The glorious dream of Margot Robbie leading a band of lady pirates is now dead. The actress told Vanity Fair that her female-led take on Pirates of the Caribbean with Birds of Prey screenwriter Christiana Hodson is no longer going forward at Disney.
“We had an idea and we were developing it for a while, ages ago, to have more of a female-led — not totally female-led, but just a different kind of story — which we thought would’ve been really cool. But I guess they don’t want to do it,” Robbie said.
The project was first announced back in 2020, along with another separate reboot. In May 2022, Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer behind all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies, told The Sunday Times that the projects were still in development. What happened in between then and Robbie’s recent statement is unclear — nor is the fate of the second project.
If Robbie is to be believed, it feels like Disney is missing out on an opportunity here, especially with HBO’s Our Flag Means Death bringing pirate media like Black Sails (and, yes, Pirates of the Caribbean) back into the zeitgeist. But even despite that, it’s sad to see the project shoved into Davy Jones’ locker, because a female-forward interpretation of the swashbuckling franchise is the absolute perfect evolution for it.
Most people remember Johnny Depp’s roguish Jack Sparrow, but one thing that made the original three Pirates of the Caribbean movies stand out was just how female-centric it was for a big fantasy genre film. By making governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann such a central character, the filmmakers — whether intentionally or not — made the movies appeal specifically to young girls. After all, it’s Elizabeth who goes on the clear hero’s journey, from kidnapped damsel to stowaway sailor and eventually Pirate King.
Without ever intending it, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies became the ultimate girlhood fantasy. Admittedly, there weren’t a whole lot of other women for Elizabeth to fight alongside, but that just makes a new Pirates movie centered around some badass ladies the natural next step. Instead of leaning into the Jack Sparrow of it all, the Pirates franchise could actually embrace what made those first three movies so damn special. Especially since the fifth movie discounted so much of her growth — you’re telling me that Pirate King Elizabeth Swann, who already went to hell and back for Will Turner, wouldn’t immediately get on a ship and sail with him to the ends of the Earth?
Alas, we might never see Margot Robbie and her crew sail the seven seas. Maybe one day, in the distant future, beyond the horizon, Disney will realize that the key to cracking that franchise after two meh sequels is just making it unapologetically tailored towards girls.