Johnny Depp ‘shocked and very sad’ to hear his favorite Disney exec forced to walk the plank

Sept. 20, 2009 | 12:41 a.m.

The shockwaves are still being felt in Hollywood after the abrupt departure of Dick Cook from his longtime post atop The Walt Disney Studios. Just last weekend, Cook was on stage in Anaheim at Disney’s D23 Expo where he was sharing hugs and backslaps on stage with elite talent such as Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and Tim Burton.  (You can find links to our coverage of those moments below)

Dawn C. Chmielewski led the Los Angeles Times coverage of Cook’s ejection from the Disney corporate cockpit, which is being framed as a dispute with the big boss of the Mouse House, which would be Bob Iger, chairman of Disney as a whole. Here’s an excerpt from her piece (reported and written with Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz) which hints at the popularity that Cook enjoyed with the on-screen talent and directors even as his corporate connections turned sour…

Johnny Depp and Dick Cook

Cook, the onetime Disneyland ride operator who rose to head the studio, is viewed as a traditionalist at a time when Iger is seeking new ways of doing business. Cook tended to be uncommunicative to the point of secretiveness — a personal style that frustrated Iger, who emphasizes collaboration.

Iger nonetheless lauded Cook’s contributions to Disney, in a tenure that included the launch of 63 movies that exceeded $100 million in domestic box office, the release of “Toy Story” and the first release of a digital film, “Tarzan.”

“Dick Cook’s outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship have truly enriched this company and significantly impacted Disney’s great legacy,” Iger said. “We thank Dick for his tremendous passion for Disney, and his many accomplishments and contributions.”

Some of Hollywood’s most prominent figures reacted to the news with dismay.

Johnny Depp, star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, said he was “shocked and very sad” to hear about Cook’s abrupt departure.

“He is the utmost gentleman,” said Depp, whom Cook contacted personally in London. “He said, ‘I’d like you to hear it from me before you hear it from someone else or read it.’ He said today was my last day. He didn’t give me a reason.”

In a statement, Cook said he had been contemplating stepping down for some time. “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,” he said. “To wrap up my Disney experience in a neatly bundled statement is close to impossible. But what I will say is . . . we have achieved many industry and company milestones.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Depp decide that this is a pretty good reason to cut the “Pirates” franchise off with the fourth film that he and Cook were promoting in Anaheim. In fact, I wonder if Cook’s ouster was postponed until Depp was publicly locked in for that return trip aboard the Black Pearl

Again, you can read the full story from the Business section right here.  — Geoff Boucher



Patrick Goldstein: Cook firing announces new direction for Disney

More from Depp: “There’s a crack in my enthusiasm” for “Pirates” 4

Ahoy matey: Johnny Depp stuns D23 fans

Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and the Muppets feel the D23 love

Hannah Montana as a mutant? Reaction to Disney-Marvel deal

Marvel is on a mission in Hollywood

50 years later: ‘Sleeping Beauty’ star dazzles D23 audience 

Guillermo del Toro will be taking Disney on a scary ride


Photo: Walt Disney photo showing Johnny Depp and Dick Cook in happier days.

UPDATE: Early post had a scrambled spelling on Bob Iger’s name. If I worked for him, I’d be walking the plank…


4 Responses to Johnny Depp ‘shocked and very sad’ to hear his favorite Disney exec forced to walk the plank

  1. Rpunch says:

    This is an example of business interests supplanting tradition. While the changes at Disney are probably a good business move, I am sure Mr. Cook saw it as an exit cue. It wasn't clear in the article or by his own comments, but the best guess is the move did not conform to Mr. Cook's tastes, and that is completely understandable. As to what happens next with Disney and Cook is anybody's guess.

  2. Tim O'Shea says:

    Nice dodge of the ET/syndicated celebrity news cycle with a Friday afternoon executive change…as the article said: "The news, which came just as offices were emptying out for the weekend…"
    Geoff, do you think Cook ends up at another studio or where can he go from here?

  3. Ellen says:

    That's too bad. :( He sounds like the kind of guy that Disney wants to present itself as…

  4. Randy Waage says:

    Wow, that is sort of sad after 38 years of working for Disney. Least he had one last high point with D23.
    I'm thinking the guy is worth several millions of dollars so he probably doesn't have to worry too much about getting a new job. Should be interesting to see who they replace him with.

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