Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is still something of an unsinkable juggernaut. While interest stateside might have wavered a bit, globally it remains a genuine phenomenon – the last entry, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, amassed nearly $800 million at the global box office. That’s a lot of doubloons.
So when our very own Steve Weintraub jumped on a Zoom call with producer (and Pirates of the Caribbean’s captain) Jerry Bruckheimer for his upcoming Starz series Hightown, he also had to inquire about the status of Pirates of the Caribbean 6. (And we’ll have more from the chat with Bruckheimer very soon.)
“We’re working on a draft right now and hopefully we’ll get it shortly and give it to Disney and hopefully they’ll like it,” Bruckheimer said. “We don’t know. We’ve been working on it for a little bit.”
And it’s true – they have been working on the project for a while. In the fall of 2018, a little over a year since Dead Men Tell No Tales was released, it was announced that Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were in talks to write the script. (At the time Disney film production chief Sean Bailey said the pair were going to “make Pirates punk rock again.”) But a few months later, Reese and Wernick had already left the project and it was questionable how punk rock the Pirates franchise would ever be. Last fall, it was announced that Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott, one of the original Pirates of the Caribbean writers, would be teaming up for the new script. This is presumably the draft Bruckheimer is alluding to.
But the biggest question is: what of Johnny Depp? The original film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, catapulted Depp to international superstardom and earned him an Oscar nomination for his performance as seafaring scoundrel Jack Sparrow. Depp has starred in every subsequent film and embraced the persona wholeheartedly, occasionally showing up to the D23 Expo or the Disneyland attraction in full regalia. It’s just that in the years since, Depp’s personal life has become increasingly complicated and, aside from his appearances in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films, his commercial instincts have faltered. Around the time the last Pirates of the Caribbean opened, Depp was so radioactive that he couldn’t do press for the movie.
When asked about Depp’s role, Bruckheimer was cagey. “The one we’re developing right now, we’re not sure quite what Johnny’s role is going to be,” Bruckheimer said. “So, we’re going to have to see.”
Reading between the lines, it seems like there’s a possibility for Depp to show up, perhaps in a limited or cameo capacity, but that it’s unlikely that he’d be the lead character once again. If he was, then a) Bruckheimer would probably have just said, “Yeah it’s another Jack Sparrow adventure,” and b) it seems inconceivable that you’d just write a giant action movie without knowing who the main character was supposed to be. Online speculation has been that the new movie will focus on Redd, a character introduce to the attraction in 2018 as a replacement for a problematic set piece from the original ride, who has already been widely embraced by guests and the company (there’s a ton of merchandise with the new character and even meet-and-greet opportunities). For those that don’t know, there was an auction scene in the original version of the attraction, with a redhead being auctioned off to the highest bidder. That, obviously, was pretty sexist and had to go. (The attraction has a history of alterations and changes throughout the years, both to address cultural depictions like this and also to instate Depp’s Jack Sparrow into the ride.) In 2018 a new version of the scene highlighted Redd, a female pirate with a handsome stash, with townsfolk bringing her things like paintings and the like. In short: she went from a victim of human trafficking to an empowered bad ass.
As of now, it remains to be seen what role Depp will have in the new feature and whether or not it will actually focus on this new character. It is, however, clear that future Pirates of the Caribbean installments are a top priority for both Disney and Bruckheimer. Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho.
Watch what Bruckheimer had to say below: