Jack Sparrow will still be able to plunder on the high seas for the time being under the Disney umbrella, but that might not last forever. That’s because a lawsuit involving the character has moved ahead in court. While the franchise isn’t likely in true jeopardy of discontinuing, these latest legal maneuvers mean that Disney will have to prove more substantially that they didn’t take the story from a couple of writers who claim to have originally created the character. The Hollywood Reporter has it that the lawsuit brought by A. Lee Alfred II and Ezequiel Martinez Jr. is alive and well in appeals court with the two sides arguing a few different points of contention.
Back in 2017, Alfred and Martinez brought a lawsuit against Disney saying that the Mouse House had stolen their original idea for a genre-defying pirate in a spec script they had sent the studio. They say that elements of their story, specifically the role that became Jack Sparrow was taken from their original idea. This was in reference to the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie which came out in 2000 and spawned the massive franchise. The lawsuit seemed to be dead in 2019 when the judge at the time granted a motion to dismiss saying the character mostly taken from known ideas about pirates.
But not so fast said the Appellate Court and they held up the suit. It is now in a phase that will rely on expert testimony to determine if Jack Sparrow was, in fact, an original character or just someone based on popular pirate themes. Where it stands right now, the two sides are arguing over the credentials of the experts brought in to give testimony. In all, this likely isn’t good news for Disney if they are looking to keep Jack Sparrow all to themselves. If the experts from the plaintiff’s side are able to prove that Jack Sparrow is substantially different than other pirates in the genre, then the case may hold up.
The character of Jack Sparrow first appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2000, played expertly by Johnny Depp. He would go on to reprise the character in Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, and ultimately in Dead Men Tell No Tales. The five films were massive hits for Disney, totaling more than $4.5 billion at the box office in all. The first movie even earned Depp a Best Actor Academy Award Nomination. The character has become iconic thanks in large part to the silliness brought to the ideas around pirates as well as Depp’s portrayal.
Lawsuit aside, it’s unclear what the future holds for Jack Sparrow at Disney. There were originally plans for a sixth movie with Johnny Depp in the lead. But because of the actor’s current non-status in Hollywood following the fallout from his divorce with Amber Heard, that looks like it’s dead. There are now potential plans to reboot the franchise with a predominantly female cast. Margot Robbie is said to be leading the cast in that one.
In all, the future of Jack Sparrow is in a strange place. It doesn’t look like Johnny Depp will reappear as the character anytime soon. And there is some chance that Disney loses the rights altogether if this lawsuit continues to move forward.