It turns out that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was originally going to feature a female villain, before the idea was rejected by Captain Sparrow himself. It was somewhat rough seas for Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's Pirates adventure during pre-production, but the fifth film in the popular franchise sets sail at last this week. Bringing back alumni like Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, Dead Men Tell No Tales adds Javier Bardem to the fray as the swashbuckling villain Armando Salazar.
While both Naomie Harris and Penelope Cruz have played women with a villainous streak in previous outings, Disney's Pirates film franchise has yet to embrace a woman as the main antagonist. That almost changed with Dead Men Tell No Tales, but ultimately Depp shot down the idea - for a very specific reason, it would seem.
Bardem may be the leading bad guy of the upcoming film, but according to Dead Men Tell No Tales co-writer Terry Rossio, a female villain was originally the one causing trouble for Captain Jack Sparrow the fifth time around:
"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."
Rossio goes into much greater detail on his blog and claims that Disney effectively threw him under the bus with his ideas for another Pirates film. Rossio was responsible for writing the four previous films, as well as an early draft for Dead Men, but it is Jeff Nathanson who currently holds the screenplay credit. In reference to Dark Shadows, Rossio claims that Depp feared a female villain would be too close to Eva Green's supernatural Angelique Bouchard from that supernatural comedy.
Rossio does go on to say that his concept could've "simply sucked," but it does seem that other forces are at play here. Certainly, the assumption that Depp nixed a female antagonist is not one that will sit well with fans, especially after a year of his very public personal problems. There has been a recent boom in big-budget franchise offerings with female villains, including such tentpoles as The Fate of the Furious, next month's The Mummy and this fall's Thor: Ragnarok. The Pirates situation also brings to mind the situation where Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter quashed Rebecca Hall's Maya Hansen as the main villain for Iron Man 3.
The next adventure for Sparrow and co. is already generating a lot of positive buzz and hopes for shining performances from the likes of Bardem and Depp, but it can't stop you wondering why something as ridiculous as gender could stand in the way of such a major plot point. Find out what you think of the male Captain Salazar when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales arrives this week.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) release date: May 26, 2017