Well, that’s a pretty gigantic surprise: Disney has canceled production on its Lone Ranger movie. While a studio changing its mind on a movie is not usually huge news, this is Disney, halting any further progress on a movie set to star Armie Hammer as the titular Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto, with Gore Verbinski as a director and Jerry Bruckheimer as a producer. Apparently, it had nothing to do with buzz and everything to do with budget. And Depp is bummed.
But wait! Apparently, everyone at Disney is still very enthusiastic about this movie and isn’t ready to give up just yet. Says an insider:
“Let’s see how it all shakes out on Monday. There’s always a chance that it could go. You never know until you know.”
You tell ’em, Yogi Berra! The issue seems to lie in the budget that could be as high as $275 million. And Disney isn’t thrilled to be spending that kind of money on a western, albeit one with a comedic slant, albeit one with Johnny Depp in it. (How did Rango do again? Oh, right. Kinda good, kinda “meh.”) But it sounds like if there is a way to get the budget down to a less intimidating $232 million, then there is a remote possibility that this could still happen.
But they may also have been a bit worried about their competition at the box office:
The Lone Ranger was scheduled to be released Dec. 21, 2012, smack up against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opens Dec. 14, and the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, which was just slated for Dec. 21.
Plus, Disney has been spending its money on other big-budget projects, like John Carter and The Great and Powerful Oz. But still, this is their Depp-Verbinski-Bruckheimer Dream Team! It just seems a bit odd that Disney would forego a project by some of its most trustworthy filmmakers (Pirates 4 notwithstanding, though Rob Marshall directed that one).
But wait: it’s the western thing. Universal canceled its huge adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower and Cowboys & Aliens was not the blockbuster hit that Dreamworks was expecting. But will this affect Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained? Tarantino might be in a league of his own here. He’s not just going to be making a western after all — he’s making a Tarantino movie.
Maybe it isn’t the end of the story for Lone Ranger. But it does say something about even Hollywood having to cut corners, doesn’t it?