Disney could reportedly save $90 million on their Pirates of the Caribbean reboot simply by not bringing back Johnny Depp to star. Even though the Mouse House has an embarrassment of riches at its disposal thanks to its bounty of subsidiaries (Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar) and successful stable of live-action remakes, the studio is still interested in continuing the Pirates franchise. Back in October 2018, they hired Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to pen a script, which aims to revitalize the property after 2017's Dead Men Tell No Tales became its lowest-grossing entry worldwide since the 2003 original.
Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow has long been the face of the franchise, though for various reasons, it was increasingly unlikely he'd return for the next installment. Last month, Disney live-action film chief Sean Bailey confirmed as much, stating he wants to bring "a new energy and vitality" to the franchise. Distancing Pirates from Depp's personal baggage and dwindling star should help in that regard, and the move will also keep Disney's accountants quite happy.
According to Forbes, Disney stands to save themselves $90 million if Depp doesn't come back. That's the figure the actor was making per movie in the franchise, and with Disney looking for a fresh start, there are plenty of financial reasons to go in this direction.
Removing Depp from the equation is an effective and efficient way to keep costs down, which should ensure maximum profitability for the new Pirates film. The original movies sported rather bloated budgets, with 2011's On Stranger Tides costing a whopping $378.5 million and Dead Men Tell No Tales coming in at $230 million. Trimming Depp's $90 million salary from Dead Men (without factoring in the cost for another lead actor) would bring the budget down to a much more manageable $140 million (same budget as Curse of the Black Pearl). It should be noted that none of the previous Pirates movies have bombed at the box office, but it would be a smart business decision on the part of Disney. There's no guarantee the reboot will be as successful as its predecessors, so it's better if it doesn't have to break box office records to be a hit.
For Depp, this is the latest in a string of recent negative headlines for him (see also: City of Lies being pulled; a lawsuit for alleged assault) and a substantial amount of money he'll be missing out on. Over the past handful of years, the Pirates movies were the only steady moneymakers on his résumé, which included bombs such as The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, and Mortdecai (which might explain why he was always interested in reprising Captain Jack). He's still part of the Fantastic Beasts franchise thanks to his role as the villainous Grindelwald, but even those films aren't as much a draw now.