An online petition directed to The Walt Disney Company in regard to bringing actor Johnny Depp back as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has seen a major upswing in signatures recently. Disney, are you listening?
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise began with a solitary film, Curse of the Black Pearl, in 2003, but the picture powerhouse had its doubts about the success of the film.
In the first film, we were introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow–the sometimes-inebriated, always witty swashbuckler who’s seemingly afraid of nothing. We are also introduced to other characters like Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa, Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan, and Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner.
Per Screenrant, it was Depp’s character that really made the first film, and ultimately the series of films, a huge success for Disney:
“As the films evolved, so did the characters, with most of them leaving the franchise at some point, but Jack Sparrow remained as the lead and connecting link between all films. Jack Sparrow has become the image of the series, to the point where he was added to the theme park attraction that started it all, so it comes as a surprise to learn that Disney initially didn’t like what Depp was doing with the character.”
At the beginning of the franchise, Captain Jack was to be a supporting character only. However, the success enjoyed by the first Pirates film–largely due to Johnny Depp’s acting expertise and prowess–moved the scurvy head pirate into a much bigger role. Before the roles for the first film were cast, producers were on the hunt for the right actor to embody Captain Jack Sparrow, and at the same time, Depp was reportedly looking to work on a family film project.According to ScreenRant, it was Depp who approached Disney when he heard about the new Pirates film, inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney Parks. After preparing and delivering his first read-through, Depp was able to surprise the cast and crew, but not everyone was thrilled with his performance, as he had based it on actor Keith Richards, which did anything but delight some of Disney’s execs.
During subsequent interviews, Depp shared that one executive asked if Captain Jack Sparrow were gay, to which Depp responded by saying that all of his characters are gay. Michael Eisner, then-CEO of The Walt Disney Company, reportedly said that Johnny Depp was “ruining the film.” But none of this ruffled Depp’s feathers too much, as he was quoted as saying that working with bigger studios (like Disney) can be a problem, as “they can get uncomfortable about certain creative decisions you make” and that “if the studio isn’t worried, then I’m not doing my job properly.”
Disney executives’ loss of sleep over Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack was frivolous. The film had a budget of $140 million, and its lifetime gross is over $305 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It seems the very parts of Depp’s Sparrow character that made execs uncomfortable lent themselves to the wild success of The Curse of the Black Pearl and every other film in the franchise.
In fact, the general consensus is that Depp’s Jack Sparrow single-handedly turned the franchise into a machine that has churned out five full-length films to date, one short film based on the auction scene from the Disney Parks attraction, multi-million dollar piles of Pirates of the Caribbean-themed merchandise, and even the use of Depp’s likeness as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates attractions at Disney World, the Disneyland Resort in California, and Disneyland Paris.
Time-travel, if you will, from the beginning of the franchise in 2003 to 2017. On May 26, Dead Men Tell No Tales premiered at the box office, and shortly before its debut on May 1, Disney had Johnny Depp visit the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland to surprise Guests aboard the pirate boats on the ride and, of course, to promote the film.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the last we have seen of Captain Jack Sparrow.
In April 2022, Depp entered a Fairfax County, Virginia, courtroom to begin proceedings against his ex-wife Amber Heard in the defamation suit he filed years before. But the damage was already done.
Heard’s outrageous allegations had already stained Johnny Depp’s career–a career nearly 40 years in the making. After enduring abuse at the hands of his wife, 20 years his junior, the famed actor–now defamed by the lies spewed by his former partner–decided to take it no more. He was in the fight of his life to restore his name for his children, himself, and his career.
But long before Depp entered the courtroom, a petition was begun at Change.org that sought to talk some sense into execs at Walt Disney Studios–the same execs who’d been uncomfortable with Depp’s initial read-through before the first Pirates film, but who went on the enjoy the success of the film franchise right alongside Johnny Depp. Heard’s unfounded allegations lent themselves to damning Depp’s career as Captain Jack, and fans–like Depp–weren’t taking it anymore.
The petition, titled “Justice for Johnny Depp” entreats Disney to reconsider its decision to blackball Depp on the basis of lies and false allegations perpetrated by his ex-wife. Part of the explanation for the petition reads as follows:
“Amber Heard ruined Johnny Depp’s life as well as career. Johnny Depp has always been one of the greatest actors ever since he started acting. This man NEVER disappoints when he makes a movie, so why continue to keep him from doing Pirates of the Caribbean?? That movie is nothing without him!
Walt Disney Company: Johnny Depp deserves to continue his role as Sparrow. I believe that removing him was a mistake on your end but quite stupid if you ask me. I get that you all want to keep the drama going on in his marriage out of your company so that you all don’t get asked questions about it. Considering that Amber Heard is a liar and did whatever she could to try to ruin his life and career, you all were the only ones who felt the need to let him go. Every other producer/director/writer believes in him and his innocence, so why don’t you all? Please have a change of heart and do not release that movie without Johnny Depp. Nobody in this world cares about that movie if it does not have him in it. Reconsider your decision!!”
The petition has garnered support all along, but in recent days, the online plea has amassed an influx of signatures, bringing the total to nearly 800,000 as of the time of this publication. In September 2021, the petition had not yet amassed 80,000 signatures.
On the date of this publication, there have already been dozens of comments on the petition from supporters, telling why they have chosen to sign the petition.
A supporter posted, “Johnny Depp is one of the best actors to ever walk the earth. He IS Pirates of the Caribbean. It wouldn’t be the same without him, and I wouldn’t even want to see a new installment without him in it.”
Another signer posted, “There was absolutely no reason why Johnny, a fantastic actor, should have lost Captain Jack Sparrow. I know myself and many of my friends will never see another Caribbean movie without Johnny as the star! He deserves nothing less,” while another showed support by posting, “Do the right thing and bring him back! Disney should be ashamed of themselves because they chose sides. They should have stood by him. Domestic violence happens to men every day! Johnny has just given them a voice! Disney needs to do the right thing, apologize and return Johnny to his role of Jack!”
You can view and sign the petition by clicking here. Change.org also gives supporters the option to share the petition online.
It remains to be seen whether Disney will listen to its patrons and extend a handshake, olive branch, or film contract to the unfairly defamed Johnny Depp. With a fan following of this magnitude, Disney can’t pretend Depp doesn’t exist forever.