Pirates of the Caribbean: Brian Cox Is Right About Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow

Succession’s Brian Cox caused controversy by criticizing Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, but many Pirates of the Caribbean fans have echoed his comments.

Although veteran screen star Brian Cox received a lot of online hate after his comments on Johnny Depp’s role as Captain Jack Sparrow, the actor’s comments did touch on an important problem with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Brian Cox is not an actor who is known for holding his tongue. The outspoken Succession star has lawyers been refreshingly frank and candid about his views on everything from politics to fellow thespians, a tendency that got him in trouble when an excerpt from his upcoming memoir made the rounds online.

Cox claimed in his memoir that he didn’t regret turning down the Pirates of the Caribbean movies since they became, in essence, a Johnny Depp vanity project. While the actor’s comments were made out to be far harsher than they were by many online outlets, the fact that Depp’s Jack Sparrow was nominated for an Oscar and a Razzie simultaneously is proof that Cox is not entirely incorrect in this assertion. Furthermore, a closer look at Cox’s comments proves that he is not only a fan of Depp’s work but arguably criticized the Pirates of the Caribbean series because of this fact.


Related: Why Pirates of the Caribbean Didn’t Inspire Any Rip-offs

In the same memoir extract, Cox called much of Depp’s work “so overblown, so overrated” and said that, given how theatrical the makeup effects for Edward Scissorhands were, “you don’t have to do anything. And he didn’t. And subsequently, he’s done even less.” The comments seemed outright mean to many fans and, in particular, the massive fanbase of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies felt betrayed by Cox’s claims. However, Cox’s later clarification—wherein the actor noted that he respected much of Depp’s screen oeuvre, but felt the actor was coasting in some of his big-budget, high-profile projects—is not only reasonable and in line with what many critics claim, but this perspective is also what a lot of the Pirates of the Caribbean fanbase believe and have voiced for some time now.

Brian Cox’s Pirates of the Caribbean Comments Explained

Governor Swann Pirates of the Caribbean death

Cox’s comments came up in the context of his explaining why he rejected the role of Governor Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The part of Elizabeth Swann’s father eventually went to Jonathan Pryce instead. Having worked with Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy director Gore Verbinski before, Cox noted that the helmer was a “lovely chap” but said that the role of Governor Swann seemed “thankless” and then added the note about some of Depp’s performances. Since those comments were seen as disparaging toward the franchise’s star, Cox soon clarified the comments, saying “my reservations about Johnny Depp are minimal — absolutely minimal. You know, I do think he’s sometimes overblown, but I actually think he’s also done some considerable work. Some of his work has really been extraordinarily good.”

Those who criticized Cox for this comment fail to note that the actor didn’t say anything that hasn’t been voiced by reviewers for over a decade now. Admittedly, singling out Edward Scissorhands was an odd choice, and Depp’s offbeat performance in that early Tim Burton movie is broadly agreed to be stellar. However, outside of that comment, one need only look at Depp’s track record between 2011’s On Stranger Tides and 2017’s fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie Dead Men Tell No Tales to see where Cox’s comments find their basis. From Tusk to Dark Shadows, to Mortdecai, to Verbinski’s own flop The Lone Ranger, to Yoga Hosers, Depp’s recent screen CV has left many fans underwhelmed for some time now.

Why Brian Cox Is Right About Johnny Depp’s Career

Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany in Mortdecai

Cox is arguably right about Depp coasting as Sparrow, outside of 2003’s original Pirates of the Caribbean movie The Curse of the Black Pearl. Across his lengthy screen career, Depp has done a lot of fantastic work and proved himself to be a highly-skilled, versatile performer. Wowing audiences in everything from the surreal Dead Man to the moving What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, to the understated Finding Neverland and the hammy Tim Burton horror movie Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Depp has proven his range time and again over the decades he has spent impressing audiences. However, the fan and critic disappointment with Depp’s Jack Sparrow in Dead Men Tell No Tales and On Stranger Tides proves that his Pirates of the Caribbean work specifically has grown more broad and theatrical, and thus less loose and playfully inspired, as the series wore on.

Related: Pirates of the Caribbean: Every Jack Sparrow Love Interest

What Cox’s Pirates of the Caribbean Comments Miss Out On

Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean 5 Injury Cost Disney Millions

What is important to note (and missing from Cox’s commentary on the subject) is that Depp isn’t at fault for the Pirates of the Caribbean series becoming overly reliant on his central role. Depp didn’t force co-stars Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley out of the picture or tell the studio to abandon Verbinski’s ambitious world-building with the fourth film, meaning his over-the-top performance is only part of the problem for the tired project. While few franchise fans feel that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies would be better off without Johnny Depp, most of those defending the actor’s performances would concede that Sparrow’s shtick is far less inspired by the fifth film than it was in the first. This is less Depp’s fault and more an issue of the franchise being over-reliant on one star to prop up its ailing formula, but Cox is not wrong to note this issue.

How Pirates of the Caribbean Can Fix Its Jack Sparrow Problem

Pirates of the Caribbean 6 cant kill off Jack sparrow Barbossa Davy jones

Given the actor’s ongoing personal struggles, it seems increasingly likely that Depp will be absent from the next Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. However, if the series could bring him back in a supporting role while establishing new stars—not unlike Scream’s successful 2022 reboot—the actor could likely bring back the verve and invention he once had for the character since Depp would no longer need to carry an entire movie on his back. Whether this will ever come to pass or the troubled Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will simply sink without a trace remains to be seen, but any attempt to liven up the series will mean engaging with the frank, but ultimately constructive criticism offered by Brian Cox and many fans of the earlier movies.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Brian Cox Is Right About Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow