On Wednesday, Hollywood was stunned by the news that Johnny Depp won his defamation against Amber Heard.
Defamation cases are notoriously difficult to win in American courtrooms, and the odds seemed to be in Heard’s favor.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million in connection with a 2018 essay she wrote for The Washington Post in which she identified herself as a victim of abuse.
Depp’s legal team had to prove that Heard lied, that she did so with malice, and that said lies did longterm damage to Depp’s career.
They also had to clear the additional hurdle of proving that the article was about Depp, as Heard never mentioned him by name.
Much of Team Depp’s argument hinged on the income that he allegedly lost as a result of the Post essay.
The biggest chunk of those losses was the $22.5 million that Depp was set to receive for his work on a sixth installment of the lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which was eventually scrapped
Depp might never see that type of payday again, his lawyers argued, and it was all because of Amber Heard.
But now that Depp has been so publicly vindicated, could a long-awaited return voyage aboard the Black Pearl be in the offing?
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Depp issued a statement in which he thanked the the jury for giving him "[his] life back" and promised fans that the "best is yet to come."
And indeed, it seems that a former Disney exec — who spoke with People magazine on condition of anonymity– agrees with Depp that the future of his career looks very bright indeed.
"I absolutely believe post-verdict that Pirates is primed for rebooting with Johnny as Capt. Jack back on board," the former exec tells People.
"There is just too much potential box-office treasure for a beloved character deeply embedded in the Disney culture."
The insider noted that so-called "legacy sequels" are all the rage these days, and Disney is likely already weighing its options in terms of bringing Captain Jack Sparrow back to the big screen.
"With [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer riding high on the massive success of Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, there is huge appetite for bringing back bankable Hollywood stars in massively popular franchises," the producer said.
Of course, Depp famously remarked that he would never return to the franchise, even if Disney "came to me with $300 million and a million alpacas."
So his asking price will probably be considerably higher than the $22.5 million the studio was previously set to pay.
It’s also possible that Disney will decide that Depp has been so badly tarnished by the events of the past few years that he’s no longer bankable as an A-list star.
Witnesses called by Heard’s team claimed that Depp’s tardiness and lack of professionalism got him blacklisted long before Amber went public with her abuse claims.
The jury seemed to agree, as the $10 million in damages they awarded were far less than what Depp requested, which seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that she was not the reason he lost the Pirates job.
And while Depp "won" the case (though Heard was also awarded damages, albeit a much smaller amount), there was so much bad press stemming from the trial that it’s impossible to imagine any major studio shelling out to hire either of the combatants.
Currently, Depp is in the UK, where he’s receiving fervent applause everywhere he goes.
But it’s one thing to sing the guy’s praises, and quite another to write him a 10-figure check with hopes for a return on your investment.