What is the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise without its star, Johnny Depp, and the Keith Richards-esque Jack Sparrow character that has long been its heavily-mascaraed face? That’s something nobody would have thought to consider until 2017’s underwhelming Dead Men Tell No Tales, which earned a series low $794M after a long production struggle just to get off the ground. But it is indeed happening; a few months ago Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were hired to revitalize things for the sixth movie, one that would be 100% Depp free.
And we’re learning a big reason why, and it’s more than just Depp’s toxic public image that, at least in my opinion, sunk Fantastic Beasts 2‘s domestic box office numbers. It’s the extraordinary cost of keeping Depp around, as the man commanded a salary upwards of $90M per flick according to Forbes. Hot damn. Now, when the franchise was commanding $1B each and every time out, Disney could overlook Depp’s extraordinary cost, figuring there was still value. But now? Not so much.
Dead Men Tell No Tales was hardly a disaster, though. At nearly $800M it still turned a hefty profit, but when you factor in the $230M production budget plus the advertising costs, it comes out on the low end of the franchise totem pole. Plus, Forbes notes Depp’s heavy involvement with the script, no doubt giving himself all of the best gags. No wonder everybody else was so damned bland. Were there other characters other than Jack Sparrow? I can’t remember any. Anyway, at Depp’s high cost and the diminishing returns, you can see why Disney is more than willing to have him walk the plank.