It was announced recently that Dick Cook, the chairman of Walt Disney studios for 38 years, has stepped down from his position, a move reportedly caused by a rough financial year. Cook released a statement proclaiming his love for every minute of working at Disney, having risen from monorail and steam train operator to chairman.

Even though Cook’s statement suggests he left entirely on his own terms, CEO Bob Iger had recently expressed his disappointment in the studio’s (Cook’s?) box office performance this year, with the likes of Race to Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories not doing as well as they’d hoped. However, a report from the LA Times yesterday says that Cook and Iger have had some trouble that extends beyond box office results. Igor emphasizes collaboration and seeks, “new ways of doing business,” whereas Cook supposedly is a traditionalist. You can read the full story regarding this sort of thing over at the LA Times.

No matter the reason Cook stepped down (no successor has been appointed by Disney as of yet, FYI), the fact remains he was a well liked and respected man in the business, not least by Pirates of the Caribbean star, Johnny Depp. The actor has said that he’s, “shocked and very sad,” at Cook’s departure, and said, “I didn’t see this coming. There was no reason to see this coming.” Depp called him, “instantly trustworthy,” saying that, “you don’t generally meet people at the studios you trust. He’s a rare beast.”

So Depp thought very highly of Cook and apparently doesn’t agree with him being gone… this leads to the question of Depp’s involvement with Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Depp notes that not only was Cook the reason he worked with Disney in the first place, but Cook was also the only one at the studio who backed his style of portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow (the gold teeth, the “drunken” movement, the stuff in his hair etc.), whilst others were, “less enthusiastic,” to say the least (I bet they changed their tune when the movie, and the character, became a colossal hit). Depp says Cook was, “completely supportive,” of him when other studio execs were, “opposed to my body language.”



With regards to Pirates 4, Depp says that he has a potential deal in place that, “depends on how good the script is.” However, the star’s passion for the fourth in the franchise has been severally dampened by Cook’s departure – “There’s a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment… It was all born in that office.”

So does Depp’s drop in enthusiasm for Pirates 4 mean he won’t sign a deal with Disney? Well, anything’s possible (I think Disney needs Depp a lot more than he needs them), but I seriously doubt that Depp won’t do another. He’s the absolute draw of the franchise, and thus Disney will do EVERYTHING they can to get him on-board. I’m betting if Depp went to them with a record-breaking price tag, the studio would just give him it (I’m not saying he will, but if he did…).

I would just chalk Depp’s drop in passion as an immediate result of Cook’s departure from Disney after almost 40 years, and I think that when the dust settles, he will ultimately sign on for another Pirates of the Caribbean. Without him, the box office potential of another would be in question.

What do you think about Cook stepping down as Disney’s chairman after so long? Do you think (based on Depp’s reaction) that we could see a Pirates 4 without Captain Jack? Or is this just a knee-jerk reaction on Depp’s part, and he’ll ultimately reprise the popular pirate role?

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is supposed to start filming in Spring 2010, and has a general release date of Summer 2011.

Sources: LATimes, Joblo and Variety