,” he said, “[Depp] will be back.”
The insider was right about at least one thing: Depp has come back. In the time since his defamation trial ended, Depp’s schedule has been extremely busy. From touring with friend and fellow musician Jeff Beck in the U.K. and painting collections of artwork that he then sold for millions to starring in a brand-new French film titled Jeanne du Barry, signing a brand-new, record-setting deal with the Christian Dior company, and directing a film of his very own, Depp is definitely back, though, by his own admission, Depp never left.
Johnny Depp left no room for doubt when it testified that he has no intention of returning to the helm of the Black Pearl. Perhaps Disney is used to being able to call the shots, make the final decision, and perhaps, throw money at situations to achieve the desired outcome. But according to Depp, it seems this is one time Disney simply won’t have the final say, as no matter what Disney decides about calling back Depp to reprise Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp has spoken, and his answer is “no.”
Captain Jack’s words about his “beloved horizon” at the end of Pirates 5 seem to have already brought the franchise full circle. In the first Pirates film, Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Depp has a line that reads, “bring me that horizon,” and in his final scene (so far) in the franchise, Sparrow says, “I have a rendezvous beyond my beloved horizon.”
It cannot be overstated that Disney committed an egregious act against Depp in cutting ties with the actor, marking him guilty before he was proven innocent. And sometimes, there’s a sweetness in not having “the last word,” as it were. Disney has yet to make any commitment to asking Depp back to the franchise, but perhaps his silent final word is in being unmoved, regardless of what Disney decides. While we’d love to see Johnny Depp back as Captain Jack, the final scene in Dead Men Tell No Tales seems to tell a tale of what transpired between Depp and Disney. The scene serves as a reminder to Walt Disney Studios execs that the franchise will never be better than when Depp played Sparrow. It’ll never really be Pirates again. Try as they may to perseverate the franchise sans Depp, Disney will be running a fool’s errand.
After all, Depp’s off to something beyond his beloved horizon. A very fitting and deserving journey lies ahead of him now, and that’s perhaps the most perfect ending, indeed.