Bad press may sink Pirates movie

Actor Johnny Depp often drank, fought with ex-wife and was late to set of Dead Men Tell No Tales

Johnny Depp attending the world premiere of Disney movie Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in Shanghai last Thursday.
Johnny Depp attending the world premiere of Disney movie Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in Shanghai last Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

American movie studio Walt Disney hopes that the recent bad press dogging actor Johnny Depp will not turn off fans and sink the fifth instalment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise that is slated to open in the United States on May 26.

The 53-year-old actor has been embroiled in a lawsuit - claiming he was swindled - with his former business managers, who in turn allege that he takes a swashbuckling attitude - like a pirate - towards managing his personal treasure chest.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the carefree spending included US$3.6 million (S$5 million) annually to maintain a 40-strong staff and US$350,000 a month to keep a yacht in ship-shape, before he eventually sold it.

But Depp stood his ground, telling the Wall Street Journal last month: "It's my money. If I want to buy 15,000 cotton balls a day, it's my thing."

He has indeed "plundered'' much from the Pirates series, whose previous four editions - with the most recent in 2011 - have generated more than US$3.7 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Still, he could be a little tight financially these days, with the Hollywood Reporter noting that he has put up a 15ha estate in France for sale at US$39 million.

Meanwhile, Disney is keeping its fingers crossed that Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - which cost US$230 million to make and market - will make a killing at the box office.

But the headwinds and treacherous waters from the bad publicity could blow hopes off course.

According to media reports, shooting of the new Pirates movie from February until July 2015 in Australia was not smooth sailing.

Sources close to the production reported incidents of excessive drinking, Depp's quarrels with then wife Amber Heard and the actor himself not sticking to the filming schedule, which often left hundreds of extras stranded and waiting for hours.

A production staffer reportedly kept watch in an unmarked car outside the house Depp had rented in Queensland.

His job - to alert the production team when there were clues that the actor had woken up and presumably was ready for work.

Filming shut down at one point when Depp suffered an injury to his finger, with the cause rumoured to stem from a domestic dispute.

His reputation has been dented by his personal woes, Vanity Fair reported.

Last year, he and Heard filed for divorce, with media reports swirling that he had abused her. They eventually settled for a US$7- million out-of-court divorce deal.

Still, the show must go on.

Last Thursday, Walt Disney rolled out the red carpet in Shanghai for a rare world premiere of the latest Pirates movie.

Other movies, such as Point Break (2015) and Iron Man 3 (2013), were shown in China before the US release.

The trend reflects the growing influence of China's 1.4 billion potential cinemagoers, who are increasingly driving global box-office sales.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Bad press may sink Pirates movie'. Subscribe