Updated: Disney Pulls the Plug on Gore Verbinski's 'The Lone Ranger'

Monday, 15 August 2011 09:40 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Updated: Disney Pulls the Plug on Gore Verbinski's 'The Lone Ranger'

Johnny Depp reteaming with Gore Verbinski – who directed the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies – and Jerry Bruckheimer – who produced the same – on a property as recognizable as The Lone Ranger sounds pretty much like a sure thing; a money cow with billion dollar teats, a gravy train with biscuit wheels, a cask of cash aged to perfection.  And yet Disney has suddenly killed the project right in the middle of pre-production.  Armie Hammer was set to play the title character, with Depp playing his ostensible sidekick Tonto, with a release date of December 21, 2012 but Disney has deemed the project too expensive, putting the kibosh on the whole endeavor.

Mike Fleming at Deadline reports that Verbinski and company were attempting to bring the project's budget down from a hefty $250 million to the studio's desired $200 million, but couldn't seem to wrangle up an estimate lower than $232 million. 

UPDATE: Variety is reporting that The Lone Ranger is not, in fact, dead at Disney.  According to "sources close to the production," both Disney and the creative team are working together to bring the budget closer to the studio's target.  The report does not say, however, if the planned production will be pushed back as a result.  And thusly does this update conclude.

Disney was apparently concerned because at least partially because of two other big budget live-action films  further along in the process.  There's the science fiction epic John Carter from Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton and there's also Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful.  The former is in post-production and is said to be costing the studio in the neighborhood of $300 million, while the latter just starting shooting in Michigan with a budget around $200 million.

Fleming points out that Universal recently abandoned a Western themed epic with huge potential when they opted not to proceed with The Dark Tower trilogy being cooked up by Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman.

The Lone Ranger was to be an updated take on the masked western hero and his Native American partner, both of whom debuted on a serialized radio program in the 1930's and have been popular in film series, comic books, videogames, and on television.  The film's screenplay was written by Justin Haythe and production was set to take place in New Mexico.

Verbinski was in the midst of casting the supporting players, with Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and Dwight Yoakam all set to play prominent roles.  The filmmakers are now looking at either shopping the project to other studios potentially willing to pony up that rather formidable budget, or retooling in order to proceed at Disney with a reduced figure.

Either way, The Lone Ranger will not be galloping into theaters on December 21, 2012.  That release date is now a little less crowded, but will still see openings for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hunter Killer, and World War Z.

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