If you’ve ever watched any of the five films in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, you know that Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is the face — and personality, savvy? — of the films.
But, as it turns out, the team in the Pirates writers’ room actually preferred another character to Sparrow’s swaggering self. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio shared details about the fact that, in their minds, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is actually the main character in the popular series, based on the Disney Parks ride of the same name.
“In Pirates, Elizabeth is the protagonist, representing the idea of the romance of the pirate. The romantic illusion of the outlaw is a very common concept in our society; in fact, the underpinning of all romances is the anti-hero, the Byronic bad boy. That’s what Elizabeth is looking for.
Each of the characters surrounding her present differing points of view on that issue. [Buena Vista Motion Picture Group President] Nina Jacobson put it best. She said it’s like an animated movie: you have the prince (Norrington [Captain Norrington played by Jack Davenport), the pauper (Will [Will Turner played by Orlando Bloom]), the rogue (Jack [Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp) and the villain (Barbossa [Captain Hector Barbossa played by Geoffrey Rush). All of these characters are presenting these different points of view to the princess (Elizabeth).”
Elliot also shared that the team enjoyed creating a new “hero’s journey” for Elizabeth that didn’t relinquish her femininity. He noted that when this type of story arc is used “it’s usually a complete imitation of the journey that a male character would take.”
Instead, in Knightley’s Pirates of the Caribbean films — The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Dead Man’s Chest (2006), At World’s End (2007), and a cameo in Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) — the scriptwriters enjoyed giving Elizabeth a unique role that they all thoroughly enjoyed writing, making her, not Jack Sparrow, the favorite character among Gore Verbinski’s team.
More on Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard
Johnny Depp, who was fired from his iconic role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in the midst of his legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard (Aquaman, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) has been in the news more than his fair share lately.
Depp lost his libel lawsuit against U.K. News Group Newspaper publication, The Sun, in London last fall, after vehemently denying domestic violence allegations that Heard made in the tabloid, including the fact that Depp allegedly held her “hostage” in Australia during a Pirates of the Caribbean shoot.
Judge Andrew Nicol presided over the original proceedings, and Depp later lost his right to appeal the original ruling in the United Kingdom. The Captain Jack Sparrow actor, for his part, has denied the domestic violence allegations, with even his ex-partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, speaking out in his defense at various points in time.
Depp also has a loyal fan base who have caused #JusticeForJohnnyDepp to trend online on multiple occasions throughout the libel case. Some of the actor’s supporters have also decided to boycott Disney and Warner Bros. Studios for firing Depp from his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates and Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, respectively.
Sparrow is expected to be replaced by Margot Robbie as a female pirate in the reported Pirates of the Caribbean 6. Meanwhile, Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) has been confirmed to replace Depp as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3.
Heard and Depp will next meet in court in Virginia, potentially with tech mogul Elon Musk on the stand as a witness.
Do you think Elizabeth Swann is the best character in Pirates?