Depp's next role unclear as green lights delayed

Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:05am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Johnny Depp is coming off an acclaimed role in "Public Enemies" and stars in one of the most anticipated movies of this weekend's Comic-Con, "Alice in Wonderland."

But the Mad Hatter is facing an unusual situation: Like the character he plays in "Alice," he soon could be killing time.

Depp is attached to a number of high-profile development properties but is facing a landscape devoid of "go" pictures -- those ready for production. Instead, there are a dizzying number of possibilities and schedule permutations, none of which seems likely to result in a produced movie for him anytime soon.

Producers have been interested in Depp for the title role in Warner Bros.' "The Incredible Mr. Limpet." Kevin Lima's remake of the 1964 fantasy comedy that would continue a whimsical, if slightly less drama-intensive, streak for the actor. He has not signed on, however, and in any event the pic would not go into production until next year.

Meanwhile, the fourth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean" remains a priority for Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. At an earlier point, it was going to be the next picture for Depp, who toplines as Jack Sparrow. But with Gore Verbinski no longer directing the franchise, the ship has slowed.

Disney is seeking a new director, a process that could take time. Although the studio is believed to want an established helmer of franchise and action fare, it has put the word out to agents that it would be open to younger directors and new ideas, potentially prolonging the process. That could mean as much as a four- or five-year hiatus since the 2007 release of the previous picture, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

(Disney also would like to scale back the size and budget of the next movie compared with previous installments; for that reason, it likely won't bring back relatively pricey Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.)

'RANGER' NOT YET RIDING   Continued...

<p>Cast member Johnny Depp poses at the premiere of the movie "Public Enemies" at the Mann Village theatre in Westwood, California June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>