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Every Actor Who Can Replace Johnny Depp As Jack Sparrow

It appears unlikely that Disney will bring back Johnny Depp as Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow, but are there any other major actors who could possibly replace him in the role? The Pirates of the Caribbean movies were never expected to be a massive success, and their main star Johnny Depp was instrumental in ensuring the franchise became one of the most profitable series in cinema history. As Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp brought both a quirky charm and unexpectedly goofy energy to the antihero role.

Depp soon made an unlikely icon of the character and the critical acclaim that greeted his performance ensured the Pirates of the Caribbean became a blockbuster franchise. However, Depp’s performance alone was not what made The Curse of the Black Pearl work. Gore Verbinski’s direction, the stellar supporting cast and a tone that swerved deftly between horror, comedy, and adventure were all important factors—something that Disney did not realize until later Pirates of the Caribbean sequels stripped away these elements to focus more on Depp’s character.

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From the first Pirates of the Caribbean sequel Dead Man's Chest, this problem was already evident as Jack Sparrow started to receive more time in the spotlight than his co-stars, and the series began to focus more around Sparrow. However, although the franchise’s critical write-ups quickly reflected this imbalance, it was not until 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies started to wilt at the box office. A combination of Depp’s tumultuous personal life and the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie’s underperformance led Disney to distance him from the franchise, although the actor’s fanbase have campaigned for him to be reinstated in the role. Despite this movement, it looks less and less likely that Disney will patch things up with the erstwhile Pirates of the Caribbean star, so which actors could replace him as Jack Sparrow?

If Jack Sparrow returns in Pirates of the Caribbean 6, the most straightforward route for the creators to take is to recast the actor with a similarly quirky indie darling who has a history moonlighting as a blockbuster star. That is what the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise opted to do when Depp was fired from the role of Grindlewald during pre-production on the third movie. Actor Mads Mikkelsen replaced Depp in that franchise and could be called upon to do the same for the Pirates of the Caribbean series. However, there are numerous issues with this proposition. For one thing, it is not yet clear how successful the strategy of recasting Depp will be for the Harry Potter spinoff series. For another, the appeal of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise relies far more on the individual actor, meaning Casino Royale villain Mikkelsen would have much bigger shoes to fill as Sparrow. As such, it’s unlikely the Danish star will succeed Depp in the role.

Among the actors originally considered for the role of Jack Sparrow pre-Depp, Matthew McConnaughey was initially sought out in the early ‘00s because he resembles the character’s original inspiration, Burt Lancaster. In recent years, McConnaughey’s late-career resurgence in popularity has seen him rise out of the rom-com ignominy he was trapped in throughout that decade and become more popular than ever since starting to take on more serious roles. However, this critical acclaim has mostly not translated to mainstream blockbuster roles, and the part of Jack Sparrow could be too pivotal to bet on McConnaughey’s mixed box office performance in recent years.

Outside of Chris Nolan's 2014 sci-fi adventure Interstellar, the actor’s most recent major movies Serenity and The Dark Tower were both critical and financial failures that show he may have the pull to hold a major tentpole franchise together. The Dark Tower underperformance, in particular, isn't a great sign for McConnaughey’s chances of taking over the Pirates of the Caribbean role. While his Randall Flagg was a villain rather than a roguish rebel, the movie was intended to be a franchise-spawning action/horror blockbuster and had it worked, would likely have filled the niche left empty by Depp’s absence from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Instead, despite Stephen King’s It succeeding and breaking box office records that same year, The Dark Tower crashed and burned, ensuring McConnaughey will likely never play the infamous pirate onscreen.

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Joaquin Phoenix may seem like an odd name to connect with Pirates Of The Caribbean's Jack Sparrow, but the acclaimed actor’s career has the requisite balance between critical acclaim and mainstream blockbuster success that Depp enjoyed before he took the role. However, Phoenix may already be too successful for the part, as he has shown little interest in taking on roles in tentpole projects (other than the dark, hard-R Joker) and seems unlikely to be interested in lighter comedic work. While Depp could use the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels to boost his profile and fund more personal projects, the combination of Joker’s huge box office success and his Oscar win means Phoenix hardly needs help in that department and is unlikely to board Disney’s sinking ship as a result.

The fact that Disney announced a Margot Robbie-starring Pirates of the Caribbean spinoff and attempted to ape the success of the franchise's success with 2021's Jungle Cruise could indicate there is no replacement being lined up for Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. The studio could be aware that, according to a portion of the fanbase, the character can’t be recast and no alternative will fully satisfy viewers. Disney could be willing to give up on the Pirates of the Caribbean series as a result or the studio may plan on rehiring Depp, particularly given how intensely the recent Sea of Thieves/Pirates of the Caribbean crossover relied on Jack Sparrow to spark fan interest. Whatever Disney opts to do, replacing Johnny Depp will likely be impossible even for the entertainment giant when the actor’s name is so closely linked with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for viewers.

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