Johnny Depp’s Biggest Role Was Originally Meant For Jim Carrey

Instead of Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey almost played Captain Jack Sparrow.

By Jennifer Asencio | Updated

Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise might have been treated to a very different experience had the production been able to retain its original Captain Jack Sparrow. The role went to Johnny Depp and the rest is movie history, but CBR reports that the actor initially cast as the charmingly chaotic pirate was Jim Carrey, who had by that point starred in some of his best-known movies and had most recently tested his dramatic chops in The Majestic. However, Jim Carrey was filming Bruce Almighty when he would have needed to be on the set of The Curse of the Black Pearl, creating a scheduling conflict that could not be overcome.

Was Pirates of the Caribbean better off with Johnny Depp instead of Jim Carrey? While we may never know, some critics claim that Jim Carrey’s slapstick style of comedy might not have done justice to Captain Jack Sparrow, who Johnny Depp famously played by merging the personas of immortal Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and cartoon Lothario Pepe La Pew. One might think Jim Carry would bring in the personas that made him famous, like Ace Ventura or Lloyd, his character in Dumb and Dumber.

However, just as Johnny Depp is not merely a dramatic actor, Jim Carrey is not all comedy. The Majestic was about a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in the 1950s, The Truman Show followed a man whose entire life was scripted for a reality show, and even Man on the Moon was a biopic of legendary comedian Andy Kaufman that featured vignettes into his less funny personal life. The star of The Mask has also starred in a host of children’s movies, including A Series of Unfortunate Events and Sonic the Hedgehog.

The two actors were also both considered for the role of Edward in Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. This time, the role was not initially cast with Johnny Depp or Jim Carrey, but Tom Cruise, with Johnny Depp only taking it after Cruise was released from the picture for asking a lot of questions about Edward’s day-to-day life that showed he was greatly overthinking the role. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp would go on to make other films together, including Sleepy Hollow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This role was almost played by Jim Carrey instead.

Johnny Depp was already a star when Edward Scissorhands was cast, while Jim Carrey was still years away from his first big hit, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Nevertheless, Jim Carrey also had a lot of comedic acting experience under his belt from shows like the short-lived sitcom The Duck Factory and movies like the vampire comedy Once Bitten. The same year he didn’t get to play Edward Scissorhands, Jim Carrey became a cast member for the sketch comedy show In Living Color, and his career skyrocketed after that.

Other actors considered for the role of Captain Jack Sparrow included Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride fame, fellow Tim Burton alum Michael Keaton, and even Robert De Niro. De Niro turned the film down because he didn’t expect it to be the wildly popular financial success it turned out to be, which was good for audiences that were treated to Johnny Depp’s interpretation of the role. A world without Johnny Depp might have seen him Carrey make time in his busy schedule, but the movie turned out to be a modern classic, as have many of Jim Carrey’s films, so it all worked out in the end.