Last week, it was reported that Will Smith was returning to work with the Walt Disney Company on a sequel to the hit live-action film, Aladdin, which premiered in 2019. In that film, Will had taken the Genie — made into an iconic character by comedic genius Robin Williams — and made it his own, earning praise from fans. However, Smith’s return was not met with an abundance of excitement. Instead, it was met with much debate, and a lot of people called Disney hypocritical for working with the controversial actor again.
During the 2022 Academy Awards, comedian Chris Rock made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. While Will Smith laughed along a first, his mood quickly changed. Smith walked up on stage and smacked Rock right across the face. Smith then walked back to his seat and screamed at Rock, telling the comedian to keep Pinkett-Smith’s name out of his mouth. The audience — and those watching from home — were shocked.
Not long after the now-infamous Oscars slap, Smith apologized to Rock for his actions. However, that did not stop the Academy from banning Smith from attending the Oscars for the next ten years. Smith has continued to act contrite and apologize for what he did. Now, the problem that people are having isn’t that Disney has decided to give Smith another chance. It’s that they have given Smith another chance while completely cutting ties with Johnny Depp, who was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife Amber Heard.
In April 2022, Depp and Heard faced off in a Virginia courtroom, with both filing defamation lawsuits against the other — Depp filed first, and Heard filed her defamation suit in response. During the trial, the jury listened to audio recordings of Heard and Depp arguing, with Heard even admitting to hitting the Pirates of the Caribbean actor. In the end, the jury decided that both Depp and Heard had defamed each other, but Heard was more at fault. The jury awarded Depp more than $10 million, while Heard was awarded $2 million.
After the jury announced its decision, many of Depp’s fans considered him completely vindicated, and they were vocal in calling on Disney to bring him back for another Pirates film. During the trial, Depp claimed that Disney had dropped him from the project when Heard’s OpEd claiming abuse hit the press. However, Disney never commented on the verdict, and there seems to be no plan to bring Johnny Depp, and Captain Jack Sparrow, back into the Disney family.
During the trial, Depp said that, after the way Disney treated him, he wouldn’t work for the company again, even if they offered him $300 million and one million alpacas. So, it’s possible that Disney has reached out to Depp to come back, but he has never indicated that they have.
Again, Disney has not commented on its current relationship with Depp, or why it chose to work with Smith again after his inexcusable actions. Only time will tell if Disney tries to get Depp back on board, but Pirates director Jerry Bruckheimer has said he would love to work with the actor again.