Why they don’t just start calling this one “Tonto,” I’m not sure. Everyone knows Depp’s playing Tonto, but I doubt more than one in five could tell you Armie Hammer’s playing the Lone Ranger. In any event, this project has come to an odd impasse.
It became public knowledge some weeks ago that that Disney pretty much put the Jerry Bruckheimer/Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp “The Lone Ranger” in turnaround over budgetary concerns. And $300 million is a worrisome number. But apparently the project wasn’t quite dead. Studio execs continued to mention it in the press, although leaving out Gore Verbinski’s name. Speculation started that Disney might be willing to go forward with a lower budget and a different director.
That just changed.
Deadline Hollywood is reporting that one, Bruckheimer and Verbinski have presented a new budget proposal in the $215 million range, which though higher than the $200 million range that would make Disney happy, is lower than the $220 million figure it has indicated it would accept as a compromise), and two, Johnny Depp has apparently, suddenly said unequivocally he won’t make the movie without Verbinski.
So, as it stands now, Disney wants to make “The Lone Ranger” with Depp, and doesn’t want to make it without him. Depp wants to make “The Lone Ranger” with Verbinski, and doesn’t want to make it without him. Disney wants to make “The Lone Ranger” for under $200 million, but might be able live with under $220 million as a compromise figure. Verbinski is not known for his budget-trimming skills, yet, working with producer Bruckheimer, has managed to cut $60 million off this budget.
Assuming all of the above is accurate, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the bottom line. They should be able to make a deal on this one, and start shooting on schedule in October, allowing the movie to make it’s previously announced December 2012 release date. When it gets to butt heads with “World War Z” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
On the plus side, the Verbinski/Depp combination has been a powerful one-two punch at the box office so far. Depp, with two billion babies on his resume recently (“Alice in Wonderland” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) is arguably the number one box office draw in the world at the moment. On the down side, the western isn’t slayin’ em at the box office, other than “True Grit,” ironically a far lower budget movie than the high concept disappointment of “Cowboys & Aliens” or the utter embarrassment of “Jonah Hex.”
Still, “The Lone Ranger” seems to be a movie that the filmmakers want to make the distributor wants to distribute. It would be hard to believe, under the circumstances, that they can’t get this done.