Late Friday we shared the stunning announcement that Disney had halted production on The Lone Ranger due to its silver-rich budget galloping north of $250 million. The blockbuster western starring Johnny Depp even had a release date of Christmas 2012, battling it out with the first leg of The Hobbit.
Well, whoa there, kemo sabe—the masked man and his trusty sidekick are still alive!
Variety is reporting Disney, Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski remain hot for the project and will have a pow-wow with Mouse House executives this week to try and shave some greenbacks off the mega-budget. Hollywood is tasting the bitter, lingering fear generated by the queasy stock market thrill ride, and Disney wisely chose to lay down their cards. Also, they've seen the unimpressive box office generated by Cowboys & Aliens and may have gotten spooked by a "what if we throw a huge comedy western party based on a beloved hero and nobody comes" scenario.
Now comes the excruciatingly difficult task of asking Godzilla-size egos to reduce some of their paychecks and bonuses to try and rein this holiday tentpole production into a more manageable jamboree. Apparently, Johnny Depp had his heart set on making this movie and expressed his disappointment while on vacation in Europe. (Poor guy!) It's a classic showdown between the suits and the dreamers, with a gold mine of ticket receipts, merchandise and potential sequel riches at stake.
The casting was just ramping up with Armie Hammer set to ride as the Lone Ranger, Tom Wilkinson as a railroad tycoon and country music outlaw Dwight Yoakam as the dastardly villain. Filming was to begin this October in New Mexico.
If Disney decides to holster its high-caliber funding, Bruckheimer and Verbinski would be free to shop the project elsewhere, and may find the welcome mat laid out when their platinum stagecoach arrives to negotiate a slimmer deal. Or will the tumbleweeds cross their path to a ghost town of frightened studio backers? With the billion-dollar pedigrees these franchise wizards bring to the campfire, we bet someone will welcome them with open arms and bank accounts, though of a somewhat smaller measure.
And honestly, who can say no to Jack Sparrow?
So, stay tuned for the next thrilling chapter. Will $50 million be miraculously cut from the budget? Will Depp save the day and cut his Riviera vacation short? Will Bruckheimer decide to make Con Air 2: Poe's Revenge instead?
And will you hang on to your spurs and ride this one out? Or serenade it into the sunset?