What a difference 15 years can make.
In 2003, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a mega blockbuster in which Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow stole the hearts of audiences worldwide. It’s long been known that during production of the movie, Disney executives were intensely worried about Depp’s performance, considering him a liability who might sink the entire film. Now, we know one of the major reasons they were so worried: they thought he was playing the character as gay.
Depp explained all in an interview with GQ recently, saying the following:
“Disney hated me. [They were] thinking of every way they could to get rid of me, to fire me. ‘Oh, we’re going to have to subtitle him.’ ‘We don’t understand Captain Jack Sparrow. What’s wrong with him?’ ‘What’s wrong with his arms?’ ‘Is he drunk?’ ‘Is he mentally fucking stupefied?’ ‘Is he gay?’
That last one seems to have been something they fixated on during the film’s production, as Depp continues to say:
They asked me, ‘Is he gay?’ and I answered the question over the phone. It was a lady called Nina Jacobson from Disney at the time and she asked me a couple of questions and then said, ‘What is it, Johnny? Is he gay?’ My tendency, of course, is to be irreverent so I said, ‘Nina, didn’t you know all my characters are gay?’ That was a pretty abrupt end to the conversation. And I just continued shaping Jack the way I believed was best.
While it’s easy to laugh at these idiotic executives who couldn’t recognize that Depp was creating an iconic and incredibly lucrative character, it’s also a good indication of how far we’ve come in battling homophobia. After all, Disney’s now making a big song and dance about including out gay characters in its movies, and it’s strongly rumored that Frozen 2 will see Elsa in a lesbian relationship. An interesting footnote to all this is that said demanding executive, Nina Jacobson, is actually gay herself.
Though the attraction of Captain Jack Sparrow has been diluted by increasingly crappy sequels, it seems that the character is still lucrative enough for Disney to be planning yet more Pirates of the Caribbean pics, with a sixth film in the franchise currently in some form of development. In the meantime, you can next catch Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this Fall, in which he plays gay wizard Hitler. Funny how things work out sometimes, eh?