Is ‘Pirates 4’ a Sinking Ship?

Jack SparrowAt Disney‘s recent D23 conference the company announced that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would be going into production. Perhaps more importantly, the film would set sail with the man who really made the franchise what it is, Johnny Depp. Depp even went so far as to attend the announcement in character as his Pirate alter ego Jack Sparrow. Staggering out on stage Depp joked about drinking and having a light snack, Kermit, who “probably tasted like chicken. ” Classic Sparrow.

Of course, the audience went wild when Depp arrived. That’s simply the effect the actor, and character, have. It’s also one of the main reasons the franchise has grossed over two billion dollars worldwide. Unfortunately, Disney may have ruined their chances for continuing the very lucrative franchise with the departure (some would say ousting) of Dick Cook, now former chairman of Walt Disney Studios.

Depending on what you read, there are different theories as to what happened. Read the official Disney press statements and Cook’s resignation sounds like it was his decision. In contrast, other sources say he was fired by Disney’s chief executive Bob Iger, who cited dwindling profits for his decision:

“In the most recent quarter, the studio lost $12 million — despite the success of “Up” from Pixar, and the hit comedy “The Proposal” — in contrast to a profit of $97 million in the same period a year earlier. The loss was attributed to tumbling DVD sales tied to the underperforming pictures.”

Either way, it may have put Pirates 4 in jeopardy given the close relationship between Cook and Depp. Labeling Cook as “instantly trustworthy”, Depp went on to explain how their bond was formed:

“When things went a little sideways on the first ‘Pirates’ movie and others at the studio were less than enthusiastic about my interpretation of the character, Dick was there from the first moment. He trusted me,” said Depp, referring to his controversial choices to fill his mouth with gold fillings and wear “things tied into my hair” that made him resemble Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards as much as he did a pirate.”

With the sudden and unexpected departure of Cook, Depp’s “enthusiasm for a fourth Pirates movie has waned with the news of Cook’s exit.” He further stated that while a deal was in place for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides a lot would now depend on how good the script is. This coming from the man who boarded the original Pirates film before a script was even written.

Given the massive appeal of this franchise I like to think a fourth film could still come to fruition. However, Depp has never come across as someone who bends to Hollywood’s demands. He’s always done his own thing so there’s the chance he may simply walk away, and could take the entire franchise with him. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is scheduled for release in 2011 — or at least it was until all this happened.

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