Casting What-Ifs: Every Actor That Came Close To Playing Captain Jack Sparrow

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Johnny Depp played Jack Sparrow, but who else came close to captaining the Black Pearl?

Brian Martin

Apr 22, 2022

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Throughout his career, Johnny Depp has played a number of memorable characters, particularly in his collaborations with filmmaker Tim Burton. Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean film series, based on the titular attractions at Disney's theme parks, was one of his most memorable and probably greatest performances. Over the years, the film franchise has included notable actors such as Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. They were among the most costly films ever filmed, but they more than made up for it with massive box office success for each chapter.

Depp first played Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, although he was only one of several actors who auditioned for the role. It's difficult to envision anybody else being the captain of the Black Pearl, especially one with such a memorable character as Jack Sparrow.

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Hugh Jackman

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

Hugh Jackman was the initial option for Captain Jack Sparrow's part. At the time, the future star of The Greatest Showman had only appeared in the first X-Men film and a few Broadway shows as Wolverine. According to reports, Disney did not believe Jackman was a large enough figure in the film business to play the part.

Michael Keaton

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

One of the first performers considered for the part of Captain Jack Sparrow was Michael Keaton. Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 1989 film Batman and Betelgeuse in Tim Burton's 1988 film Beetlejuice are two of his most iconic characters. It's unclear whether Keaton tried out for the role of Jack.

Christopher Walken

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

Another of the early possibilities for the title role was Christopher Walken. It's unclear whether he auditioned for the position. For his part in the 1978 war picture The Deer Hunter, Walken won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and he later played Captain Koons in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 thriller Pulp Fiction.

Jim Carrey

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

By far the most likely candidate for the part was Jim Carrey. The renowned comedic actor, who is most known for his roles in The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, among other films, turned down the part. Carrey was unable to commit to both films due to a scheduling issue between Pirates of the Caribbean and his 2003 picture Bruce Almighty. Regrettably, the actor declared his retirement from performing recently.

Matthew McConaughey

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

The part of Jack Sparrow was also considered for Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey made his cinematic debut in the 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused, and won Best Actor for his leading performance in the 2013 picture Dallas Buyers Club. Because of his likeness to another legendary cinema pirate, Burt Lancaster, he was considered for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Cary Elwes

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

Cary Elwes is best known for his main role in the 1987 film The Princess Bride as Westley. Many individuals were considered for the role of Jack Sparrow, including the future Stranger Things and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star. It's unclear whether Elwes truly auditioned for the position.

Rik Mayall

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

Another potential actor for the role of Captain Jack Sparrow was Rik Mayall. Over the course of his career, the late stand-up comedian performed in a number of sitcoms, as well as a part as the ghost Peeves in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. However, before the film's premiere, all of his footage was eliminated.

Robert De Niro

Pirates of the Caribbean, jack sparrow casting

Robert De Niro, in addition to Jim Carrey, was another actor that declined the part. When he originally read the Pirates of the Caribbean script, the frequent Martin Scorsese partner doubted the movie' financial success. With its immense movie office success, the franchise proved De Niro incorrect in a big way.

Although, given De Niro's penchant for playing nasty gangsters, it's a good thing he turned down the position. No one else could have played the hilarious pirate better than Depp, and no one else could have done it as well.

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