ByMax Farrow, writer at Creators.co
Fanatical film-watcher, Hill-walker, Writer and Biscuit Connoisseur. Follow me on Twitter: @Farrow91
Max Farrow

It’s been a rough year or so for Johnny Depp. After the allegations of domestic abuse and a series of financial troubles, he’s attempting to redeem himself in the eyes of his fans by returning to one of his most famous roles: Captain Jack Sparrow. With its release date fast approaching, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has already generated a lot of positive buzz.

Yet many fans of the franchise — and of Depp himself — should prepare to have their timbers shivered, since it seems that Johnny’s actions behind the scenes had a lasting and decidedly disappointing impact on the movie itself.

'Did Everyone See That? Because I Will Not Be Doing It Again.'

Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem as Barbossa and Salazar - the villains of the fifth Pirates movie [Credit: Disney]
Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem as Barbossa and Salazar - the villains of the fifth Pirates movie [Credit: Disney]

Along with his somewhat erratic on-set antics, veteran screenwriter Terry Rossio disclosed that also caused headaches during the writing process of Dead Men Tell No Tales. In a really interesting blog post where he discusses the frank realities of script writing and movie production, Rossio made some curious comments about the latest Pirates installment, particularly concerning Javier Bardem as the villainous Armando Salazar. Indeed, it seems that this vengeful antagonist didn’t appear in the initial scripts; Jack Sparrow was going to face-down with a female foe, until Johnny Depp firmly vetoed the plans. Why? Prepare to roll your eyes Jessica Chastain style, because Rossio reveals that:

“My version of Dead Men Tell No Tales was set aside [just] because it featured a female villain, and Johnny Depp was worried that would be redundant to Dark Shadows, which also featured a female villain.”

Oh dear Johnny. Rossio jokingly admits that this screenplay, and his other scripts, may have also been rejected because they “simply sucked,” but the way that he discusses the script for Dead Men Tell No Tales certainly emphasizes how the villain’s gender was a deciding factor for the film’s star. And honestly, that’s both saddening and infuriating for so many reasons.

Depp’s switch up of script and villain (for a face palm-inducing reason) is very reminiscent of the Iron Man 3 debacle, where one-time Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter forbade the use of a female foe, due to his fear that it would negatively impact the film and its toy sales. As we know, this kind of thinking simply isn’t reflective of reality. Girls and women have been repeatedly shown to have the same amounts of interest in merchandise as male fans, and whilst studios still construct cinema mainly for the guys, they don’t consider that the amount of ladies in those screenings of traditionally “masculine” properties. Indeed, the number of female viewers is increasingly rivaling the number of their male counterparts.

'Are All Pirates This Stupid?'

One thing that's sure to irritate movie buffs is the particular reference to Dark Shadows. Though the film is widely perceived to be a lesser entry in the shared back catalog of Depp and long-time collaborator , Eva Green’s villainous witch is one of its strongest and most memorable elements. Surely, her successful turn should have inspired more female villains in popular films, rather than the contrary?

Not to mention, the kind of cross-film logic in Depp's reasoning is laughable. Put it this way, if we were to go with that line of reasoning, Jack Sparrow shouldn’t be facing off with Bardem’s Salazar at all. For the past four Pirates films, Capn’ Sparrow has combated Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and Blackbeard (Ian McShane), all of whom are cursed, straight white dudes. If two female villains in two different franchises is one repetition too far, then surely four male adversaries in one saga is also too much of a good thing?

As usual, there’s no logical reason why a female character couldn’t set sail and hassle the Captain Jack Sparrow. Those who are concerned about the historical accuracy needn't be; this is a (mostly) family friendly fantasy series, after all. Zombies and ghost sharks don’t exist in the real world (as far as we know), so a female villain isn’t that much of leap. Plus, there are multitudinous accounts detailing the exploits of kickass girl-sailors. Many of these wily women served with the most infamous of pirates, and became so feared and respected that they even negotiated with royalty! If Jack Sparrow can sail with a voodoo version of Blackbeard, then why can’t he battle a buccaneer with breasts?

Sparrow has already crossed cutlasses with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) and Angelica Teach (), so another female character wouldn't feel inorganic, by any means. Then again, these female characters do play second-fiddle to the male heroes, as it is the case in many blockbuster movies. As inspiring and headstrong as Elizabeth, Tia Dalma and Angelica are, their arcs are unfortunately defined by their relationships with Will Turner, Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow respectively. Speaking of which, wasn’t Angelica all set to be coming back after that post-credit scene in On Stranger Tides?

Could she have been the female villain that Johnny Depp disliked and ordered to be dropped? It seems very likely, given that this little teaser helps set up Angelica’s return. The fact that a of such stature as Penelope Cruz was in the role suggests some sort of long term multi-film arc was at least considered for her character.

'If You Were Waiting For The Opportune Moment...That Was It.'

Unfortunately, it’s hard to draw any conclusions without more information, or without seeing the proposed Dead Men Tell No Tales script for ourselves. Yet, in the words of Rossio himself, this does seem to be another disheartening and aggravating case of being influenced by:

“...just a whim [or] a single decision by a single person... [that can ultimately] destroy years of story creation and world-building.”

Sadly, women are still silenced and under-represented in our entertainment, and the representation of rich and female characters truly does matter. Wastrels or wonder women, heroes or villains, they can be just as inspiring and compelling as their male counterparts. I'm sure that Javier Bardem will give an admirable performance as the film's antagonist, yet the fact that Johnny Depp vetoed a female villain is reductive. We can only hope for a brighter future where a diverse range of compelling female characters and capable actresses populate our movies; more than they have done in previous years anyway.

Poll

Would you watch a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie with a female villain?

(Source: Terry Rossio- Wordplayer.com.)


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