At the Movies

Pirates of the Caribbean Needs Johnny Depp

We look at why the reaction by fans to the two-upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movies without Johnny Depp make perfect sense.

JULY 2nd, 2020

© Disney


here is a long-held belief that no actor is bigger than the movie they star in, but with the news that two Pirates of the Caribbean movies are being developed by Disney, there has been one resounding question asked by fans – what happened to Jack Sparrow? And by extension, Johnny Depp? For most, the Hollywood legend is Pirates of the Caribbean, and without their favourite pirate captain, what would be the point of rebooting one of Disney’s most lucrative franchises? The ensuing debate has since opened up a more complex conversation, one which has stemmed into Depp’s personal life.

In recent months, Johnny Depp has been trying to clear his name after a slew of allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard. Accusations of domestic, emotional and mental abuse have been thrown Depp’s way, with Amber using the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements as a platform to speak out. Subsequently, her claims have garnered the attention of the media, with The Sun newspaper labelling the Hollywood icon a “wife beater”.

A scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - © Disney

Depp is now suing the newspaper and the journalist which wrote the accompanying article, Dan Wootton. The High Court libel case is currently in limbo, and lawyers for The Sun argued that proceedings should be dropped after Depp was found in breach of court for failing to disclose “drug texts” to its lawyers.

Whilst the future of Depp’s libel case is decided (*Update: the case has been confirmed to go ahead*), what has been more interesting – and concerning – is the instant cancellation of one of the industries most celebrated stars. Within days of the initial allegations made by Heard, the movie industry turned against Depp. Future movie roles were allegedly dropped, and the once most sought-after actor quickly became box office poison.

One of those roles was the rumoured return of Johnny in his acclaimed role as Captain Jack Sparrow. Having played the part since 2003’s blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Depp has become synonymous with the drunken, cheeky yet lovable rogue pirate. His ‘performance’ has even left the screen through his numerous visits to children’s hospitals dressed as Sparrow. For fans, Depp is the reason they are consistently drawn back to the world of swashbuckling action and adventure.

Since the announcement of two potential reboots, one rumoured to star Karen Gillian and the other confirmed to be helmed by Margot Robbie, fans have responded with frustration. It is worth pointing out that these irritations are not aimed at Robbie or Gillian – with many thinking the actresses would be great additions to the franchise – they simply don’t understand why Johnny Depp isn’t involved.

Segment of the audio exchange between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard - © Hyper Entertainment

Some have speculated that Disney have caved to pressure to distance themselves from the actor after his ex-wife’s allegations. If this is the case, then surely with the recent revelations disproving many of Amber Heard’s initial accusations, Disney should re-evaluate their decision? In leaked recordings, the Aquaman actress was heard admitting to physically hitting Depp and throwing pots and pans. “I’m sorry that I didn’t, uh, uh, hit you across the face in a proper slap,” she begins, “but I was hitting you, it was not punching you.”

The recordings have led many to the conclusion that Johnny was in fact the one being abused and Amber the alleged abuser. Since their release, many of Heard’s supporters have gone silent, with prominent #MeToo campaigner Amanda de Cadenet pulling her support. Cadenet was also set to testify for the actress and has now refused to. In a statement she said: “I also acknowledged that new facts have come to my attention which has changed my perspective on this matter.

“When the first audio tape was released, and I heard Amber being verbally abusive to Johnny, I was horrified.”

This recanting of support confirmed what many fans of Depp strongly believed – that the actor was innocent. Adding the almost universal support from the casts and crews Johnny had worked with throughout his career, including fellow Pirates of the Caribbean stars, Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, Penelope Cruz and Geoffrey Rush, Depp has fixed much of his broken reputation.

Disney have yet to make any comments on the entire Depp/Heard saga or confirm the return of Jack Sparrow, but there could be bigger worries on the horizon for the movie studio juggernaut. Fans have promised to boycott any future Pirates movie which doesn’t feature Depp. This isn’t due to the castings, but more so to stand in solidarity with a man whose own personal experience with abuse has been undermined, undervalued and dismissed. To them, Johnny Depp was swiftly abandoned by Disney – a studio which has a lot to thank him for.

Australian actress, Margot Robbie is set to star in a female-led stand-alone Pirates of the Caribbean movie - © Getty Images

There is no denying that without Jack Sparrow the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise would not have celebrated the success it has, and the reception of that character is solely down to Johnny Depp. After all, Disney originally hated his interpretation of Sparrow, believing he was making a joke out of the entire project. They tentatively allowed Johnny to continue to play the part his way, though not without some convincing from director Gore Verbinski. The studio was eating humble-pie (or rum) after he was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal, and quickly became the star of the movie.

Johnny Depp is the beating heart of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. His unfair treatment by Hollywood and the instant belief in Amber Heard’s allegations has potentially resulted in the loss of one of Disney’s most celebrated characters. The entire ugly saga is a tragic shame, not only for fans, but for Depp too. He shows a genuine love and affection for Jack Sparrow, and visibly revels in playing him either on screen or in hospitals.

Whatever the future for the Pirates of the Caribbean series, without Depp, these movies will never reciprocate the magic and mischief of Jack Sparrow – and all of us should feel deeply sad about that.

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