Ah, the saga of “The Lone Ranger” continues to ride on and in case you’ve been away here’s the short version. Seeing “Cowboys & Aliens” tank, contrasted with the extraordinary $250-75 million budget that was in play for “The Lone Ranger,” Disney panicked and yanked the cord on the film, sending the filmmakers scrambling to try and get the budget down to somewhere between $200-220 million while still retaining the eye-popping sequences people are going to be paying for. The result? Well, it’s not back up and running but producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski are trying their damndest.
Deadline reports that Bruckheimer and Verbinski have just submitted a new budget that will put the cost of the film around $215 million. Not quite the $200 million Disney was hoping for, but under their make-or-break number of $220 million. But ah, there is a whole other twist to the proceedings. The studio is feigning surprise at Johnny Depp‘s revelation that he’s going to make the movie with Verbinski or not at all, with Disney playing shocked that the usually picky actor is sticking by a helmer he has worked with four times already. Moreover, Verbinski is said to be pushing back and will walk from the film (taking Depp with him) if the budget gets so low that it’s no longer the movie he originally intended to make.
It’s certainly a quandary for the studio who are grappling with the cold reality of what it means to make a big-budget blockbuster in this day and age. As it stands not only would “The Lone Ranger” need to triple its budget in box office receipts to be profitable, but even before lensing starts, $30 million will be spent on the salaries of Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer alone. Add to that Verbinski’s reputation for going over budget (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” wound up costing $300 million) and you can understand why Disney are wary of moving forward. The other question is how much out of the proposed three big train sequences in the film — once of which has been ambitiously described as one of the largest ever put on film — not to mention some of the other special effects sequences, can you afford to cut without losing any of its popcorn entertainment feel?
This has turned into a spin campaign war as well, with Disney more or less openly talking to Deadline and confirming they are “still in the Jerry Bruckheimer business and the Johnny Depp business” thereby not-so-subtly throwing Verbinski under the bus. And to add to the strain, Disney is sadistically still trying to hold onto the December 21, 2012 release date for the film with an insider claiming, “… it’s harder to get a good release date than it is to move it.”
So what does this all mean? Lord only knows. Disney has a franchise they still want to get off the ground but they aren’t going to bankrupt themselves to do it, while Bruckheimer/Verbinski/Depp want to make an uncompromised blockbuster…who’s gonna blink first?