Various figures have been bandied about in rumor-land, such as the idea that, after being green-lit with a $175 million budget, John Carter swelled to something more like $300 million. The film's cost has even been cited as a reason for Disney's public trigger-shyness on Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. The rampant rumors were distilled in a January Hollywood Reporter piece structured around the idea that Stanton's inexperience in directing large-scale live action – he wrote and directed Finding Nemo and WALL-E at the beloved Pixar Animation Studios, where he's part of the brain trust – led directly to a need for extensive reshoots and costly rejiggering.
Stanton's never denied that additional photography was part of his plan and process, a natural adaptation of the Pixar method focused on building and refining story over several different cuts. In December he explained that though reshooting is more unwieldy in live action, he always planned for reshoots after completing a rough assembly of John Carter.
Now the director and his creative team are making the publicity rounds in advance of the film's release in less than three weeks, and naturally, the subjects of budgets, reshoots, and out of control budgets have come up. At a Phoenix, Arizona roundtable interview at which THR was present, Stanton stated pretty emphatically, "I want to go completely on record that I literally was on budget and on time the entire shoot. Disney is so completely psyched that I stayed on budget and on time that they let me have a longer reshoot."
"That is just fascinating to me that people would think that’s true," Stanton said, and again mentioned that reshoots were always part of the plan. "I actually stayed on budget and on time because I knew that I had a reshoot."
Producer Lindsey Collins, a fellow Pixar alumnus, explained, "It's the way we've always worked and certainly at Pixar that's how we work – we get it all up there and put it up and we watch it and go, 'That’s not working, let's move that over here.' So it doesn’t surprise me at all that that’s how Andrew worked on this one."
Finally, producer Jim Morris, a visual effects veteran who produced WALL-E, summed up the filmmakers' reaction to the allegations of irresponsible budgetary shenanigans, telling Slashfilm, "One thing that is frustrating is while this is a very expensive movie, we didn’t go wildly over budget. We went a couple points over budget and all of that was… We had planned for summer shooting, but we did a little bit of additional to kind of hone stuff and tighten it up and so forth. [That wasn’t] because things needed fixing, just because we wanted to improve them."
"So when you’re reading this stuff it’s sort of like ‘Well, judge the movie,’" Morris continued. "We executed the plan we came up with for this. There wasn’t anything wildly out of the box. A lot of the things, like the visual effects for example, came in under budget, which is unheard of. So that stuff is just all bullshit. I mean just to say it. I’m not saying the movie wasn’t expensive, it was very expensive. It was expensive from the day we started, but it didn’t get out of whack or out of control.
There's no official word from Disney on just how much it cost to make John Carter, an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel in the Barsoom series, A Princess of Mars. Stanton worked out the screenplay with Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. Apparently he has also outlined a potential trilogy adapting further novels in the series, should John Carter prove profitable. Taylor Kitsch, best known as the brooding alcoholic Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, stars as Carter, while Dejah Thoris, the formerly-titular princess, is played by Lynn Collins.
John Carter arrives in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D on March 9th.