‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’: What’s The Fate Of The Franchise?

Johnny Depp is looking to hold off after 'On Stranger Tides' breaks box-office records, but a seaworthy script could rope him back in.

While “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” opened to $90.1 million this weekend , showing the franchise has perhaps sprung a leak domestically in its fourth installment, the new film set a five-day international opening record of $256.3 million.

Disney is reportedly convinced this latest “Pirates” could pass the $654 million international total for 2007′s “At World’s End.” The takeaway from all this box-office chatter is we likely haven’t seen the last of the swashbuckling series.

In fact, development on a fifth film is already under way, with a draft of a script from Terry Rossio, who also penned “On Stranger Tides,” in the hands of Disney execs and both director Rob Marshall and producer Jerry Bruckheimer signaling their interest in returning to franchise. The question, however, is whether or not star Johnny Depp will reprise his role as Jack Sparrow.

He recently made clear he doesn’t want to dive back in any time soon. “It boils down to story, script and filmmaker,” Depp told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not something where I would say, ‘Let’s shoot it next month to get it out by Christmas 2012.’ We should hold off for a bit. They should be special, just like they are special to me.”

Those sentiments neatly echo what Depp had to say back in 2009 , after three-time director Gore Verbinski departed the series and the actor told us, following a statement in which he admitted to feeling less enthusiastic about a fourth “Pirates” film, “If there’s a script and a story that is outside of what we’ve done before and it’s worthy of the audience’s attention, I would definitely do it.”

In the near term, Depp’s schedule is packed. He’s currently shooting “Dark Shadows,” an adaptation of the 1960s-era supernatural soap opera, with director Tim Burton. And it appears his long-gestating “Lone Ranger” is finally moving forward, with Verbinski in the director’s chair, “Social Network” star Armie Hammer playing the titular hero and Depp becoming sidekick Tonto. What’s more, Depp is planning to reunite with Marshall for a remake of “The Thin Man,” the classic 1934 screwball mystery tale

When, and how, “Pirates 5″ fits into Depp’s schedule, then, remains to be seen. Nobody, though, expects the film to push forward without its iconic hero in the mix. “Johnny is enormously popular. He’s the center of the franchise. He is the franchise,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told the Los Angeles Times before the film opened. “Hopefully, if this one does well, [Depp] will want to come back and play the character again. But it’s gonna depend on the screenplay. It always does. He’s maniacal about not wanting to disappoint his audience.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

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