Will Rob Marshall Direct Pirates 4?

Gore Verbinski stepped out of the captain's cabin for Disney's fourth Pirates of the Cariebbean film, but Variety's BFDealMemo blog suggests the studio may have a new helmer in Rob Marshall. The blog reports that "sources say unless things break down at the last moment, Marshall will be steering the pirate vehicle's next installment." Marshall has three big features under his belt: Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine, to be released later this year. Is he the man to steer the Black Pearl into safe harbor?

That's a rhetorical question, really, because the series is almost a high-profile blank slate right now. With the storyline of the original trilogy concluded, Marshall and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio would be free to do whatever they like with the series. Johnny Depp is obviously returning as Jack Sparrow, and Geoffrey Rush has said he would return as Barbossa; one proposed storyline has Sparrow and Barbossa hitting New Orleans and then searching for the Fountain of Youth. And last weekend at Comic Con, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said that he'd like to be filming by April or May of next year.

The third Pirates film vies in my eyes with Spider-Man 3 as the worst summer film of '07, but I'm more optimistic this time. For one, a new director could freshen things up. And, much more important, there might be a script written before filming begins. You know, like, a finished one. Pirates 2 and 3 were written on the run to varying degrees. That's part of the reason Gore Verbinski wasn't interested in doing another one, and who can blame him? Creating a film on the scale of the last Pirates has to be an intolerable strain, and when there's a constantly evolving script to base it on? I'd rather fight the Kraken, thanks.

Variety reports that Disney has already started to cast some of the new characters that'll appear in this installment, so if Marshall's deal goes through we should hear many more details about the film quite soon.