After five movies, over $4.5 billion at the box office and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, it would be safe to say that Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow has cemented its place in Hollywood history. Not only did it launch one of the world’s most popular franchises and instantly establish the character as a cultural icon, but it also transformed Depp’s reputation from independent cinema’s golden boy to one of the biggest stars in the business.
The sequels may have inevitably suffered from the law of diminishing returns, but that’s to be expected when The Curse of the Black Pearl remains one of the most purely entertaining and enjoyable blockbusters of the last two decades. Now, however, the Pirates of the Caribbean brand is charting a different course after dropping its leading man, something that longtime fans aren’t best pleased about.
A sixth installment and a spinoff starring Margot Robbie are both in the works, and yet Jack Sparrow will be involved in neither of them, after Depp was booted from the lucrative gig by Disney. There’s been plenty of speculation that the 57 year-old could be invited to return in some capacity, but this isn’t the first time he’s found his future as Captain Jack clouded in uncertainty.
During filming of the first installment, Disney chief Michael Eisner was not a fan of Depp’s off-kilter approach to the character, accusing him of ruining the movie and leading the actor to think that he might even end up being fired from the production.
“Yeah, they wanted to fire me,” he said. “It trickled back to me that Michael Eisner went on some sort of bent about how, ‘Goddammit Johnny Depp’s ruining the film! Is it drunk? Is it gay?’. So I fully expected to be fired. I really expected to be fired, but I wasn’t for some reason. They were actually going to put subtitles under my character, they couldn’t understand Captain Jack.”
Far from ruining the movie, Depp was far and away the best thing about it, but after four more outings over the next fourteen years, there’s every chance that his tenure as Jack Sparrow could be over for good this time, unless Disney listens to the backlash and decide that making a Pirates of the Caribbean film without the main selling point of the entire franchise isn’t the wisest idea.