It’s been seven long years since Disney released a new installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, and while fans want desperately for Walt Disney Pictures to bring Johnny Depp back as the lovable but nearly-always-inebriated Captain Jack Sparrow, Disney’s current demand for his return is laughable, ridiculous, and, quite frankly, a slap in the actor’s face.
Johnny Depp has been a famed Hollywood actor since his first role in a Wes Craven film in 1984, but in 2009, a chance meeting on-set with an actress in a role opposite him would forever change his life–and his acting career–and not in a positive way.
No Reason For Disney to Continue Snubbing Depp
Depp and actress Amber Heard met in 2009 on the set of the Bruce Robinson drama The Rum Diary (2011). Six years later, in February 2015, they were married in a small ceremony on Depp’s private island in The Bahamas.
But just 15 months after they tied the knot, Heard filed for divorce, obtaining a temporary restraining order against Depp. At the time, she requested $50,000 in monthly spousal support. In response to Heard’s request, Depp claimed that his former spouse was “attempting to secure a premature financial solution by alleging abuse.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was released in 2017, and though the sixth swashbuckling film was already reportedly in the works, Disney severed ties with Depp only days after Amber Heard began publicly accusing Depp of domestic violence in 2018, apparently seeing no need to wait on the due process of law to take its course inside the courtroom.
Between April 11 and May 27, 2022, a seven-person jury, a Fairfax County, Virginia courtroom teeming with Depp fans, and millions of viewers online and in a television audience listened to testimony in the Depp v. Heard defamation lawsuit brought by Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Though Depp lost a libel case against a tabloid newspaper that labeled him a “wife beater” in the United Kingdom in 2019, he won his case against Heard in the United States, with the jury finding that Heard–not Depp–was the dishonest abuser.
In the weeks following Depp’s victory, however, Disney made no known attempts to smooth things over with the beloved actor. There were no apologies for the company’s quick judgment of Depp or for its inaccurate assumptions about Depp. And as the weeks turned into months, it became clear that Disney had no immediate plans to reconcile its relationship with Johnny Depp.
Disney Shuns Depp: Not a Stand Against Domestic Abuse
But something else became glaringly obvious: Disney’s decision to shun Johnny Depp as it pertained to his appearance in a sixth Pirates film had nothing to do with taking a standing against domestic violence–and it was no stance in solidarity with victims of domestic abuse either. If it had, Depp’s likeness wouldn’t still be infiltrated the parks and the merchandising shelves.
The Walt Disney Company cleared up any confusion on the matter by continuing to use Depp’s likeness inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at parks like Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland California’s Disneyland Park.
At Disneyland Paris, Disney even added a Depp-inspired Captain Jack Sparrow element to its nighttime spectacular. Further, the Captain Jack Sparrow Pirates training attraction in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom was never removed from the park.
CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW SHINING ON THE DISNEYLAND PARIS CASTLE 🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/PIJvv8oFAU
— E L I S A 🇫🇷🥖 (@deppressead) June 18, 2022
In short, Disney has taken no steps to remove likenesses or portrayals of the fan-favorite Johnny Depp-Captain Jack Sparrow character in any way.
After all, the character of Captain Jack–as it was created and played by Johnny Depp–was nearly single-handedly responsible for the growth of the ride-inspired film franchise from mere films about pirates to a nearly $5 billion franchise, and Disney couldn’t afford to lose such a lucrative franchise–one that has long been centered around the Jack Sparrow character as embodied by actor Johnny Depp.
Disney’s Continued Cold Shoulder to Depp
It’s difficult to deny that Disney’s continued cold-shoulder treatment of Depp gives the company the appearance of being above the law of the land, similar to the appearance Disney had as the company looked upon Depp as an abuser, finding him guilty before there was time for a court of law to find him guilty.
On June 1, 2022, when the jury delivered its verdict in the Depp v. Heard defamation case, nothing changed between Disney and Johnny Depp. Does The Walt Disney Company carry more weight than a court of law? Than the verdict in a case? Than the lack of evidence against Depp? Than the endless stream of lies Heard continued to unravel as part of her “testimony” in the case?
No. But Disney didn’t seem to understand that.
It’s important to note that Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer has long been vocal about his desire to have Depp return to the franchise in the sixth film. But without a green light from Disney, any hope of bringing Depp back, like many of his on-screen pirate enemies, is dead in the water.
A Change of Heart at Disney?
Now, nearly two years after the delivery of the verdict in Depp’s defamation case against his former spouse, could it be that studio execs at Disney are having a change of heart? A new report makes it sound likely.
Per the report, Johnny Depp’s return as Captain Jack Sparrow in the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film is “desired by Disney,” but there’s a catch, and it’s ridiculous.
According to a leaker who’s hailed as “respected and reliable,” part of Pirates of the Caribbean 6 will be set in Haiti, the third largest island country in the Caribbean by area. With a population of more than 11 million, Haiti is also the most populous of the Caribbean countries.
“I looked into it, and Pirates of the Caribbean 6 will be set in part in Haiti,” writes MyTimeToShineHello in a post on X, “and the female protagonist will be Haitian.”
I looked into it and Pirates of Caribbean 6 will be set in part in Haiti and the female protagonist will be Haitian. Also they do want Johnny Depp to come back just not as the lead pic.twitter.com/Ayhk390lrw
— MyTimeToShineHello (@MyTimeToShineH) February 9, 2024
Such claims seem to corroborate recent news that actress Ayo Edebiri is being considered for an important role in the sixth swashbuckling film. But the inside scooper continued, unveiling that–though Disney execs are finally reportedly admitting their desire to bring back Depp in the film–they do not want him in the lead role.
‘Pirates’ Fans Are Not Fans of the New Premise
The problem is that a sixth Pirates film–or any Pirates film–minus Johnny Depp at the helm is simply a fool’s errand on Disney’s part.
Though Disney seems to be flip-flopping on its devotion to, and decision about, Johnny Depp, fans of the film series have never wavered. The majority of those fans say they won’t patronize Disney at the box office if the sixth film is made without Depp–and in response to news that Disney wants Depp back, but in a lesser capacity–and not in the lead role–fans have taken to social media to air their grievances with such a proposition.
Many fans are of the opinion that if Disney wants to proceed sans Depp–or with Depp in a reduced role–the sixth film simply shouldn’t be made.
Johnny Depp Has Already Gotten the Last Word With Disney
Regardless of what Walt Disney Company executives ultimately decide about a potential return of Johnny Depp to another scurvy film in the series, the fact remains that the talented actor so perfectly delivered his role in the fifth Pirates film that a sixth one is not necessarily needed.
In the final two to three minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Johnny Depp, channeling his inner Sparrow, delivers a performance so beautiful and so flawless that those final moments in the film could easily serve as the final moments of the franchise.
Jack Sparrow–and the actor behind him–has a “rendezvous beyond [his] beloved horizon,” and it will be interesting to see just what the other side of that beloved horizon looks like.
For now, Depp fans and fans of the franchise will likely continue keeping vigil, awaiting the day when Disney and others in the industry finally come to their senses and exonerate Depp, handing him back the roles his former spouse’s lies cost him, as is only fitting.
Here’s hoping execs at Walt Disney Pictures will do the right thing, once and for all. Depp deserves that rendezvous beyond the beloved horizon, and fans won’t be silenced until that rendezvous is his.
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