Johnny Depp’s Return as Jack Sparrow in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 6’ May Save Disney Studios

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Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow leaning on a ship steering wheel

Credit: Disney

Johnny Depp’s return as Captain Jack Sparrow in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean 6 could stop The Walt Disney Company’s current box office woes while resurrecting a once staple part of the House of Mouse’s live-action adventure library.

With superhero fatigue setting in and Marvel movies bombing at the box office, as well as a string of lukewarm outings for both Disney and Pixar animation and Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones misfire, could Johnny Depp be the savior of Disney?

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

Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean

What is the Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise?

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a five-film series distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, National Treasure), the Pirates movies — which are based on and inspired by the theme park ride of the same name at Disney Parks such as Disneyland Resort (Anaheim, Southern California) and Walt Disney World Resort (Orlando, Central Florida) — have made over $4 billion at the worldwide box office.

The series and the gross is made up of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) with $654 million, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) with $1.066 billion, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) with $961 million, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) with $1.046 billion, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). At the time of its release, the fourth movie, On Stranger Tides, was the most expensive movie ever made, with a net budget close to $400 million.

The first three movies were directed by Gore Verbinski, with Rob Marshall helming the fourth installment and Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg directing the fifth. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is the 15th highest-grossing film series.

'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End' logo
Credit: Disney

Who does Johnny Depp play in Pirates of the Caribbean?

Actor Johnny Depp plays the character of Captain Jack Sparrow. Despite earning worldwide recognition and international acclaim for his turn as the boisterous pirate, Depp was not the first choice to play the character. Actors like Jim Carrey, Christopher Walken, and Michael Keaton were all involved at some point in playing the role. It would be director Gore Verbinski that got Disney thinking about casting Depp — and even after hiring him for the part, Disney was still not sure about his performance.

“Disney hated me. [They were] thinking of every way they could to get rid of me, to fire me,” the long-time Tim Burton collaborator said to GQ (via CinemaBlend). “‘Oh, we’re going to have to subtitle him.’ ‘We don’t understand Captain Jack Sparrow. What’s wrong with him?’ ‘What’s wrong with his arms?’ ‘Is he drunk?’ ‘Is he mentally f****** stupefied?’ ‘Is he gay?”

And it’s a good job for Disney that they did keep Depp on, as he is largely why the support for the franchise is so high. And why, even after years of lawsuits and litigation, they still include the character at Disney Resorts worldwide.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Credit: Disney

Related: Keanu Reeves Replaced Johnny Depp In Billion-Dollar Franchise

How many Pirates of the Caribbean movies has Johnny Depp starred in?

Depp has played the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies. While other leading stars like Orlando Bloom (Will Turner) and Kiera Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) appeared in most of the five Pirates films, Depp has been the anchor for the series, appearing in every installment. This, of course, isn’t a bad thing for the fans as many believe Depp’s Sparrow is the Pirates franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean 6

Why is Johnny Depp currently not part of the franchise?

Johnny Depp recently had his first on-screen appearance in years in Maïwenn’s Jeanne du Barry (2023). Playing King Louis XV, Jeanne du Barry opened the Cannes Film Festival to standing ovations. This movie was seen by many in the industry as Depp’s “comeback” event.

Let’s go back a handful of years. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who met on the set of The Rum Diary (2011), were married in 2015, with Heard filing for divorce in mid-2016. At the same time, Heard took out a restraining order against the actor on grounds of verbal and physical abuse; a settlement was reached in August 2016, and the divorce was finalized in 2017.

Amber Heard as Mera (left) gazing at Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry (right) in 'Aquaman'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Not long after, in 2018, the British tabloid The Sun labeled Depp as a “wife-beater” on the front page of the national newspaper. Depp sued News Group Newspapers LTD, the parent company of The Sun, for libel. However, at the 2020 libel trial in London, United Kingdom, where both Depp and Heard testified, Justice Andrew Nicol found 12 of the 14 claims of domestic abuse substantially true. Due to the outcome at the London High Court, Warner Bros. asked Depp to resign from his role as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff, the Fantastic Beasts franchise. The role was taken over by Mads Mikkelsen (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny).

In December 2018, Heard published an Opinion Editorial (Op-Ed) in The Washington Post titled “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Detailing her life as a victim and survivor of domestic and sexual violence, and while never mentioning Depp by name, he was inherently locked in as the perpetrator of her allegations. Depp launched a $50 million defamation lawsuit at the start of 2019.

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

The highly-publicized 2022 defamation trial in Fairfax County, Virginia, lasted six weeks, with both Depp and Heard, as well as others like British model Kate Moss, testifying in front of Judge Penney Azcarate and the jury. Depp’s team, led by Camille Vasquez and Ben Chew, went against Heard’s team of Elaine Bredehoft and Benjamin Rottenborn, with the jury eventually finding that Heard did defame Depp on all three counts, awarding him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages (lowered by Azcarate to $350,000 per Virginia state law). For Heard’s $100 million countersuit, the jury awarded the DC actress $2 million in compensatory damages for matters pertaining to Depp’s former lawyer Adam Waldman.

The legal battles and allegations of domestic violence from Heard have left Depp shut out of potential Disney projects, including his return as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 6. Over the years, and even through the trial loss in London, fans have stuck by the actor, with trends like #JusticeForJohnnyDepp often blowing up online. Heard cited that the support was always weighted in her ex-husband’s direction making for an unfair trial in the Virginia courts.

Which leads us to now.

Johnny Depp at D23
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Faces Massive New “Johnny Depp” Problem as Actor Officially Charged With Assault

What have Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer said about the sixth film?

During the defamation trial, Depp was asked by Ben Rottenborn, “The fact is, Mr. Depp, if Disney came to you with $300 million and a million alpacas, nothing on this earth would get you to go back and work with Disney on a Pirates of the Caribbean film? Correct?” To which the actor replied, “That is true, Mr. Rottenborn.”

Following his testimony, reports swirled that Disney was reportedly offering Depp $301 million to come back to the franchise. These rumors were ultimately quashed, with one of Depp’s reps telling NBC, “This is made up.”

Johnny Depp looking sad playing Captain Jack Sparrow in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'
Credit: Disney

But, while it may have seemed like Depp would never head back to the high seas, back in March 2023, producer Jerry Bruckheimer spoke to Entertainment Tonight.

“We’re all working on it,” the acclaimed producer told the outlet when asked about Johnny Depp’s return to Pirates. “We’ll see how it comes out; we’re very excited. I think we’re going to have a great screenplay; we’re getting close.” On Depp reprising his role, Bruckheimer added, “We’ll see. I’d love it. I would love to have him in the movie; that’s all I can tell you.”

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow looking inside a treasure chest in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise
Credit: Disney

What has Johnny Depp said about Pirates of the Caribbean 6?

After leaving Hollywood behind for a life in the English countryside, Depp is now on tour with the Hollywood Vampires. While he has not explicitly spoken about whether he would return or not, a source close to the actor recently said, “Anything is possible. If it’s the right project, he’ll do it” (via PEOPLE).

What about Margot Robbie?

At one point, celebrated actress Margot Robbie (Barbie) was tapped to lead a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This was meant to be a spinoff and not a sequel to Dead Men Tell No Tales, but Robbie later shared it was dead in the water, with Bruckheimer following up on the actress’ comments saying that it was on hold while work moved on the sequel.

Margot robbie as barbie in barbie movie cowboy outfit
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Johnny Depp Stars in Amber Heard’s Movie Despite Domestic Violence Controversy

So with support for Johnny Depp still high, if not higher, than before the allegations and subsequent court battles commenced, teamed with the financial success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and both Jerry Bruckheimer’s and Depp’s alleged comments, it seems rather inevitable that Captain Jack Sparrow will return for a sixth time.

Do you think Johnny Depp will appear in Pirates of the Caribbean 6? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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