The Disney Brass Weren't Big Fans Of Johnny Depp's Pirates Of The Caribbean Performance

Until recent years, news coverage of Johnny Depp mostly focused on his abilities as a character actor and the staggering success of "The Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. At the moment, Depp can only be seen in live streams of his defamation trial against Amber Heard, and the Disney franchise is on unstable ground. Instead of diving into the minefield of details in the court case, I'm here to focus on his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, which, strangely enough, he testified about.

"Funny old world innit?"

For some fans of the series, Captain Jack is the reason they kept watching the countless sequels Disney churned out, and it's easy to understand why. From the moment he sails into town atop a sinking boat and swaggers onto the dock, it's clear this character isn't the stereotypical ruthless pirate from ancient tales, and that's what makes him interesting.

Originally, Disney wanted Captain Jack to be the hero that swoops in and saves the damsel in distress, but that's not who Depp imagined him to be. Depp's version of the character is a staggering, rum-guzzling, cartoonish criminal, who has been driven mad by the sun. Disney executives were confused by Depp's flamboyant performance — and even considered firing him.

'Making a soup'

As Depp recalls in his testimony, he was first sent the "Pirate of the Caribbean" script back in 2002, and he thought it read like a typical Disney film:

"It had all the hallmarks of a Disney film, that is to say, a predictable three-act structure, and the character of Captain Jack was more of a swashbuckler type that would swing in shirtless and be the hero. I had quite different ideas about the character, so I incorporated my notes into the character, and brought that character to life, much to the chagrin of Disney initially."

Back in the early 2000s, Depp was the father of a toddler, and spent many hours watching old classic cartoons. He was inspired by Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny's silliness and flamboyance, and the cartoon genre's ability to suspend disbelief to a ridiculous degree. He wanted Captain Jack to have these abilities and characteristics:

"For example, Wile E. Coyote gets a boulder dropped on his head and he's completely crushed, but they cut to the next scene and he's just got a little bandage on his head ... And nobody ever asked a question, whether you were 5 or 95, you didn't ask a question. 'Oh, Wile E. Coyote, of course he's still alive,' so I tried to incorporate these kinds of ideas into the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, so that I could try to push those parameters and control the suspension of disbelief to be able to control the character's actions, words, movements, and put them in a place where the things that he would do or say were so ... ludicrous ... So, for me, it was a way to stretch the parameters of a character and take a risk."

In the end, Depp decided Captain Jack should be a "soup" of Pepé Le Pew and Keith Richards, which raised a lot of skeptical eyebrows among Disney executives.

'They couldn't understand Captain Jack'

When filming began on "Pirates of the Caribbean," Disney was totally thrown by Depp's performance. They wanted a hero, but they got a staggering, slurring character with a silly run. The actor remembers getting a call from Disney's higher ups:

"I got a call from the upper echelon at Disney who were courageous enough to ask me, 'What the f*** are you doing?' And again, the questions came up, 'Is it drunk? Is it gay?' All I could say was, cause they set me up with a great line, I said, 'Well don't you know all my characters are gay?' I really expected to be fired, but I wasn't for some reason. They were actually gonna put subtitles under my character, they couldn't understand Captain Jack."

Disney can't be blamed for thinking Captain Jack is a strange character because he is, but they should have expected that when they hired Johnny Depp. It's like they forgot this man played Edward Scissorhands, who is possibly one of the strangest characters in a movie ever. Despite the execs' questions and confusion about the character, they must have warmed to Depp's version because they kept him on the project.

Audiences loved Captain Jack Sparrow's cartoonish nature, and "The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" earned $305 million domestically and spawned four successful sequels. Collectively, the films have earned Disney well over a billion dollars, but recent events might affect the franchises' future.

The end of Captain Jack

In December of 2018, the current president of Disney, Sean Bailey, revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that "Pirates of the Caribbean 6" won't feature Captain Jack at all, explaining they wanted the film to have "new energy and vitality." It's not clear whether this is because of recent abuse allegations or because the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films have been decreasing in popularity with each sequel. Either way, Disney is going to attempt to continue the franchise without the mischievous Captain Jack.

Unlike Wile E. Coyote, this is a crushing boulder Captain Jack is not likely to survive.