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Writer Says Dead Men Tell No Tales Had a Female Villain... Until Johnny Depp Made Them Change It

Image: Disney
Image: Disney

For Oscar-nominated actor Johnny Depp, female villains are like the Highlander... apparently, there can be only one.


A 2016 blog post from Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriter Terry Rossio (recently discovered by MoviePilot) has shed some light on some production weirdness with the latest film, Dead Men Tell No Tales. Rossio, who worked on the previous Pirates films, wrote a plot for the fifth film back in 2011. It was ultimately rejected, with Jeff Nathanson coming on to pen the film instead— along with Depp, who collaborated on the script.

In one section of Rossio’s detailed blog about the trials of working in Hollywood, aptly called “World Creation Subject to Whim Destruction,” Rossio revealed that it was actually Depp’s decision to reject his story. And why was this first version of Dead Men Tale No Tales scrapped? Because it had a female villain— and according to Depp, one of those is enough for him.

“My version of Dead Men Tell No Tales was set aside because it featured a female villain, and Johnny Depp was worried that would be redundant to Dark Shadows, which also featured a female villain,” Rossio wrote. “Sometimes it just takes a single decision by a single person, often just a whim, to destroy years of story creation and world-building.”


Granted, Javier Bardem is a great actor, but it seems so misguided and insulting that Depp would reject a female villain solely because he’d already faced one in one other movie. He’s fought countless male villains across several films, and not once has he complained that “yeah, one evil dude is enough, maybe let’s tone it down on the Y-chromosome baddies.” The series already has enough issues with female representation, with the latest film only having one notable female character, played by Kaya Scodelario. This harms way more than it helps.

The whole thing comes off as incredibly sexist, and another example of Disney making questionable decisions to keep Depp happy, solely for the sake of keeping Captain Jack Sparrow alive. Let’s not forget that, according to his ex-manager, he doesn’t even bother learning his lines anymore.

Jessica Chastain is all of us right now.



Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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Wonder if this is the real reason or just a more palatable excuse than “fighting a woman now would remind everyone I’m a wife-beater.”