— by VANNA LAND —
It was just over a week ago that Johnny Depp in full Jack Sparrow regalia joined then Disney chairman, Dick Cook on the Disney D23 stage to announce the next installment of the popular series “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie (sub-titled “On Stranger Tides”).
The 5,000 or so fans in attendance showed wild enthusiasm for the announcement. Flash forward a week and Cook is unceremoniously ousted from Disney without explanation and Depp is reportedly doing some second thinking about his commitment to Disney and to a reprisal of the part that certainly helped to define the popular movie franchise that was based on, of all things, a Disney theme park ride.
Depp’s entrance in a stage replica Black Pearl ship was the grand finale of a program featuring appearances by John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Tim Burton and Miley Cyrus, so Disney executives don’t underestimate his appeal to the audiences both at the expo and in theaters. One does have to wonder though, if they underestimated Cook’s appeal to Depp.
The following is from an article by L.A. Times writer, Claudia Eller. She spoke with Depp via telephone shortly after the Cook departure announcement.
He is the utmost gentleman, so he made the call himself. He said, ‘I’d like you to hear it from me before you hear it from someone else or read it,'” Depp said. “He said today was my last day. He didn’t give me a reason.”
Depp added, “I didn’t see this coming. There was no reason to see this coming.”
The actor said it was because of Cook that he ended up working with Disney in the first place. Cook had been trying to woo Depp for years with various projects including doing voice-overs for animated films and one day, in Cook’s office, the studio chief threw out an idea that Depp pounced on.
Of course it was the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie he was referring to and Depp put his own unique take on the character of Jack Sparrow. He without question made the character his own and in doing so perhaps gave the movie, that a lot of people thought couldn’t possibly succeed, the “spirit” to not fail.
The movie, as announced, is set to star Depp in his iconic role of Captain Jack in a search for the fabled “Fountain of Youth.” Neither of his former co-stars (Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley) is set to be in the next movie. So this was to be a new start with the Captain Jack character going forward with new adventures with his pirate crew without Elizabeth or Will.
Reportedly, the deal Depp has with Disney regarding a fourth “Pirates” movie is provisional and dependent on his approval of a yet-to-be-written script. Again from the L.A. Times article:
“There’s a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment,” Depp said. “It was all born in that office.”
It seems to me that without Depp it is reasonable to believe that, at least for now, there would not be a “Captain Jack” or “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” without him fully on board. One has to wonder just how wide the fissure is and whether it can be mended to keep the franchise moving forward — or if Depp is going to outright revolt.
Furthermore, it seems Disney may just have other, even more far-reaching, revolts on their hands. Patrick Goldstein has an interesting opinion piece in the L.A. Times about the possible reasoning behind the Disney move to oust Cook.
Cook was also a brilliant handler of talent. It’s hardly a surprise that my colleague Claudia Eller was able to get Johnny Depp on the phone Friday night, who happily sang Cook’s praises. Cook had the same rapport with filmmakers as varied as Tim Burton (whose “Alice in Wonderland” will be a big Disney event film in March), Jerry Bruckheimer and writer-director John Lee Hancock, who never forgot that Cook gave him the chance to direct his first film, “The Rookie,” at Disney.
Finally, in her exclusive report of Cook’s exit, Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood states that Steven Spielberg is “devastated” by the news. She claims that Cook, whom according to an insider is “worshiped” by the filmmaker, was the man behind the recent DreamWorks deal with Disney.
Cook’s involvement with the DreamWorks deal also was reported in the LA Times article by Goldstein. Her most recent update included the following concerning Dick Cook’s leaving Disney: Disney insiders continue to insist Dick wasn’t fired. Instead, as one of the sources stresses, “He had a choice, He just didn’t see eye to eye with Bob on how to run the studio. Dick wanted to run the studio his way.”
Looks to me like ‘The Black Pearl’ may not be the only entity heading into “strange tides.”
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