You can’t argue with numbers, and the numbers say that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is one of the most successful in cinematic history. Over five films, the series has grossed more than $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office. The most recent Pirates flick, 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales, earned almost $800 million (though it hit a franchise low of just $172 million domestic). There’s clearly a broad appeal to these swashbuckling adventures, and Disney is reportedly mulling over a potential reboot of the franchise, with Deadpool scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick penning the script. Most important, though: The Mouse House is expected to move forward without Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
Yes, Depp has played a central role in the franchise and, yes, he was even nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the first Pirates film. But the financial commitment required to keep Captain Jack on board, not to mention the unspoken baggage that accompanies Depp these days, appears to be a leap too far for Disney.
Per Forbes: “Nobody’s thinking about bringing on Johnny for the next one, at his reported $90-million per.”
In December, Disney production head Sean Bailey seemed to hint at Depp’s departure, commenting on the potential reboot’s new direction. “We want to bring in a new energy and vitality,” Bailey said. “I love the [Pirates] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that’s what I’ve tasked them with.”
Given the record-setting budgets of the Pirates movies, it makes sense that Disney would want to cut costs by moving on from Depp. But what might also serve as a contributing factor are the abuse allegations brought against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard. As a result of Heard’s claims, fans called for Depp’s role in Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts franchise to be recast last year, though J.K. Rowling and director David Yates both came to his defense. The family-friendly Disney, however, is notoriously protective of its squeaky-clean brand, which is why the studio made the controversial decision to fire Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn from that franchise’s third film because of offensive tweets from his past.
As of now, there is no official timetable for the Pirates reboot.