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Johnny Depp Turned Down an Early ‘Pirates 5’ Draft Because It Had a Female Villain


Man, Johnny Depp is having one PR nightmare after another these days. Between lat year’s abuse allegations to this month’s hot goss about his inability to stop himself from spending money, you’d think he’d have run out of messes to get himself into by now. Well, shockingly, you’d be wrong: News just got out that Depp had rejected an early draft of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales script because its villain was a woman.

Screenwriter Terry Rossio, who’s worked with the Pirates franchise for years, has a blog called Wordplay (h/t The Playlist) in which he writes at length about what goes into making a Hollywood screenplay, and how so many have been derailed for a myriad of circumstances. In a new column on the site, Rossio mentions something he calls “World Creation Subject to Whim Destruction,” which basically means that a script can get trashed just because a director or studio moves on to something else, or a star in the movie doesn’t like some aspect of it.

The original title of this column was planned to be World Creation Subject to Whim Destruction. Which I think is a pretty accurate summation of the job of screenwriting in general.…

More recent examples: my television series “Magical Law” lapsed when Gore Verbinski decided to direct “The Lone Ranger” instead. Our theatrical feature “Lightspeed” was put on the back burner when Disney acquired the “Star Wars” franchise. My version of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ was set aside because it featured a female villain, and Johnny Depp was worried that would be redundant to “Dark Shadows,” which also featured a female villain.

Of course there is also the possibility that all those screenplays simply sucked. But usually when I go back to read a screenplay that wasn’t produced, it holds up, often better than the film that was eventually produced. Sometimes it just takes a single decision by a single person, often just a whim, to destroy years of story creation and world-building.

First of all, does anyone actually… remember Dark Shadows? Depp is acting like that movie is part of some immortal film canon when in reality until reading this just now you had probably forgotten it existed. Plus, Dark Shadows isn’t anywhere near the Pirates series, aside from the fact that Depp is in both of them. It’s a pretty flimsy reason to reject a script, especially taking into consideration how sensational movies with large roles for women — like Mad Max: Fury Road, Arrival, and the upcoming Wonder Woman — turn out to be when they open in theaters. Hell, even The Fate of the Furious finally had a female villain.

Regardless of whether Depp really did think his reasoning was sound, or whether we have good old Hollywood sexism to thank for this situation, it doesn’t look good for the guy. Jack Sparrow may have a knack for getting himself out of impossibly sticky situations, but his real world counterpart needs to start cleaning up his act.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters May 26.

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