When discussing iconic character roles, especially within Disney films, one that immediately comes to mind is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. It’s been an excruciating six years, dotted with misfortune and slander against the one-time Disney great, since we’ve set sail alongside our beloved Captain Jack Sparrow, and the world is growing impatient waiting for a sixth and potentially final film to the accomplished Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean has not only been an exciting, unique adventure adored by fans for decades but it’s also been a cash cow for Disney. In total, to date, the films have equated to over $4.5 billion in revenue for the entertainment giant. Despite their current relationship with the Edward Scissorhands actor, they owe it all to Johnny Depp.
Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow stunned audiences when the first film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, sailed into theaters in 2003. Nothing like it had been done, and Depp’s onscreen performance not only changed film expectations for Disney, but it changed the culture of pirates as well. Despite murmurs from Disney regarding Depp’s extreme approach to the character, citing his physical preparation and questioning his method for Sparrow, Depp’s character would go down in history as “the greatest pirate we’ve ever seen.”
Pirates would go on to see four additional sequels, all including the return of Captain Jack Sparrow. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) would all prove massive successes for Disney, however the tides would soon turn just a few years later, as Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer prepared to work on a sixth film.
An All-Star Cast Couldn’t Save ‘Pirate’s’ Future Without Johnny Depp
Set during the Golden Age of Piracy, Pirates of the Caribbean tells the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow, the cocky but loveable captain of The Black Pearl. Although the films do a magnificent job of detailing many actual real-world depictions of what pirates were like and how they lived, Sparrow’s adventures include a supernatural theme built around much of the lore and stories told by actual seafaring buccaneers during their time.
The result was a fantastic creation of excitement, adventure, and story-telling directed by Gore Verbinski (with the fourth film being directed by Rob Marshall and the final film directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg). Pirate’s success was guaranteed from its inception. Having Johnny Depp and perfect story elements based on Walt Disney’s extremely popular ride at Disneyland and Disney World, complete with a memorable score from composer Klaus Badelt, ensured an emotional experience for guests, who kept coming back to fill theatre seats again and again.
However, the talent pool didn’t stop with Johnny Depp. Keira Knightley, Geoffery Rush, Orlando Bloom, Ian McShane, Penelope Cruz, Kevin McNally, Bill Nighy, Javier Bardem, Paul McCartney, and even rockstar Keith Richards would all lend their talents to the Pirates universe at some point, making it a collection of immeasurable talent. Even lesser-known roles, such as the one Zoe Saldana played in the first film, were unique, detailed, and highly memorable to fans, creating a real-life adventure that we all eagerly awaited to be a part of.
‘Pirate of the Caribbean’ Changed Johnny Depp’s Career
Although Johnny Depp had been around Hollywood long before accepting the role of Captain Jack Sparrow, the Jeanne Du Barry star would see a shift after highlighting his fantastic talent on Disney’s big-box office hit.
Depp’s first film came in 1984’s Wes Craven slasher The Nightmare on Elm Street. Since then, Mr. Depp has enjoyed a lucrative career filled with a variety of film credits, such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), The Rum Diary (2011), and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
Johnny Depp’s career would see him work with several Hollywood greats like Tim Burton on Corpse Bride (2005), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Dark Shadows (2012). From J. M. Barrie, the man who created Peter Pan, to the infamous gangster Whitey Bulger, Depp has blessed audiences with exceptional performances for more than four decades.
Depp would go on to work with Disney on a few projects outside of Pirates of the Caribbean as well. Into the Woods (2014) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) would help facilitate a relationship with Disney that would later come crashing down due to Depp’s now ex-wife, Amber Heard.
Disney Fires Johnny Depp
It’s likely you’ve read this story 100 times by now. However, we’d be amiss if we didn’t discuss Depp’s infamous defamation trial with his once-wife Amber Heard. Following a detailed expose in 2018 in The Washington Post by the Aquaman actress, Depp’s career took a sharp turn for the worst, as Disney and Warner Bros, in an attempt to be proactive, fired the actor from major roles in both Pirates of the Caribbean and the Fantastic Beasts franchises.
Depp, who’d worked with both studios for years, suddenly found himself unemployed at the mere suggestion of inappropriate behavior within his marriage. Neither studio decided to wait for a verdict once Depp filed a countersuit for defamation against Amber Heard. Instead, he was fired on the spot.
Depp V. Heard, which has now become its own Netflix documentary, would be heard at Fairfax, Virginia. For six weeks, the public watched on as both Mr. Depp and Mrs. Heard talked through arguments both for and against one another. Some gruesome details were admitted by both parties, including a drug abuse issue by Johnny Depp. However, Depp remained consistent with his defense against claims of abuse by Amber Heard. The public also did there part in support of Johnny Depp, flooding popular social media platforms with trending hashtags like #JusticeforJohnny and #FireAmberHeard.
The public watched in awe as Depp’s legal counsel masterfully noted issues with Heard’s claimed settlement donations. However, some evidence that suggests Depp was physically abusive with his ex-wife would be omitted from being heard but later revealed by Netflix. Through the ongoing fiasco, Depp would gain a sizeable amount of support from fans and onlookers who seemed to have felt that Heard was less than genuine. Some of these would be fellow celebrities like Tim Burton and Jason Momoa. Rumors swirled around Depp’s attorney, Camille Vasquez, and her psychological warfare against Heard, rumored to have sprayed Depp’s cologne throughout the women’s restrooms.
Ultimately, Depp would win the defamation case that had taken the world by storm, with Amber Heard ordered to pay $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. However, the damage to Depp’s career had been done. Disney had already fired Depp, who famously put the idea of returning to Pirates of the Caribbean to bed during the case.
Life After Court
Following his trial, Depp would seemingly take a sabbatical from acting, focusing on his musical career with the mega-group The Hollywood Vampires. Since the public case ended, Depp has spent much of his days performing worldwide with the group, attending the Cannes Film Festival, and mourning the loss of his friend Jeff Beck.
The Academy Award-winner has also spent time relaxing on his private island in the Bahamas with family, such as his daughter Lily-Rose Depp. Of course, fans are more than happy to give Depp the space he needs to recuperate from what some speculate to be tour issues related to drugs and alcohol; they still want to know when or if Depp will return as Jack Sparrow.
Since court, Depp has slowly exited his reclusive vacation and has been making his way back into the limelight. Heading up the marketing campaign for Dior Sauvage and starring as Louis XV in the recent Jeanne Du Barry, Depp’s return to film seems to be picking up. The Blow actor has also returned behind the camera as he’s currently working Modi, the biopic of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. Starring Al Pacino, the film will be led by Italian star Riccardo Scamarcio.
‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Sequels or Spin-offs
There’s been much talk of a return to a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film, the majority of which surrounds Johnny Depp. As many close to the actor, even producer Jerry Bruckheimer and long-time friend Tim Burton, have suggested that Depp may have had a change of heart towards Disney, the possibility of a return is still on the table.
Outside the realm of possibility for a sixth film, there have also been plenty of talks about a reboot for the franchise, meaning that the films would see a spinoff. At one point, actress Margot Robbie, now most famously known for her role in Barbie, was suggested as the female pirate lead of a spinoff series. However, according to Inside the Magic, Margot Robbie claimed that the idea was “dead in the water.” Bruckheimer would later clarify those statements when he noted that the idea of a spin-off was on the back burner as producers, writers, and Disney executives returned their focus to Pirates of the Caribbean 6.
Among the rumors of Margot Robbie taking the lead as Captain Redd, there has been much speculation about the return of Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Although no official word has been given, there are plenty of hints, assuming the suitable script, that Depp could potentially return. However, as the current script for the sixth film was deemed pretty “weird,” no word from Depp on his revival with Disney just yet.
However, we do know that, in a way, a sequel was planned for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it never came to fruition, but the leaked poster and event descriptions are leaving Jack Sparrow fans chomping at the bit, dreaming of what could have been.
‘Spirit of the Sea’
New information related to planned concepts for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Spirit of the Sea, which was to act as a prequel to the fifth film, has come to light, and the experience seemed like a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the lore of Pirates even more. Thanks to a partnership between Disney and Secret Cinema, eventgoers in London were able to experience Pirates in a brand new way.
Secret Cinema, which offers immersive film experiences that include audience interaction and plenty of magic, has had much success with other movie franchises such as James Bond, Stranger Things, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, their Pirates of the Caribbean film was scheduled to release in London, but as the world shut down due to COVID-19, the premiere was canceled.
However, thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, we now have a good idea of what Secret Cinema and Disney had planned. Concept art featuring Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow and Naomie Harris’ Tia Dalma shows that directors Tom Maller and Miguel Hernando Torres Umba were ready to bring new seafaring tales of Captain Jack back to audiences in an interactive and immersive way. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Spirit of the Sea would allow viewers to join one of six different factions on a journey to Tortuga, but sadly, the project never came to be.
Although the experience never came to fruition due to the pandemic, it certainly would have been a fantastic way to experience a brand-new Pirates of the Caribbean story featuring Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. As the world waits for any word of Depp’s return to The Pearl, this would have been a much-appreciated step towards a highly anticipated sequel.
For now, we’re still all left in the dark as to when or if Depp will make a return to Disney, but I think we can all agree we’d love to see Jack Sparrow and Tia Dalma return for the next installment. As Pirates of the Caribbean has a vast amount of story-telling left to be done, given the overall love and success of the franchise, it’s difficult to imagine that Disney would just let it fizzle out.
What do you think? What’s the next story for Pirates of the Caribbean?