When Disney began developing a Pirates of the Caribbean movie based on the theme park ride of the same name, the studio didn’t find the perfect cast right away. They’d eventually go on to cast Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley in the lead roles, but they weren’t the producers’ first choices.
There have been five Pirates movies so far, with a reboot reportedly on the way to keep the franchise going, and over the years, many A-listers have been considered for roles that they ultimately haven’t landed. Plenty of other stars could’ve played Jack Sparrow instead of Depp.
10 Hugh Jackman As Jack Sparrow
Hugh Jackman was the producers’ top choice to play Jack Sparrow, but Disney wouldn’t allow them to cast him, because they didn’t consider him to be a big enough star at the time. Jim Carrey was offered the role but turned it down to make Bruce Almighty instead.
Cary Elwes, Michael Keaton, Steve Martin, Matthew McConaughey, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, and Robin Williams were all considered for the part before Johnny Depp was cast.
9 Heath Ledger As Will Turner
Before Orlando Bloom was cast to play Will Turner, the runner-up for the part was Heath Ledger, but he didn’t quite make it to the top of the shortlist.
Christian Bale, Jude Law, Tobey Maguire, and Ewan McGregor were all considered for the role by Disney before Bloom was chosen to play it.
8 Jessica Alba As Elizabeth Swann
If Keira Knightley was unavailable to play Elizabeth Swann, the producers’ second choice for the part was Sophia Myles, best known for playing Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in the live-action Thunderbirds movie.
Before Knightley was cast, the producers considered Jessica Alba, Jaimie Alexander, and even Amanda Bynes for the role of Elizabeth.
7 Robert De Niro As Hector Barbossa
Robert De Niro was the first actor to be offered the role of Captain Hector Barbossa in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but he turned it down because he didn’t think the movie would perform well at the box office.
So, Geoffrey Rush was cast. De Niro went on to regret turning down the role because Pirates was a huge success. Later, he accepted the role of Captain Shakespeare in Stardust.
6 Richard E. Grant As Davy Jones
Before Bill Nighy was cast as Davy Jones in the second Pirates movies, the producers considered such actors as Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, and Christopher Walken for the part.
Keith Richards, who formed the basis for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow, was originally supposed to make a cameo appearance in the second movie but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with touring. He did appear in the third and fourth movies, though.
5 Alfred Molina As Blackbeard
For the role of Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the producers considered Alfred Molina before casting Ian McShane to play the part.
Molina is no stranger to adventure movies, having appeared alongside Indiana Jones in his introduction in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or big-budget franchise movies, having played Doctor Octopus in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
4 Megan Fox As Syrena
Since Keira Knightley didn’t return for the fourth Pirates movie, the producers had to find a new female lead for their franchise. Penélope Cruz was cast as Jack Sparrow’s former lover Angelica, while there was a secondary female character in Syrena, a mermaid.
The producers eventually cast Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey in the role, but before she was given the part, the producers considered Megan Fox at the height of her Transformers fame.
3 Taron Egerton As Henry Turner
Brenton Thwaites eventually landed the role of Henry Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but he was far from the first young performer considered for the part.
Disney conducted screen tests with Taron Egerton, Ansel Elgort, Mitchell Hope, Sam Keeley, and George Mackay before casting Thwaites.
2 Gabriella Wilde As Carina Smyth
Kaya Scodelario was eventually cast as Dead Men Tell No Tales’ female lead role, Carina Smyth, an ambitious young astronomer who wants to go to college and is falsely accused of witchcraft, but she wasn’t the producers’ only choice for the role.
Lucy Boynton, Alexandra Dowling, Jenna Thiam, and Gabriella Wilde all read for the part before Scodelario was cast. Wilde has been working with a similar historical setting in Poldark and will appear in Wonder Woman 1984.
1 Christoph Waltz As Captain Salazar
Christoph Waltz was the producers’ first choice to play the villainous role of Captain Salazar in Dead Men Tell No Tales. When Waltz was cast, the character was called Captain Brand in the script. Waltz, of course, could play the Pirates baddie in his sleep; he won an Oscar for playing the sinister S.S. Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
However, Waltz eventually had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts, and the role of the undead sea captain was given to Javier Bardem instead. Bardem could also play the role in his sleep; he won an Oscar for playing sinister hitman Anton Chigurh in the Coens’ No Country for Old Men.
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