Last month Disney put the brakes on The Lone Ranger, the classic western which has The Social Network actor Armie Hammer playing the title character and Johnny Depp playing the Ranger’s Native American companion Tonto. The studio wanted to trim the budget down from $275m to around $200m as westerns generally don’t perform well overseas, and with DVD sales declining it would have to make 3x its budget back at the worldwide box office to be worthwhile.
Now Deadline has an update on the project, and they say Johnny Depp won’t make the movie without his Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango director Gore Verbinski, which means Disney can’t simply replace Verbinski for another (cheaper) director without losing their box office draw.
Apparently Verbinski “won’t take the budget down to a certain point where it’s not the same movie that he started out to make”, and he will soon be presenting Disney with a new budget “in the $215m range” with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. That’s still above the $200m the studio wanted, but if they lose Verbinski they lose Depp as well.
The reason for such a high budget in the first place was said to be due to the inclusion of CGI-heavy werewolves and other supernatural creatures from Native American myths. Those have apparently been cut now, but the script still includes three big action set pieces involving trains, including one described as “the biggest train sequence in film history.” Disney will be wanting the film to have enough spectacle to attract worldwide audiences and earn sequels, but a budget over $200m is a risk.
The Lone Ranger was looking to shooting in October in New Mexico, which will offer the studio tax breaks. Whether these budget issues delay production remains to be seen, but the studio may still aim to meet the December 21, 2012 release date. As well as Depp and Hammer, the movie is also set to star Ruth Wilson, Dwight Yoakam, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale and Barry Pepper.