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Can the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise survive without Captain Jack Sparrow? Or, more precisely, Johnny Depp as said captain? Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were recently hired by Disney to work on a Pirates of the Caribbean reboot. It was rumored -- fairly assumed -- that meant Johnny Depp would not be involved. Disney's president of production, Sean Bailey, had this to say when asked if Pirates can survive without Depp:
We want to bring in a new energy and vitality. I love the [Pirates of the Caribbean] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that's what I've tasked them with.
Savvy? That's being taken as Sean Bailey confirming to THR that Johnny Depp won't be involved in the reboot. That was understood to be the case anyway. Anything that did include him would be more like Pirates 6 and not a real reboot.
That doesn't answer the question of whether the world wants a reboot, and only the box office would answer the question of whether Pirates as a franchise can survive without Johnny Depp.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise started in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl. After five movies, it has made more than $4.5 billion worldwide. There's still talk of Pirates of the Caribbean 6, which is separate from this reboot talk. Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales told a sad tale of bad reviews and domestic disappointment, but it did make plenty of money overseas. Still, Pirates 6 talk appears to be on the backburner, for now, as this reboot script takes form.
So far, all we have are rumors. There's talk that new pirate Redd might replace Jack Sparrow, as much as one could ever do that, as a lead character of the reboot. But that is a pure rumor.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become synonymous with Captain Jack Sparrow. He has been in every film, and it's hard to imagine more films without him. That doesn't mean they can't work, but it's going to take some convincing, not only on the domestic front, but especially in the all-important international market.
Johnny Depp has struggled at the domestic box office of late -- and struggled in the news, with some domestic issues of his own -- but the foreign box office is always there for him. Hell, they even sat through Mortdecai -- giving it $40 million when the North American box office wrote it off with only $7.5 million. They gave The Lone Ranger $171M to the domestic $90M.
So I'm not convinced yet that the Pirates franchise can survive at the box office without Johnny Depp. They may make a fantastic reboot. I may personally love it. But unless they make it on a microbudget, it will probably be tough to make a profit without Johnny Depp's name and Captain Jack Sparrow's face splashed on a poster. Still, risks are worth taking, even a partial risk that wants to have it both ways -- milking a franchise while trying something brand new with it.