Last week, Johnny Depp's long-in-development Lone Ranger epic was finally revived after the production team made $45 million in Disney-requested budget cuts. So what did the flick have to lose in order to get made? Executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer lays it out.
Disney stopped production on the film back in August after the budget started climbing into the $260 million range, and told Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski that they could start back up again when they made it to a budget of $215 million.
"It's always a shock when they actually do it," Bruckheimer said. "But I was still very confident that we could get the picture made. It took us about four to six weeks to figure out how to make the movie more economically."
So how do you cut $45 million from a massive movie like this one? It all starts with logistics.
"We redid the production plan. We originally laid it out to avoid winter. Every single location we had, there was winter—30s at night, 50s during the day, best-case scenario. We were jumping around. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah. If we had a big crowd scene and then the next day we were shooting just Tonto and the Lone Ranger, we still had the crew "on" because you have them weekly. So we bunched the sequences that were big together, and for the smaller scenes [we] laid off the extras, the effects people, the makeup people. It costs an enormous amount with 150 extras on the set. It's not the extras, it's the people that support the extras. You're still carrying all the wardrobe, makeup and hair people. We bunched together scenes with Tonto and the Lone Ranger, so we had a much smaller crew. We saved about $10 million just by doing that."
But even beyond that, things had to be cut, and so Bruckheimer, Verbinski and even Depp took pay deferments, and a few other creative people took deferments and salary reductions to chip in.
"They will get paid at a certain point that Disney negotiated with them, as I will. It's a 'favored nation' deal, so we all get paid at the same point when Disney recoups."
But what about what actually goes up on the screen, the movie itself? Does this mean the Lone Ranger epic has to become less epic?
"Disney would have much preferred us cutting stuff out of the script. But the competition is fierce. You can't compete with The Hobbit, you can't compete with Transformers if you do that. The audience will stay home.
"We cut a sequence involving a coyote attack—supernatural coyotes—and a small animated segment. The train [scenes] are intact. We trimmed it a little bit. Gore made some sacrifices creatively, but nothing that would hurt the film. We had to work it out. The studio set a number, and it was always our responsibility to get to the number."
Things were scary there for a while, but Bruckheimer and crew reined in their spending and production is back on track for a May 2013 release. But even if fans thought the flick might never happen, Bruckheimer says for him the shutdown was just business as usual.
"I've had so many movies shut down. The first Pirates was shut down. Pearl Harbor was stopped. So was Armageddon. For me, this is normal. This is: 'Get real. Let's get the budget where we can make it.'"
Bruckheimer plans to keep hanging out with Disney through "2014 or 2015," and after The Lone Ranger comes Pirates of the Caribbean 5.
(via The Hollywood Reporter)