"He's ruining the movie!" How Johnny Depp Fought For Jack Sparrow In Pirates Of The Caribbean - Anita's Notebook


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  • About This Blog

    A picture of Anita Wirawan in Seattle, Washington.

    My name is Anita Wirawan and I love stories :).
    Stories can: make you smile -- show a deeper meaning behind something -- or even change your life.
    I started this blog in 2008 after my brother Jody died & over the years it's become my notebook for stories.

    My mission is to find the best stories to share with you.
    So go ahead... look around and read some stories!

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*“He’s ruining the movie!” How Johnny Depp Fought For Jack Sparrow In Pirates Of The Caribbean*

Picture of Johnny Depp as pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Carribean.Who out there hasn’t heard of Captain Jack Sparrow?

There’s no doubt that Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean is one of the most recognizable and well loved movie characters in the world.

But there was a time when this very same Jack Sparrow was almost banned from the movie…


Picture of Blackbeard The Pirate who was captain of Queen Anne's Revenge in the Caribbean.When Johnny Depp was preparing for the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie he read up on everything that he could about pirates to help get an understanding of what his character should be like.

He found that the more he read about pirates the more he saw them as being the rock stars of their day and age.

The hard drinking, eccentric swagger. The constant life on the move and immense fame that would follow them through their travels. The extravagant appearance and behavior that was sometimes bizarre, but always entertaining.

Pirates were free to be themselves and made no apologies for being as over the top and original as they wanted.

Johnny Depp saw this as a big insight into what Jack Sparrow could be like, but he knew he needed a real rock star to get some inspiration from. So he turned to his friend Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who he viewed as ‘the greatest rock and roll star of all times’.

Picture of Keith Richards who was the inspiration for Jack Sparrow.He secretly studied Keith Richards whenever he was around him, trying to absorb as much as he could in the time he had before starting the movie. Many of the mannerisms, personality traits, and even voice of Jack Sparrow grew out of Depp’s study of Keith Richards.

Soon Johnny Depp had a good idea of what Captain Jack Sparrow was like and realized that he had an opportunity to do something big with the character.


Problem was, the executives at Disney who were in charge of the movie had a very different idea of what Jack Sparrow was supposed to be. They wanted him to be more like what you’d see in your average pirate movie: manly in a ruggedly handsome sort of way, with an ever so slightly dark sense of humor but nothing too unexpected.

Picture of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow pirate costume and holding a gun.But Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was not like anything folks at Disney had ever seen before, in or out of a pirate movie. He gave them a Jack Sparrow that was both manly and effeminate, off kilter, and not to mention very unexpected.

They were shocked and, well, basically they hated it. In an interview with Vanity Fair Depp described how the horrified Disney execs started firing off questions at him:

What’s wrong with him? …Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?

He poked fun at that last question by answering “But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?” LOL!

But the worst reaction was when the head of Disney saw some footage of Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and got so upset that he yelled “He’s ruining the movie!!”

Things were not looking good at all, and it seemed like Depp would have to give up on an interesting Jack Sparrow and conform to the more bland type of character that Disney wanted.


Picture of Jack Sparrow during the part of the story where he is captured at gunpoint.Johnny Depp didn’t want to give up though, he deeply cared about the character of Jack Sparrow and was willing to fight for him.

The funny thing was, Disney had hired Depp in the first place because they wanted Pirates Of The Caribbean to be different and more ‘edgy’ than a normal Disney movie. But now that they had a character that did exactly that, they were getting cold feet about it.

When Depp realized that Disney was on the brink of killing the Jack Sparrow that he knew and loved he decided to take a huge chance. He told them that it was all or nothing, to trust him that this was the right Captain Jack Sparrow for the movie or to kick him off for good because he believed in the character that much.

It was quite a gamble but it paid off. His confidence won Disney over and they finally stopped pressuring him to do a boring character. Well, for the most part anyway.

Black and white drawing of Captain Jack Sparrow costume before Johnny Depp remade it.He still had to battle for how the costume and look of Jack Sparrow was going to come out. As you can see by this early drawing of what Disney wanted Jack Sparrow to look like, it was really …lacking lol.

Johnny Depp knew that a pirate like Jack Sparrow wouldn’t just act like a rock star, he’d look like one too. A bland bandana and cliche gold earring wouldn’t do.

Depp set out to create a look for Jack Sparrow that would be true to the character and hint a bit at the pirate’s past. Dreadlocks, lots of gold teeth (Disney was really not happy about that), braided goatee, tattoos, and things like that were carefully layered to make the look.

He also looked to Keith Richards again for some rock star inspiration. Richards had a habit of collecting little trinkets as souvenirs from his travels on the road and tying them to his hair. Depp decided that Jack Sparrow would have done that too, as a way to remember his adventures.

Picture of the reindeer bone in Jack Sparrow's hair.He’d see something and decide to tie it in his hair as a keepsake, and each item would have a story.

Like the bone hanging from one of his dreads is a reindeer bone. Only Jack Sparrow knows what the story is, but it’s got to be an interesting one considering there’s no reindeer anywhere near the Caribbean!

Johnny Depp was very happy with how the movie was turning out and he felt like everything was falling into place for his character and the movie. The true test of whether he was right about Captain Jack Sparrow, however, was yet to come.


Poster for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean Curse Of The Black Pearl with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.As opening day came for Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl a question hung in the air.

Would people like Johnny Depp’s version of Jack Sparrow or would they end up not understanding such an unusual character and have a negative reaction like the Disney executives did?

Many people in the media were expecting the movie to be a total flop anyway because pirate movies weren’t very popular at that time, and they felt that the quirkiness of Johnny Depp’s acting would only make things a thousand times worse.

Picture of Captain Jack Sparrow in full costume and walking on the beach.But Pirates Of The Caribbean turned out to be a huge success and the way Johnny Depp did Captain Jack Sparrow was the main thing that audiences loved about the the movie. They got a kick out of watching the over the top –and somewhat strange– pirate cleverly maneuver his way out of sticky situations.

The sheer rock star personality of Jack Sparrow made the movie stand out as a favorite in people’s minds and it went on to become one of the most popular movies of all time. At that point nobody could deny that Johnny Depp had made the right choice, the Jack Sparrow that he fought so hard for had succeeded beyond all expectations.

As for Keith Richards… well he didn’t find out that he was one of the big inspirations for Jack Sparrow until after the movie came out. Not sure if that’s how I’d want to find something like that out but hey maybe he likes surprises lol.

Picture of Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones acting as Captain Teague, father of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean.He must have been okay with it though because he ended up accepting a role in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End.

The character he played? The guitar playing Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow’s father. Pretty fitting don’t you think…


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  1. Mandy F. says:

    Great story, Anita! So glad Johnny Depp fought so hard to play the Captain his way. Those movies would have SUCKED if he’d played it bland.

    • Hi Mandy,

      I agree, without Johnny Depp bringing such an interesting character into the mix it all would have been pretty bland.

      Not to say that the other actors weren’t good with their characters (in particular I loved the way Geoffrey Rush played Barbossa he’s hilarious), but without such an awesomely eccentric and unpredictable Captain Jack Sparrow to play off of I think the movie would have fallen pretty flat. It would have been just another forgettable pirate movie.

      In fact the last major pirate movie to come out before Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl was Cutthroat Island, which did so badly in theaters that it helped to put the movie studio responsible for it out of business. I bet they could have used a Captain Jack Sparrow type of character in that one :D.

  2. Lauren says:

    I rarely read “entertainment” type articles…but this one was great:) Interesting and fun….and (likely best of all for ME lol), it’s something I agree with;) I also was SO disappointed when I first watched Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow..but soon came to think he’s awesome, just like most everyone else did :):)

    • Hi Lauren,

      Glad you liked the post! Yeah I think a lot of people had at least some sort of confused initial reaction to Depp’s Jack Sparrow before realizing he was an awesome character. He was just so unlike any other character anybody had seen before, well…I guess except for Keith Richards fans probably felt a bit of deja vu lol.

  3. Maria says:

    Hello!I really love your stories! And I am hoping to start my own blog! I was wandering if you could give me some tips! :)

    • Hi Maria,

      Great to hear that you liked the stories :). Also awesome that you’re going to start your own blog, the first thing I would do is go to WordPress and get a blog from them (it’s the best free way to get a blog imo) at:


      Then of course write some blog posts :). Keep your readers in mind when making the post so that you’re sure to keep it easy to read and put lots of pictures related to the post topic and that kind of thing.

      After that be sure to post links to the blog post to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc so that other people know you posted something. Come back here and post your main blog url too so we can take a look at it.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any ?’s.

      • Maria says:

        Thanks so much! And again I love all of your stories! Keep doing what you love! :)

  4. StumbleBum says:

    The “he’s ruining the movie” comments reminds me entirely of the end of Parenthood when the toddler is wreaking havoc on the set of the Snow White elementary production and one uptight parent goes “He’s ruining the whole play!”

    Of course Johnny Depp was right. How much more right could he be? None. None more right.

    • Hi Stumblebum!

      Strangely enough I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Parenthood, makes me want to watch it now…wonder if it’s on Netflix streaming. But yeah I think it’s really ironic that what the exec viewed as ruining the movie was actually Johnny Depp saving the movie and making it 1000x more interesting than it would have been otherwise.

      I’m sure it can be hard for many execs to see the potential in what’s outside of the formulaic stuff that they feel is a safe bet, but without people (whether it be actors, directors, etc) pushing the envelope there wouldn’t be interesting new stuff and all we’d have is blah movies year after year. Blah movies most likely making blah profits.

      Just saw a documentary a couple days ago about George Lucas and the making of the Star Wars movies and it was interesting to hear the stories of how many people, whether it was movie studio execs or otherwise, thought the idea of Star Wars to be too strange and pushed the envelope too much. Even some of the actors while on the set wondered what kind of kooky movie they’d gotten involved with and didn’t feel like it would do well.

      Of course things all changed after Star Wars was released in theaters and the public absolutely loved it :D. While watching the George Lucas Star Wars documentary I thought of Johnny Depp and his fight for Jack Sparrow, all I can say is thank goodness they both had such confidence in their ideas and didn’t give up. Who knows what we’ve missed out on in the movie world because people let the naysayers snuff out their brilliant ideas.

  5. Maria says:

    Hello! Maria again! I’m in grade 8 and I have an assignment where i need to rant about something, it needs to be age appropriate as well, so can u give me an idea/topic? Sorry if I bother you, it’s just that I LOVE writing and I’m thinking of making a blog about Rants, you know sort of like Rick Mercer? LOL Anyways it would be GREAT if you could help me! BYEEE!! =D

    • Hi Maria,

      An assignment where you get to rant, that sounds like a fun assignment :D. Okay so there’s probably tons of great things to rant about, the first thing that came to mind was: a band/singer that is really popular but seems horribly bad to you. I can think of a couple I could rant about actually lol.

      Or maybe you could do a rant about a story that a lot of people believe to be true but actually isn’t, like urban legends or modern day superstitions. Like one thing I’ve found out from doing a blog post about Hello Kitty is that a lot of people are afraid of Hello Kitty stuff because they think Hello Kitty was made by the devil. But really I bet anything you feel strongly about would make for a great rant.

      I think your blog idea is great btw, can’t wait to see it! Maybe you’ll be the next Rick Mercer someday.