‘I’ll be taking it in a slightly different direction,’ the Man Booker Prize winner said. ‘Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now a neurosurgeon. The way I see it, he’s come to the realisation that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is really just a symbol for everything that he has come to mistrust about himself. So he retrains and in an amazingly short time becomes one of the most eminent medical men of his generation. Along the way he meets Angelica (Penelope Cruz), one of the top five Leibnitz scholars in the world, and is seduced by her saucy manner and bounteous decolletage. They live in a nice part of the Caribbean, where there are Sunday papers and you can get really authentic focaccia.
‘But their clever, successful lives are about to be invaded by Blackbeard – now a brilliant but self-doubting composer – who is determined to make Jack understand that rationalism is simply camouflage, an elaborate set of defences against the inadmissible truth that the received idea of ‘identity’ is delusional, a way of consoling ourselves for some lost pre-lapsarian innocence. They discuss it over grappa and mineral water, and Blackbeard feels momentarily ill at ease. “But surely ontology and epistemology are entwined like the nerve fibres of the corpus collosum,”Jack muses drily.
‘Just at this climactic moment, Angelica arrives, to explain that Leibnitz had a somewhat tortured relationship with Spinoza, and never fully acknowledged the intellectual debt he owed to the older man. Blackbeard, suddenly struck by a fugitive fragment of memory, or perhaps desire, starts to explain that any attempt to equate morality with algebra, in the sense that Spinoza intended, can only be redundant, given what new neurological findings about consciousness tell us about personal identity and the nature of the ‘self’. He then, inexplicably, throws himself out of the window. A wry half smile flickers over Jack’s wise, successful face. He tenderly, almost hesitantly, makes love to Angelica; she weeps afterwards, and he tenderly explains to her again how clever he is.
‘Jack and Angelica know that nothing can ever be the same now, that some essential tenderness, or perhaps just the habitual recreation of a shared deception that held them together, has been irrecoverably sundered. The focaccia has hardened, become brittle and dry. The Sunday papers have all been read. He shrugs, and tenderly makes love to Angelica again, while wondering why no one has congratulated him on anything recently. Then something or other explodes.
‘I thought a better title, actually, would be Eminent Neurosurgeons of the Caribbean, but Disney weren’t buying.’
Johnny Depp is reported to be ‘profoundly moved’ by this radical new vision for the franchise. ‘I feel Jack’s terrifying sense of contingency,’ he said, ‘and I’m just crazy for Leibnitz.’
Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Search for A Quite Possibly Illusory Sense of Detachment begins shooting in May.