Disney dropped Johnny Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after Amber Heard's op-ed in The Washington Post, his attorneys allege, and they see the events as connected.
Johnny Depp's lawyers just filed a $50 million defamation suit against Amber Heard, arguing her abuse allegations "were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career." Since the op-ed was published on December 18, the lawsuit also suggests it was done to help promote her film Aquaman.
Amber Heard's op-ed was titled "I spoke up against sexual violence and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." According to Johnny Depp's team, per The Blast and People, her allegations that he was abusive were "categorically and demonstrably false" and were refuted by police, neutral witnesses, and 87 (!) surveillance cameras.
As you might imagine, Amber Heard does not see it that way. Her rep said, in a statement:
Johnny Depp, now 55, and Amber Heard, 32, met on the set of The Rum Diary in 2011, and started dating fresh off his relationship with Vanessa Paradis. Depp and Heard's marriage was short-lived, only lasting from February 2015 until she filed for divorce in May 2016.
Since then, it's been a he said/she said back and forth with their respective teams. But now we can add the allegation that Amber Heard defamed Johnny Depp to the point that Disney -- very quick to dump anyone perceived as problematic -- reportedly dropped him as Captain Jack Sparrow due to her op-ed.
However, there are some question marks with that.
Disney has never said anything publicly about firing Johnny Depp, and they never said they don't plan to make Pirates of the Caribbean 6 -- with or without him -- even amid talks of a reboot/spinoff.
The studio did, however, market the fifth film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as the "Final Adventure," before it even came out in 2017. So you could argue there were already plans in place to say goodbye to Johnny Depp and the franchise.
Dead Men Tell No Tales made a lot of money overseas ($622.3M), but it was a relative disappointment at the domestic box office ($172.5M off a $230M production budget, per Box Office Mojo). It was also a disappointment to many fans and most critics. Still, there was talk that Dead Men Tell No Tales director Joachim RÃ¸nning was being eyed to direct the sequel, and the stars were reportedly contracted to return for another film.
There were no official announcements about that film last year, but that's not unusual. There was, however, speculation that Disney could save $90 million by writing Johnny Depp out of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So that has to be added as a potential factor in Depp allegedly being dropped from the franchise.
That said, if Johnny Depp's lawyers are arguing that he was dropped just a few days after Amber Heard's op-ed, then there may be something on the record in terms of a phone call to his reps firing him for a specific reason. That's not quite the same as just putting the franchise on the backburner or thinking they might save money with a cheaper film to reboot the franchise -- which was always based off a theme park ride, not Johnny Depp's now iconic character.
Then again, Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were said to be in talks to write a reboot script in October -- that's two months before Amber Heard's op-ed in question. So Disney was already headed in the reboot direction.
Disney had expressed confidence in the Pirates franchise surviving without Johnny Depp, but that was in reference to the idea of a reboot movie attracting an audience with a new cast. That reboot plan seems to have hit a rough patch since the Deadpool screenwriters are now no longer attached.
So we don't know what's ahead for Pirates of the Caribbean, with or without Johnny Depp. Fans seem to have entrenched themselves on their respective sides in this Depp/Heard fight, even though none of us were actually in the marriage with them. People who were actually in their lives are also taking sides and sharing their perspectives. It's ugly.
But the ugliness hasn't stopped both Amber Heard and Johnny Depp from acting in blockbuster franchises. She had a $1 billion success as Mera in Aquaman, and Depp played the headline character in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald; he's expected to return for the next three movies in the franchise, which is planned for five films culminating in Grindelwald's duel with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law).
CinemaBlend will keep an eye on any Pirates of the Caribbean updates from Disney and the stars. In the meantime, keep up with the movies that will be hitting theaters this year with our 2019 movie schedule.
Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.
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