Captain Jack Sparrow will return in 2015.

Johnny Depp will reprise his iconic role as the mischievous buccaneer in "Pirates of the Caribbean 5," which Disney announced is being targeting for a July 10, 2015, release.

Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have hired veteran writer Jeff Nathanson ("Catch Me If You Can," "Tower Heist") to write the screenplay.

No word what the latest tale will be about. But does it really matter?

The four "Pirates of the Caribbean" flicks have grossed $3.7 billion at the worldwide box office.

Since Depp is still working on "The Lone Ranger" for Disney and the Pirates script has yet to be delivered, filming on the fifth installment is not expected to start rolling until 2014.

"Pirates 5" will join the highly anticipated new "Star Wars" film as major tent poles for the studio in the summer of '15.

SNYDER IS DOING OWN "STAR WARS" mOVIE: As if "Star Wars" geeks haven't already had enough excitement recently, Zack Snyder is developing his own "Star Wars" film, apart from anything Disney has planned with its purchase of Lucasfilm. Disney has already announced plans to reboot the series.

The Los Angeles Times reported in November that Snyder, who directed "Man of Steel" and "300," had no interest in directing the hotly anticipated seventh film in the "Star War" series. But according to Vulture.com, the statement was a bit of misdirection: Snyder is in fact developing a separate Star Wars project for Lucasfilm.


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A well-played bit of misdirection, Mr. Snyder. Well played, indeed.

Reports say Snyder's film will be an as-yet-untitled Jedi epic loosely based on Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic "Seven Samurai," with the ronin and katana being replaced by the Force-wielding knights and their iconic lightsabers.

Some of us who are old enough can remember that one of the first 1970s "Star Wars" comic books was based on the same idea. You're not fooling us, Mr. Snyder.

It's not clear where Snyder's untitled Jedi film would fall within the Star Wars chronology, but one insider said it won't be considered part of the "numbered" episodes, but rather a stand-alone film set sometime post—Episode VI events, meaning the next phase of the franchise development is much broader than previously thought.

This might be too much for the geeks to handle. Even I'm starting to get faint chest pains.

Kurosawa's influential "Seven Samurai" ("The Magnificent Seven" was the American remake) concerns a small agrarian town in 16th-century Japan that's routinely pillaged by bandits. Fed up with the annual shakedown, its farmers retain the services of seven masterless samurai to defend their harvest.

One of the film's stars, Toshiro Mifune, was initially offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, reports say. George Lucas has cited the classic as one of his favorites, telling U.K. paper Telegraph in 2005 that "it's a brilliant, brilliant film, and every time I see it I can't believe the magic mixture of a great story and great acting and humor and action and suspense -- wonderful cinema. The art of moving pictures is on every frame of this movie."

In October, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the acquisition of Lucasfilm. He said that after Episode VII, "our long-term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years." Disney has not found a director yet for "Episode VII."

Vulture reported that Snyder would start production after Disney begins its planned 2015 release of "Star Wars: Episode VII." Disney has not commented on Snyder's plans.

NEW EVIDENCE IN NATALIE WOOD CASE: Natalie Wood had bruises consistent with injuries suffered in an assault when she died in 1981, according to a report released Monday by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. The new finding seems to call into question the original 1981 coroner's report that concluded the late star died accidentally.

According to CBS News, the latest report says bruising found on the actress's wrists, knees and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault.

Wood was originally believed to have accidentally drowned off the coast of Catalina Island on Nov. 28, 1981. Her husband, actor Robert Wagner, said she fell off their yacht, possibly while trying to retie a dinghy that had been banging against the side of the boat, disturbing her sleep.

The investigation into her death was reopened in 2011, after new information surfaced from several sources, including the captain of the yacht.

Wood's death certificate was later amended by authorities in August 2012, changing the cause of death from "accidental" to "undetermined." The latest report, however, doesn't speculate on what actually happened the night of Wood's death. Nor does it imply that her death be considered foul play.

"Since there are unanswered questions and limited additional evidence available for evaluation, it is opined by this Medical Examiner that the manner of death should be left as undetermined," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran wrote in the report, according to the Associated Press.

HEATHER GRAHAM'S HOUSE BURNS: Heather Graham's home caught fire Saturday night in New York City, after she lit some candles in her bathroom and left for the night.

Maybe she thought physics work differently for celebrities.

The candle flames ignited some clothes hanging nearby, according to the New York Post. Firefighters spent 45 minutes battling the fire in the 12th story apartment. Graham, 42, was informed of the situation and raced home.

Zach Braff, with whom Graham appeared with on "Scrubs," lives in the same building, just one floor down.

Graham will appear in "The Hangover Part III" this summer.

ROYAL BABY DUE IN JULY: The royal baby will arrive in July, St. James' Palace announced Monday.

I'm just wondering: Will they have guys in the delivery room, blowing trumpets when the baby comes out?

Anyway, the statement says "Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to confirm they are expecting a baby in July," the palace said in a statement.

That means Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, who is a duchess of something. We Americans don't understand that stuff. In fact, we had a war so we wouldn't have to understand that stuff.

Anyway, everything sounds good on the royal baby mama front. The palace said, "The duchess' condition continues to improve since her stay in hospital last month." The former Kate Middleton was admitted to London's King Edward VII Hospital for acute morning sickness in early December.

Oh, and no royal twins, it sounds like. The St. James's Palace statement refers to "a baby."

There goes the whole fun of having the kids slug it out on the day of their emergence, to see who gets to come out first.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks.

JULY 15 IN HISTORY

Tuesday is Jan. 15, the 15th day of 2013. There are 350 days left in the year.

1559: England's Queen Elizabeth I was crowned in Westminster Abbey.

1777: The people of New Connecticut declared their independence. (The republic later became the state of Vermont.)

1862: The U.S. Senate confirmed President Abraham Lincoln's choice of Edwin M. Stanton to be the new Secretary of War, replacing Simon Cameron.

1913: Actor Lloyd Bridges was born in San Leandro, Calif.

1929: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta.

1943: Work was completed on the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of War (now Defense).

1947: The mutilated remains of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, who came to be known as the "Black Dahlia," were found in a vacant Los Angeles lot; her slaying remains unsolved.

1954: Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married at San Francisco City Hall. (The marriage, however, lasted only about nine months.)

1961: A U.S. Air Force radar tower off the New Jersey coast collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean during a severe storm, killing all 28 men aboard.

1967: The Green Bay Packers of the National Football League defeated the Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League 35-10 in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, retroactively known as Super Bowl I.

1973: President Richard Nixon announced the suspension of all U.S. offensive action in North Vietnam, citing progress in peace negotiations.

1993: In Paris, a historic disarmament ceremony ended with the last of 125 countries signing a treaty banning chemical weapons.

2003: White House budget director Mitchell Daniels predicted federal deficits would balloon to the $200-$300 billion range over the next two years. Mickey Mouse and The Walt Disney Co. scored a big victory as the Supreme Court upheld longer copyright protections for cartoon characters, songs, books and other creations worth billions of dollars.

2008: Mitt Romney scored his first major primary victory in his native Michigan. During a visit to Saudi Arabia, President George W. Bush warned that surging oil prices threatened the U.S. economy and he urged OPEC nations to boost their output. Actor Brad Renfro, who as a youngster had played the title role in "The Client," was found dead in his Los Angeles home; he was 25.

2009: US Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger ditched his Airbus 320 in the Hudson River after a flock of birds disabled both engines; all 155 people aboard survived.

2012: Addressing a conference in Beirut on democracy in the Arab world, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded that Syria's president, Bashar Assad, stop killing his own people, and said the "old order" of one-man rule and family dynasties was over in the Middle East. At the Golden Globes, "The Artist" won best musical or comedy; "The Descendants" won best drama.

BIRTHDAYS

Actress Margaret O'Brien (76), actress Andrea Martin (66), actor-director Mario Van Peebles (56), actor James Nesbitt (48), singer Lisa Lisa (Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam) (46), actor Chad Lowe (45), actress Regina King (42), actor Eddie Cahill (35), rapper/reggaeton artist Pitbull (32), electronic dance musician Skrillex (25).

Associated Press