Disney is once again attempting to breathe new life into its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, reports Deadline. The company has hired Craig Mazin, the creator of HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, to help develop a new installment for the franchise, along with Ted Elliott, who wrote the first four films in the series.
First launched in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl, the series followed the misadventures of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a cursed and eccentric pirate who joins forces with blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly) to undo a curse that’s left him unable to die. The film spawned four sequels (Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, and Dead Men Tell No Tales), and collectively earned more than $4.5 billion at the box office. However, while the first sequels performed well at the box office, the latest movie seemed to run out of steam and goodwill: it underperformed financially, and critical acclaim dropped off.
Prior to the production of Dead Men Tell No Tales, reports surfaced that Disney planned to shoot the fifth and sixth installments of the series back-to-back, and later, co-director Joachim Rønning noted in 2017 that the film was “the beginning of the finale.” However, that sixth film has yet to materialize; Rønning went on to direct Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, while the Pirates film remained in development with Deadpool writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, who indicated that they wanted to reboot the franchise to bring a bit more excitement to it — possibly without Depp. But that effort hit another snag when Reese and Wernick left the project earlier this year.
Now, it seems that Disney isn’t quite willing to give up on the series. Deadline says that this new attempt is in “the early development stage,” and Jerry Bruckheimer will likely return to produce. Mazin is an interesting choice to bring into the project: he’s certainly well-versed with humor, having written Hangover Part II and III, but he’s also recently earned considerable critical acclaim with Chernobyl, a grim drama about the 1986 nuclear accident.
There’s no word on whether or not Depp will return to take on the mantle of Jack Sparrow once more. His antics — based in part on Rolling Stones member Keith Richards — are a huge part of the appeal of the franchise, but recent allegations of abuse from his ex-wife Amber Heard brought considerable backlash when he joined the cast of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwalf in 2017. If and when Pirates returns, it’s likely a question that Mazin and Elliott will have to address.