Keanu Reeves Replaced Johnny Depp In Billion-Dollar Franchise

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Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise

Credit: Disney

Actor Johnny Depp is one of the most famous men in Hollywood. Following a string of early success in the 80s and 90s, Depp quickly became a household name after starring as Captain Jack Sparrow in his most commercial project to date, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The Disney film franchise would go on to net the studio billions at the box office.

But where there is one role an actor takes on, there are multiple left in their wake, and the widely popular Keanu Reeves may have never starred in his own big movie franchise if Depp hadn’t passed on the role.

Johnny Depp as a confused Jack Sparrow in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise
Credit: Disney

Related: Johnny Depp Told Court He’s Lost $650M Since ‘Pirates’

Johnny Depp’s career has taken a nose dive in the last few years after his ex-wife Amber Heard alleged she was a victim of domestic abuse and violence. The allegations led to one court case at the London High Court and another in Fairfax County, Virginia, last year.

The former, a libel lawsuit, ended with Justice Andrew Nicol siding with News Group Newspapers LTD finding testimonies, including from Heard, of domestic abuse “substantially true.” Depp lost his subsequent appeal request shortly after being told by Warner Bros. to resign from his role as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the Harry Potter spinoff series Fantastic Beasts from Wizarding World creator JK Rowling. Mads Mikkelsen took over the role.

Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in the rally in 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Last year’s $50 million defamation trial, based on Heard’s essay in The Washington Post, ended more favorably for Depp, with the jury’s verdict awarding Depp millions more in both compensatory and punitive damages, even if they also awarded Heard damages for Depp’s own defamation of the actress, too. The six-week court case was overseen by Judge Penney Azcarate and revealed interesting information about both individual’s tenuous careers in Hollywood.

Depp has been removed from his beloved role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, stating during the trial that he could not say a proper goodbye to the character. Similarly, Heard’s position as Mera in the DC Extended Universe is currently unclear. Throughout proceedings, it was reported that Heard’s screentime in the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) had been slashed, had flourished, and had been removed altogether.

Amber Heard as Mera in 'Aquaman'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Legendary Director Tim Burton Calls Disney a “Circus”, Stepping Away From Company

While Depp is unlikely to return to Pirates of the Caribbean, even with a reported $301 million deal in play, the role did catapult him into being one of the highest-paid and most sought-after actors in the industry. So with Pirates, potentially, now behind him, what else could fans have seen him in if he hadn’t turned down the part?

Keanu Reeves Replaced Johnny Depp In Billion-Dollar Franchise

Well, one other billion-dollar role Depp passed over was Neo in The Wachowskis’ The Matrix (1999). Yes, Johnny Depp could have been Neo — but that may have hindered his chance at becoming Jack Sparrow, so fans will likely be pleased he rejected the part.

Keanu Reeves as Neo in 'The Matrix'
Credit: Warner Bros.

According to composer Don David (via The Things), The Wachowskis’s first choice was Depp, with people like Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, and Will Smith also in discussion for the role. Considered one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time, The Matrix netted nearly half a billion at the box office, spawning three sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003), and The Matrix Resurrections (2021). The four-film series garnered $1.7 billion total at the worldwide box office.

Keanu Reeves as Neo in 'The Matrix Resurrections'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Johnny Depp Breaks Internet After Recent Announcement Shatters the ‘Pirates’ Franchise

It would be Keanu Reeves that landed the part, replacing The Wachowski’s first choice of Depp as Neo in the movies. Reeves starred alongside Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus), Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), and Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith). After success in The Matrix franchise, Reeves would make a comeback in 2014 with the beginning of the John Wick franchise, starting with John Wick (2014), and then John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (2019), and most recently, John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023).

Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Credit: Lionsgate

Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise

As for Depp, fans can still catch him as the iconic character on Disney+ in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). The fourth installment was the most expensive film ever made at the time of release but went on to bring home over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. The entire Pirates series saw receipts of over $4.5 billion in total.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise
Credit: Disney

As for the future, reports have indicated that Margot Robbie’s reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been squashed, while producer Jerry Bruckheimer has hinted his work with Depp is far from over.

Could you imagine Johnny Depp as Neo in The Matrix? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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