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The news that Disney exec Dick Cook was leaving the company was important to the people who work in the studio itself, but the part that got movie fans concerned was Johnny Depp's suggestion that Cook's absence might make him less enthusiastic to come back for a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean.

Adding to the comments Depp made to the L.A. Times, our regular tipster is saying that even if he makes the fourth film, he definitely won't be back for a fifth or sixth. Given that the Pirates franchise was the only live-action property making any money for the studio, they could reach deep in their pockets and keep Depp on for #4, but they're also preparing to replace Captain Jack with a entirely new character if he refuses a fifth and sixth film.

Also: Johnny Depp is well aware the second two movies sucked. That didn't stop him from signing on for a fourth film, of course, but based on his comments last week it seems that his faith in Dick Cook was a lot of what was keeping him on board.

What this seems to mean for moviegoers is that there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations to keep Depp happy for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides, but there probably isn't any amount of money that will convince him to stick around after that. Sounds similar to what Tobey Maguire is planning for Spider-Man 4, and probably the only appropriate thing for a guy as busy as Depp to do. But if they decide to replace Jack Sparrow for the fifth and sixth film, I predict they'd have something resembling a fan mutiny on their hands.

UPDATE: Disney gave us their side of the story, including a promise that Depp will indeed take part in Pirates 4. You can read all about that here.