The untold truth of Captain Jack Sparrow

The history of one of cinema's bravest and campiest pirates is stranger than you might think, both in-universe and in real life. From the backstory, to the casting, to his impact on a classic theme park ride, there are a lot of odd twists and turns in this swashbuckler's saga. Sing it with us, now: "This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow"

Johnny Depp wasn't the first choice for Captain Jack Sparrow

At this point, Johnny Depp and Captain Jack Sparrow are so synonymous it's hard to think of pirates without imagining his buccaneer grin and quick wit. If it weren't for him, odds are there would have only been one Pirates movie, and a rather forgettable one, at that. Sparrow seems to be the role Depp was born for. However, at one point in pre-production, the studio wanted Sparrow to be more like, well, Wolverine.

Yeah, when Captain Jack Sparrow was first conceived, the idea was for Hugh Jackman to play him. The screenwriter says he even named the character after Jackman: Jack Sparrow, Hugh Jackman. Get it? But that idea fell through, at which point Johnny Depp was tapped, right? Wrong. Johnny Depp came later, after Jim Carrey (who we can't possibly start to imagine as a pirate), Michael Keaton (who would've kinda rocked), and Christopher Walken (what?). After all of them, the studio finally turned to Johnny Depp, who probably mumbled something about rum.

Captain Jack Sparrow was never intended to be a main character

The fourth Pirates movie, to put it lightly, was the the type of movie that made everyone reading this go, "Wait, there was a fourth?" One of the cardinal sins of that movie was that it focused so much of the story on Captain Jack Sparrow, turning him from a side character who drove all of the action, into a premium main hero. Of course, by the third Pirates movie, he already pretty much was the main character — but he had Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan to balance him out. Something a bit more bland to balance the spices.

But then the fourth movie came and, well, sucked. But of course, the fourth had a different director. See, the director of the first three, Gore Verbinski, knew Captain Jack Sparrow shouldn't be the main character. While Verbinski moved Captain Jack more and more into the center spot, he never let him take over the entire film. Because Verbinski is a good director. Can he come back now?

Johnny Depp was responsible for much of Captain Jack Sparrow's character

Captain Jack Sparrow, as-written, was someone, well, that Hugh Jackman could play. He was a classic pirate. A dashing, secondary character of a pirate. Someone who was definitely suave and cool, but no scene stealer, by any means. Of course, Johnny Depp wouldn't settle for that. He came on set and basically created Captain Jack Sparrow as we know him. He ad-libbed lines and would completely change the way the character was written. The Disney executives were freaked out by it, and even complained to the director… who basically just laughed.

The studio thought they were getting a smiling swashbuckler, not a drunken rock star. Which, coincidentally, was actually a huge part of the inspiration. See, Johnny Depp said he based much of his character on legendary Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards … who eventually starred in the films as the Keeper of the Pirates Code (and Captain Jack's father). See, it all comes together.

According to Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow, and all of his characters, are gay

Captain Jack Sparrow acts, well, "eccentric" is a fine word for it. He's pretty campy. Well, according to Johnny Depp, that's on purpose. See, Johnny Depp portrays Captain Jack Sparrow as a very over-the-top gay man. After some of the first dailies made their way to the Disney executives, they panicked, to which Johnny Depp replied, "Didn't you know all my characters are gay?" Well, we do now!

Johnny Depp's acting was so weird to the execs that they considered putting subtitles under him and even firing him. Luckily they didn't, and the series is now on its fifth movie, with, conceivably, more to come. Depp was likely being at least a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the revelation makes all of his other movies, especially those in which his character has a love story with a girl, a lot more interesting.

Captain Jack Sparrow isn't from the rides, but he's in them now

If you ever went to Disney World or Disneyland, you probably enjoyed (or, depending your age, were terrified by) the Pirates of the Caribbean rides. Ah, the sacking of the pirate town, the pirate's singing, the skull and crossbones, and Captain Jack Sparrow, right? Nope. Originally, Captain Jack Sparrow wasn't in the ride. He was a character created specifically for the movie — there wasn't even a character resembling him in the ride. Of course, after the success of the film, that couldn't stand.

So Disney updated their Pirates rides, making them a bit more family-friendly, and adding about nine dozen Captain Jack Sparrow's throughout the ride, including — perhaps most prominently — during the ending. After the fourth Pirates movie came about, the one about um … uh… after that one came out, the beginning was even made-over to feature that film's villain, Blackbeard. Okay, seriously, what happened in the fourth Pirates movie? Were there mermaids? We definitely remember mermaids …

He was recruited as a slave trader … and rebelled

Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate history is left rather loose, aside from a few stories ("Sea turtles, mate.") that turn out to be false. It makes sense. After all, we wouldn't want our image of poor ol' Captain Jack to be sullied by the thought of him robbing random poor ships blind, or killing and pillaging for no reason. However, there originally was a more solid excuse for him becoming a pirate, and it had nothing to do with greed, at all.

See, originally, Captain Jack worked for the East India Trading Company — you know, that thing the slimeball in the third movie was in charge of? When Captain Jack was told to ferry slaves to America, he rebelled, and freed them. However, his ship was sunk, and with death near, he made a deal with Davy Jones to bring his ship back (setting in motion the plot of Dead Men's Chest) and he rechristened it The Black Pearl. That makes him seem so heroic, he's almost lame.

He's based on a real pirate

Captain Jack Sparrow is an oddball, for sure. He bumbles around and somehow manages to win against companies, undead pirates, and even a sea goddess. While also being incredibly drunk. He's basically a superhero, which makes it a little odd that, believe it or not, he's based on a real person.

The man was an infamous pirate named Captain Jack Birdy (although later, he converted to Islam, becoming Yusuf Reis). Like Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Birdy was a legendary pirate who started out as a non-pirate sailor before becoming a privateer and then becoming the terror of the seven seas. In his old age, he even took to saving people, something we can easily imagine Captain Jack Sparrow doing, as well. We hope that Captain Jack Sparrow's story ends the same. After all his adventures, Captain Jack Sparrow converts to Islam and just chills out? It may not be the happy ending Captain Jack Sparrow wants, but it's the one he deserves.