Eternal life awaits those intrepid venturers who reach the Fountain of Youth – or, rather, those that headline a $1 billion + grossing ride-turned blockbuster franchise. Walt Disney Pictures certainly wants to keep one of its most popular cash-cows alive, which is why Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is already being prepped.

Disney has officially closed a deal with screenwriter Terry Rossio to pen a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, which is virtually guaranteed to see Johnny Depp back as Captain Jack Sparrow… again.

Rossio has worked in collaboration with Ted Elliott on the script for the previous four POTC flicks, but he is either going solo on the fifth or merely beat Elliott to the punch with respect to signing on for another installment in the swashbuckling series. Deadline also says that POTC: On Stranger Tides helmer Rob Marshall has been approached to return for another big-budget, high-seas romp, but neither confirms or denies the rumor that Disney wants to shoots POTC 5 & 6 back-to-back.

Marshall is currently ensconced in post-production on the fourth POTC film, which is structured as a stand-alone adventure that finds Depp’s Captain Jack on a quest to locate the legendary Fountain of Youth. A full-length trailer was released last month for On Stranger Tides, which looks to feature what has become standard fare for the franchise – heavily scarred scallywags, supernatural creatures, explosive set pieces, and Sparrow tossing around witty quips left and right. It’ll be a box office hit, no doubt, but Disney is likely waiting to see exactly how popular the new POTC is before it makes plans for Part 5 and Part 6.

Depp’s performance as Sparrow in the last two POTC flicks was still fun, but naturally failed to feel as fresh or inventive as it did in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Tim Burton’s favorite star seems content to don his eccentric buccaneer gear for… however much longer the franchise continues. That could be a while, since Disney seems content to squeeze every drop of profit it can out of the series – for better or for worse.

Depp and Penelope Cruz in 'On Stranger Tides'.

One thing that On Stranger Tides has going for it is that Marshall looks to have included more staples of the classic swashbuckling adventure genre – sword duels, actors in costumes, elaborate stunts – and thus could deliver what may feel like more of an old-fashioned pirate adventure. The last two installments (Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End) threw more than their fair share of CGI into the mix and amped up the production values so much that it arguably became overwhelming. That’s not to mention the oft-criticized shared plot of those sequels, which even Rossio and Eliott have admitted was kind of a convoluted mess (and, for some, tedious to watch unfold).

Those that feel a fourth POTC is overkill are not going to be pleased with the news that a fifth and possibly even sixth installment could be on the horizon. The solution for them is pretty simple: don’t go see any more of these films and Disney will stop releasing them…eventually. Everyone else can have fun watching Jack Sparrow’s onscreen shenanigans as they like – until they too have had their fill.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will determine the future of the franchise when it hits 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters around the globe on May 20th, 2011.

Source: Deadline