Hollywood was shocked Friday afternoon by the sudden dismissal/resignation (take your pick) of Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, but no one may have taken it harder than Johnny Depp.
Speaking to The Los Angeles Times late at night in London, Depp said Cook’s departure had created “a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment” for the project.
Depp, who recently appeared at the first official Disney convention, D23 Expo, to support both his role as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and the new “Pirates” movie, credited Cook with standing by his interpretation of the character Captain Jack Sparrow when others at the studio were questioning his un-Disney like direction.
Depp told the Times, “He’s instantly trustworthy. And you generally don’t meet people at the studios you trust. He’s a rare beast.”
The actor also said he currently has a potential deal in place for “Pirates 4” and whether he moves forward or not will depend on how good the script is, but was presently “shocked and sad” over the day’s events.
A lifelong employee at Disney, Cook began his career with the company in 1971 when he started as a monorail operator. By 2002, then CEO Michael Eisner made him chairman of the studio, one of the most senior positions in the company. Unfortunately, the studio side of the operation — his responsibility — lost $12 million in the third quarter due to financial disappointments such as “Bedtime Stories” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Current CEO Bob Iger blamed the losses on the quality of the overall slate in a conference call with Wall Street investors, but no one in the industry truly believed Cook could lose his job. Clearly, having hits such as “The Proposal” and “Up” over the summer didn’t restore Iger’s confidence in the well liked studio chief.
Who will take over Cook’s position as studio chairman now and convince stars like Depp to stay in the fold is the $100 million dollar question that will have the town buzzing over the weekend. Will Pixar head and Disney Animation Chief John Lasseter take the top spot? Could Kevin Feige, president of production at newly acquired Marvel Studios, really ascend to a position of that stature so quickly? Could Stacey Snider somehow get out of her DreamWorks deal to run the studio? Or will it be an unknown who will have an even harder time proving himself to the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, Robert Zemeckis and Burton? All are major players with projects or longtime deals at the studio who will be wary of someone without a strong track record.
Needless to say, Cook’s replacement and possibly Iger, will have a call to Depp on the top of their list of things to do.