Former Disney Exec Predicts Johnny Depp Will Return to Pirates Post-Verdict: ‘There Is Huge Appetite’

A former Walt Disney Studios executive thinks Johnny Depp could someday return to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise following his victory in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp, 58, won his defamation claims against Heard, 36, on Wednesday, concluding a contentious six-week legal battle in Virginia that put their private lives in the public eye. (Heard also won one of her three claims of defamation, and her lawyer said Thursday that she plans to appeal.) Afterward, Depp said in a statement that the jury “gave me my life back” and the “best is yet to come” for him.

While Hollywood insiders have conflicting views on whether his career will bounce back after the trial, a former Disney exec thinks Depp could be asked to return to the Pirates franchise soon.

“I absolutely believe post-verdict that Pirates is primed for rebooting with Johnny as Capt. Jack back on board,” the former exec tells PEOPLE. “There is just too much potential box-office treasure for a beloved character deeply embedded in the Disney culture.

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“With [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer riding high on the massive success of Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverickthere is a huge appetite for bringing back bankable Hollywood stars in massively popular franchises,” the insider adds.

A spokesperson for Disney has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Depp earned an Oscar nomination for playing Jack Sparrow in the original 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The hit sequences came out in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2017.

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Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” Film – 2017

Peter Mountain/Walt Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

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Another Hollywood insider who has worked on previous Pirates films tells PEOPLE it is “not very likely” Depp will “come back as a star, but they’d probably make Pirates 6 with Margot Robbie or someone similar.” It was previously reported that Robbie, 31, was being eyed for a Pirates reboot. Franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently told The Sunday Times they are “developing two Pirates scripts — one with her, one without.”

The insider, who estimates the sequel wouldn’t “likely” be released until 2025 due to production timelines, says, “I would think they make Robbie his daughter and likely have a cameo with him as a test.”

During his time testifying in the defamation case, Depp spoke about his falling out with Disney executives, saying he felt he’d become “guilty until proven innocent.” The star — who also has the Alice in Wonderland franchise with the company — said on the stand that he would not work with Disney again, even if they offered him a $300 million paycheck.

About that comment, the insider tells PEOPLE, “I don’t believe that based on his money troubles, especially given Pirates is a billion-dollar global franchise.”

An additional industry source says Depp “will work again,” adding, “I do feel someone will give him a chance. He is very likable and very talented. A studio will just have to gauge and see it worth the risk and value, but he also won public opinion. He gained a whole new fan base through this and, yes, he will be back.”

One Hollywood agent tells PEOPLE though “reputations have been torn down on both sides” in the legal battle, Depp’s career could still “flourish, because this is the world that we live in.” They add, “His fans his are very loyal and vocal and all know he is far from perfect.”

Actor Johnny Depp gestures to spectators in court after closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. - Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse

Actor Johnny Depp gestures to spectators in court after closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 27, 2022. – Actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse

STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Johnny Depp (center)

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Depp also recalled in his testimony that he had wanted to give his Pirates character a “proper goodbye” and that he planned to keep making Pirates movies “until it was time to stop.” His agent his claimed Depp lost a potential $ 22.5 million payday to do a sixth Pirates because of Heard’s 2018 op-ed at the center of the defamation trial. Depp’s former longtime agent, however, testified, saying the actor’s “unprofessional behavior” in the years prior to the op-ed made studios “reluctant” to hire him.

Back in November 2020, Depp lost his highly publicized UK libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” The court upheld the outlet’s claims as being “substantially true” and Heard tested to back up the claims. In March 2021, Depp’s attempt to overturn the decision was overruled.

After losing that libel case, Depp announced he had agreed to step down from his role in Warner Bros.’s Fantastic Beasts franchise. He was later replaced by Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which hit theaters in April with the lowest box office performance of the Harry Potter franchise.

Reacting to the Virginia verdict on Wednesday, Heard said in a statement that she was “disappointed” by the jury’s decision: “The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence and sway of my ex-husband.”

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