Hey, it’s me. Again. We need to talk.
A year ago, I wrote to you to express my disappointment in Alice Through the Looking Glass. That movie upset me in a lot of ways, but I mainly took issue with your performance. I was shocked by how little you brought to the character. So I started making excuses. I chalked up your lack of passion as a byproduct of studio meddling. I dug up evidence online that you were creatively constrained. I claimed you had too much star power to be a secondary character. You used to be my favourite actor, Johnny. So I defended you. But after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I’ve come to a painful realization.
The problem isn’t studios or creative restraints. It’s you.
The longer the film went on, the longer I had to watch your latest portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, the more I found myself observing an actor who is desperately clinging to the past. I could see all the pressures of your personal life manifested in Jack Sparrow, infecting the very character who reignited the second half of your career. It’s almost as if Jack Sparrow, the fictional pirate, was carrying the weight of real-life actor Johnny Depp’s financial woes and personal demons.
So, instead of being treated to another wild adventure with the Keith Richards of the sea, I was forced to accompany a sad man who looked like Jack Sparrow and talked like Jack Sparrow but wasn’t Jack Sparrow.
Sad Jack is an annoying drunk. He wanders on screen to perform the same shtick he has been performing since 2003, but without any of the charisma that inspired all these sequels. Anytime he is faced with any sort of danger, he runs. Every single time. I can’t recall him drawing a sword even once. He wasn’t swashbuckling or savvy. He was a shell of a man who spent 90-percent of the film screaming in fear.
That’s a big change from the Jack Sparrow who went toe-to-tentacle against Davy Jones atop a ship’s mast. Or the Jack Sparrow who jumped straight into the Kraken’s mouth with a smile on his face. It’s definitely not the Jack that got you nominated for a fucking Oscar.
The true Jack Sparrow is a wily pirate who faced danger with wit, charm, and courage. Yes, he likes his rum and often escapes conflict by the skin of his teeth—but that doesn’t mean he can’t get his hands dirty every once in a while.
This change from pirate to wimp parallels your own fall from grace.
Here’s an excerpt from my Alice Through the Looking Glass letter: “Whatever people say about your career, there is no doubt that you’re the master of enigmatic performances. When people see your name attached to a project, they know they’re going to get a passionate portrayal.”
I don’t believe that statement anymore.
You still want to be a rock star, but you don’t seem to want to make the effort anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if the allegations that you hired a sound engineer to feed you lines through an earpiece are true. It shows in your performance. When I recently saw your name pop up in the trailer for Murder on the Orient Express, and saw you posing with the “Dark Universe” crew, I couldn’t help but think that these movies are going to suffer because of your involvement.