Why Johnny Depp Nixed a Female Villain for 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5'
The guy who wrote the scripts for the first four "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies said his screenplay for the fifth movie, "Dead Men Tell No Tales," was rejected because Johnny Depp didn't want a female villain. Why such a specific rejection? For a rather odd reason. Then again, it's Johnny Depp, and Odd is his thing.
Terry Rossio is credited as a screenwriter on "The Curse of the Black Pearl," "Dead Man's Chest," "At World's End, and "On Stranger Tides." For the 2017 movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," which comes out Friday, May 26, he just has a story by/executive producer credit.
In a lengthy -- seriously, you've never seen anything so long -- blog post called Screenwriting Column 55, Rossio slid in a mention about his original "Pirates 5" villain, who was changed into Javier Bardem's Armando Salazar.
Here's that section (bold added for emphasis):
#27: World Creation Subject to Whim Destruction
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.
In my career, Godzilla has already been mentioned. But check out the marvelously detailed four-part series Godzilla Unmade, by Keith Aiken, exploring the development and production of that film.
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.
Non-production has a thousand fathers, production only one.
Yeah, Rossio's "Pirates 5" script might've just sucked, but what a random reason for rejecting a villain. Not everything is or should be about gender, but when you reject a pitch specifically because of gender, there should at least be some solid reasoning behind it, beyond thinking it's "redundant" because some movie you made several years ago that few people probably remember also featured a woman wanting revenge.
As Dlisted put it:
"But starring in five movies as the same tired hobo pirate character swashbuckling against five male pirate-y villains isn't redundant? Got it.
Johnny is dumb for a multitude of reasons, but I'm going to focus on one. Johnny thinking people would compare a female villain in Pirates to Eva Green's female villain in Dark Shadows is too much. Dark Shadows came out in 2012. I saw it twice, and a female villain is literally the last thing I remember about Dark Shadows. I'm usually too busy remembering how dirty Tim Burton did the Dark Shadows legacy, and that unintentionally hilarious scene where Chloe Moretz turns into a teenage werewolf."
Johnny Depp hasn't said anything on this himself, we're taking the word of the movie's executive producer and past franchise screenwriter. But Rossio threw it into his long blog post almost as an aside, it's not like he seemed to be angling for attention. He probably thought no one would care. And plenty of people won't care.
Anyway, Javier Bardem is amazing, and any time you can get him, you're lucky, even if he often plays the same type of villain himself. It's totally not redundant!
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" opens May 26.
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