Johnny Depp’s reportedly been made to walk the plank by Disney when it comes to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and the company’s planned reboot of the series is facing even more choppy water.
According to Deadline, the writing team behind Deadpool — previously tapped to bring some much-needed life into the barnacle-laden franchise — has taken the last lifeboat out of there. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have exited the project and left the franchise in a very uncertain position.
Without its wobbling and weaving star — who was the last remaining draw to the later films after much of the main cast trickled away — and the buzzy duo that made box office gold out of an utterly strange cult comic hit, Disney production head Sean Bailey may see his quest to reignite the Pirates franchise fall apart, or at the very least, face reconsideration.
It makes sense why Disney would want to capitalize on the brand, which is the 14th highest-grossing film franchise of all time, ahead of Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games. Even the last film in the series, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales, took in plenty of money overseas on the strength of its name and cast alone. Losing Depp didn’t mean the franchise was done for sure, but the studio needed a fresh reimagining to make sure the memory of the previous films didn’t taint the new run.
Yet, without Reese and Wernick, who were hired in October for their edgy sensibilities with Zombieland and the Deadpool films under their belts, the “punk rock” attitude Bailey was seeking may never surface. Deadline reports that insiders are either saying Disney is already looking for replacements or that the franchise may be beached for the time being. Until Disney proper can figure out what to do, its box office dollars will continue to come from its animated fare and its lucrative Marvel and Star Wars films. But with franchises like those, who needs pirates, anyways?
That said, there are rumblings of a TV adaptation coming that could mean Pirates are headed for the small screen — but with money even tighter and the writing challenges similar, this wouldn’t solve Disney’s problems. For now they're simply stuck with the classic question: "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?"