Why Keira Knightley Thought Pirates Of The Caribbean Would Flop

In the early 2000s, Disney took a wild chance turning one of its theme park attractions into a summer blockbuster adventure. It was an especially risky move for the House of Mouse to make, considering it was also a pirate movie, and to that date, the most recent theatrical pirate outings had done nothing but fail. But Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a blockbuster and worldwide phenomenon that spawned a billion-dollar franchise (you can see our ranking of all the Pirate films), turning the cast into overnight stars. One of the series’ actors, Keira Knightly, was confident the movie was bound to be a flop. 

In a recent ABC News 20-year retrospective of the film Love Actually, Diane Sawyer sat down with many people responsible for creating the critically and fan-revered romantic classic to understand its lasting success. The film’s director, Richard Curtis, recalls meeting actress Kiera Knightly (who plays Juliet in the movie) before her meteoric Hollywood rise and the thoughts she shared with the filmmaker about her upcoming swashbuckling film. Curtis told Sawyer:

I remember sitting down with Keira while we were shooting and saying, ‘What are you doing next?’ And she said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work. It’s a pirate film, and they always fail.’

Who can blame the young actress for assuming the Pirates movie would fail? Before the release of the Gore Verbinski-directed action movie, the last big pirate film to be released theatrically was the box office mega bomb Cutthroat Island. The Renny Harlin film is considered responsible for causing pirate movies to go dormant until The Pirates films revived the genre.

It’s easy to look back now and laugh at Keira Knightley’s feelings at the time. She became a massive star thanks partly to the first three Pirates movies. Knightley will likely not return in future Pirates films, but the franchise refuses to die. There have already been five films in the main series, and there have been rumors of a potential reboot or remake for years. In recent months, the project furthest along was a spinoff starring Margot Robbie, but the actress says the studio isn’t interested in moving forward with her idea. 

While we don’t know everything, what we do know about the future of The Pirates franchise is that, despite online petitions and vocal fans, Disney has expressed confidence in the series moving forward without Johnny Depp as Captain Jack. Undoubtedly, the company will not let its billion-dollar franchise flounder for very long. I’m sure some take on the property will hit theaters in the not-too-distant future. 

Only time will tell if a Depp-less Pirates movie will be worth wild for Disney. Perhaps, in its second iteration, the series will be that flop Knightley was certain The Black Pearl would be. Or maybe, Disney will take another chance, and it will pay off with high seas thrill ride audiences will flock to like they did with the first Pirates film. Until then, we will have to enjoy rewatching the original movies, all available streaming with a Disney+ subscription. Pirates of the Caribbean fans might also be interested in our list of the 11 best pirates movies and where to watch them. 

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing. An expert in all things horror, Ryan enjoys covering a wide variety of topics. He's also a lifelong comic book fan and an avid watcher of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.