Late yesterday evening, Deadline reported that Disney had shut down work on their planned big screen adaption of the western hero The Lone Ranger. Apparently, the studio couldn’t come to terms with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski’s $250 million budget for the film. Disney was only willing to spend $200 million.
The film was set to star Armie Hammer as the masked hero and Johnny Depp as his faithful Indian companion Tonto. Tom Wilkinson had also been signed for the role of a railroad tychoon who figures into the plot. Depp had been attached to the project for several years.
It seems like a weak argument for Disney to make considering that the Bruckheimer and Depp have brought the studio nearly$2 billion in the form of ticket sales from the four Pirates Of The Caribbean films, the first three of which were directed by Verbinski. On paper it’s a combination that looks like money in the box office.
However, Disney has been spending pretty heavily of late. Reportedly, reshoots currently going on for next month’s John Carter have shot that film’s budget up to $300 million. Filming has just commenced on their revisionist Wizard Of Oz prequel Oz The Great And Powerful with a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Given that Cars 2 has underperformed and is not bring in the cash that Disney had hoped for and that Carter is a huge gamble that might not pay off, The Lone Ranger, with actual filming scheduled to start in October, was the easiest project to shut down in order to reign in overall studio spending. True, Disney will be loosing money with this action. Some millions were already spent on things like a script and the pre-production work already done. Also, some folks, specifically Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer, most likely have “play or pay” deals for the film, so they’ll be getting a check no matter what.
I feel bad for Hammer though, as after Justice League, this is the second high-profile film he has been cast in that collapsed before filming began.
The Lone Ranger had been scheduled for a December 21, 2012 release, the same week Paramount opens their zombie apocalpse film World War Z and a week after Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey debuts.