The Hollywood Reporter is stating that despite having shut down pre-production last week, Disney has given director Gore Verbinski a week to try and rework the script for the long in development adaption of the western hero to bring its cost down to a more affordable level for the studio. Initially, the film was budgeted out to approximately $250 million, though with the fact that they are outlaying on two other expensive projects right now (John Carter and Oz, The Great And Powerful), Disney was hoping to get the final cost of the project down towards the $215 to $220 million range. Verbinski has reportedly made some trims that got the budget down to the $242 million neighborhood.
Of course, during this whole discussion, many people have wondered how a western could cost so much. After all, the Coen Brothers made True Grit for $40 million and even the science-fiction western genre mash-up Cowboys & Aliens only cost $163 million. But it is easy to see why Disney would like to minimize their risk on this movie as much as possible. Despite the instant box office strength of Johnny Depp, westerns are still not much of a box office draw. Although True Grit made $250 million worldwide against its small budget, bigger-budget westerns like Jonah Hex and Cowboys & Aliens have been duds, earning much less than their costs.
Let’s bullet point some of the major costs that are being looked at-
- Salaries – There are some pretty big players involved in the film- Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Depp all command big money for their services. The Hollywood Reporter is already stating that Verbinski and Bruckheimer have already knocked about $10 million off of their normal fess to help reduce the budget.
- Werewolves – Yup, you ready that right. Werewolves. Earlier drafts of the screenplay were heavy with supernatural elements including werewolves and Tonto being involved in hunting the malevolent Indian supernatural entity known as the Windigo. Good thing that the Lone Ranger has silver bullets, right? Thankfully, though, many of these expensive elements have been reportedly written out of more recent drafts.
- Trains – And while recent drafts have removed elements of the supernatural, they still contain three big action set pieces involving trains, including one being described as “he biggest train sequence in film history.”
- Gore Verbinski himself – Disney may be wary that after all is said and done with reducing the budget that the director won’t just spend like crazy anyway. The studio is reportedly still unhappy that the budget for the third Pirates Of The Caribbean film that he directed for them had a budget that spiraled out of control to nearly $300 million. Will they want him replaced with someone who has a little more control of the purse strings of a project? If Verbinski were shown the door would star Depp follow? Probably not, as he was attached to the project long before Verbinski was hired.
How will this all play out? I suspect we’ll know sooner rather than later. And by sooner, perhaps as early as this weekend, when Disney is holding its D23 expo where they will be promoting a number of their upcoming film projects for fans.