Rob Marshall To Direct Next 'Pirates Of The Caribbean'?

Deal reportedly in the works with 'Chicago' director to replace Gore Verbinski.

After sailing without a captain for a few months, it seems the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise has found its skipper. According to Variety, Disney is close to selecting Rob Marshall to direct the fourth film after the departure in April of three-time "Pirates" director Gore Verbinski.

Johnny Depp is already set to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, though the details of the script are not yet known. Variety reports that Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have held several meetings with Marshall in recent weeks as they look to begin shooting before Depp begins work on another Bruckheimer project, "The Lone Ranger." Production on the fourth "Pirates" would commence in 2010.

While a deal with Marshall is not yet in place and Disney has not confirmed the news, Variety reports that a pact is close enough that the studio has begun the casting process for new characters. Keira Knightley, however, has indicated she will not return for the fourth film.

Verbinski has steered the franchise to $2.6 billion in worldwide box office business since the first installment, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," debuted in 2003. But the director announced in April that he would not return for a fourth movie, choosing instead to concentrate on his big-screen adaptation of the video game "Bioshock."

Marshall made a splash with his directorial debut and Best Picture Oscar-winner "Chicago." Since then he has helmed "Memoirs of a Geisha" and recently finished work on "Nine," a musical starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson, which is set for release in November.

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