(Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

We like to imagine Hollywood as a precision machine, with every million-dollar decision motivated by an enlightened blend of business savvy and artistic intent, while auteurs and producers battle it out in the honest assumption that their conflicts will create masterpieces of commercial cinema. The truth, of course, is a little more blurry, as we were reminded this week via a column from prolific screenwriter Terry Rossio.

Rossio—whose credits include Shrek, the 1998 Godzilla, and a host of Disney films, including Aladdin and most of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise—revealed that his version of the script for the upcoming Pirates sequel, Dead Men Tell No Tales, featured a female villain, but the character was nixed by star Johnny Depp. Why didn’t Depp want to face off against a powerful female adversary? Because he’d already done that, a mere five years earlier.

Depp apparently cited his work on Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows—where he faced off against Eva Green, playing an evil and lovestruck witch—as his reason for rejecting the script. It’s not clear if Depp was motivated by Dark Shadows’ lackluster box office returns, or if he just thinks “one evil woman per career” is a good rule to live by. It’s also not clear whether this decision was made recently enough that he might have had an ulterior motive for keeping the phrase “Johnny Depp fights a woman” out of the day’s entertainment reporting.

So, yeah: The next time you wonder which complicated negotiations or flashes of genius motivated the choices in your favorite blockbusters, be sure to remember that it might have just been a dude with a ton of power tossing off a “Nah,” pretty much on a whim.