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Unexpected Cherry On Top: Disney Chairman Dick Cook Fired? ‘Pirates 4’ Doomed?!
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Disney

If you visit the site everyday (or any movie site, for that matter), you know that recently there was a massive shower of Disney-related news announced at their D23 Expo — most of which were revealed by Disney Chairman, Dick Cook. Most of the news was very exciting, including big news about a Muppet takeover, information on big Pixar sequels Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, and the official title for the fourth movie in their Pirates franchise: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

After this Christmas morning of announcements, the last thing you would expect to top it all off would be bad news, but that’s just what we’ve been given. It’s being reported by Nikki Finke that after 38 years of service, and an impressively popular reputation, Chairman Dick Cook has now been fired by Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. There are reports that the two weren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye, as well.

It was initially reported that he had innocently just “stepped down” from his position, which Disney is standing by, even though Finke has multiple updates on her report that quote various Disney insiders who are saying that it was a firing, and not one that is being taken lightly. People that have worked with him are crushed by this news, and that it reminds them of when former Disney topper Michael Eisner fired Jeffrey Katzenberg. Even worse, they’re wondering who they could possibly replace him with, saying “I don’t know who Iger thinks he can find who’ll be able to come in there and already have relations with Spielberg, and Zemeckis, and Bruckheimer, and Lasseter, and Burton, like this guy had,” which is accompanied by rumors that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige “impressed the hell out of” Iger while the Marvel deal was being worked out…so take that as you will.

Click over for more, including the possible fate of Pirates of the Caribbean straight from the mouth of Johnny Depp, and the official statements from both Cook and Iger.

Dick Cook had a close relationship with Depp, so he took it upon himself to call the actor and inform him that he was leaving, which Depp told the LA Times that he was “shocked and devastated” by, but that Cook didn’t give him a reason for his departure. This is where the news really gets dangerous, as it appears that this could actually kill Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

When we first heard that there would be another Pirates, and when we found out that it would be called Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, we were also told that Depp was already definitely coming back. As it turns out, that was ONLY because Dick Cook was sitting in his office at Disney when the project was moving forward.

Here’s what Depp had to say:

He’s instantly trustworthy. And you generally don’t meet people at the studios you trust. He’s a rare beast.

When things went a little sideways on the first ‘Pirates’ movie and others at the studio were less than enthusiastic about my interpretation of the character, Dick was there from the first moment. He trusted me.”

There’s a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment. It was all born in that office.

Depp went on to tell about how the Suits at Disney hated his vision for the Jack Sparrow character — which involved his mimicked movement of Rolling Stone Keith Richards, gold tooth caps, and things in his hair — and how Cook stood strongly by the actor, and trusted his interpretation from day one.

For the moment, it doesn’t sound like Depp is completely out, but he’s certainly rocked by these events. We can always hope that this is all a big misunderstanding and that Cook did indeed step down of his own will; if Depp found out he was fired for any reason, he may not take it well.

Another huge name who is “devastated” by the news is Steven Spielberg, who says a large reason he and DreamWorks inked a deal with Disney was Cook.

Here is the official press release that includes statements from both Cook and Iger:

September 18, 2009

STATEMENT FROM RICHARD W. COOK, CHAIRMAN, THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS

I am stepping down from my role as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective immediately.

I have loved every minute of my 38 years that I have worked at Disney…from the beginning as a ride operator on Disneyland’s steam train and monorail to my position as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. To wrap up my Disney experience in a neatly bundled statement is close to impossible. But what I will say is, during my time at the Studio, we have achieved many industry and Company milestones. Our talent roster is simply the best in the business. I believe our slate of upcoming motion pictures is the best in our history. But most of all, I love the people, my colleagues, my teammates, who are the most talented, dedicated and loyal folks in the world. I know that I leave the Studio in their exceptional hands.

I have been contemplating this for some time now and feel it’s the right time for me to move on to new adventures…and in the words of one of my baseball heroes, Yogi Berra, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

STATEMENT FROM ROBERT A. IGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

Throughout his distinguished 38-year Disney career, Dick Cook’s outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship have truly enriched this company and significantly impacted Disney’s great legacy. We thank Dick for his tremendous passion for Disney, and his many accomplishments and contributions to The Walt Disney Studios, including a very promising upcoming film slate. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we wish him the best with all the future has to offer.

On first glance, this does read like a civil, mutual decision to step away from his post, but with numerous reports that Cook himself is saying he was fired, something is a bit fishy.

Stay tuned for updates and any word on the future of Pirates of the Caribbean.

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