The short answer is possibly. But also maybe not. The story goes back to a 2018 Washington Post Op-ed piece written by Amber Heard who called herself a survivor of domestic abuse and details her struggle with an unnamed partner. Though he was not named, the account seemed to clearly point the finger at Johnny Depp who was married to Heard from 2015 to 2016, and whom Heard had filed a restraining order against in 2016.
Two years after the 2018 op-ed, Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against the actress alleging that her claims violated laws requiring reasonable proof before making claims that could damage someone’s livelihood. Depp insisted that her claims were a baseless conspiracy to paint him as a wife-beater in the public’s eye. During this time Britain was in lockdown due to the Coronavirus yet scores of people gathered at the courthouse to see Depp walk in each day, hand out Johnny Depp face masks, and wait for the latest buzz. Meanwhile, inside the court, Heard detailed 15 allegations against Depp involving abuse, drunkenness, and violence that laid bare a grisly part of Depp’s life.
As details unfolded, reports emerged that Disney was putting together a reboot to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Largely thanks to Depp’s memorable portrayal of the rapscallion Jack Sparrow, the franchise has grossed .5 billion dollars — which is why fans were shocked when Disney reportedly started hunting for Depp’s replacement. Due to the news of his possible domestic violence, Disney’s brand considered distancing themselves from Depp and returning to one of their other beloved flagship stars …. Zac Efron.
In March 2020, Disney began talks with Efron about replacing Depp in the next movie of the franchise. Obviously, given the two men’s 20 year age difference, there would have to be a twist to the replacement. Most people speculate that this twist would involve an origin story … Something from Sparrow’s past which would see Efron play the young brigand.
As of November 2020, Disney’s interest in Efron for the role of Sparrow seemed to be waning as Depp’s court case seemed to be unfolding in Depp’s favor. However, as of January 2021, Heard’s case is stronger than ever with a judge accepting her $100 million countersuit against Depp…. An event that required concrete evidence that her initial claims of domestic abuse were valid AND that it was her reputation that had been unduly damaged.
So will Efron play Sparrow in the upcoming Disney reboot? In March of 2020, it seemed fairly certain. By November 2020, Disney said no. But it’s not the first time the company changed their mind and given recent events it would not be unreasonable for them to do so again. For now, it seems the decision rests on the outcome of the trial.