Just when you thought Disney's The Lone Ranger was dead as a handicapped horse, confirmed word around Tinseltown is the pre-production is only temporary halted while its creative team (particularly director Gore Verbinski) has been given a deadline for budget cuts. Already the much-scoffed-at werewolf bits -- and all other supernatural Native American-based elements, including a Wendigo monster, all of which seemed to star Johnny Depp's interest -- have been reportedly scrapped, and now some huge action set pieces involving locomotive stunts are expected to be toned down or partly eliminated, too. Should anyone even bother working towards a budgeted version of this thing (and by budgeted, that's still about $220 million), or should they send it off into the sunset, like we all thought they were doing earlier this week?
You can respect Depp for wanting a blockbuster homage to his heritage in trying to put Tonto and Native American spirituality at the forefront, but can he really expect so much from Hollywood? And Disney in particular? This is the studio with an exec who admits story matters little when you've got "visual spectacle" and, umm, "Johnny Depp." Meanwhile, the comparative Cowboys & Aliens is being taken to task in this story for its attempt to combine a Western with sci-fi/fantasy rather than its obnoxious allegory for the European invasion that was more full of white pride than guilt. Has Depp just let himself become the hopeless Indian of his film The Brave, who agrees to be tortured by filmmakers for the sake of his family? Well, he's not doing his heritage or his fans any favors by sticking along with material like this, so if it's a pay-or-play deal that's keeping the studio holding onto this, he needs to just walk away.
Piece of trivia: the Lone Ranger is the Green Hornet's great uncle. And that should remind you that after the recent Green Hornet movie, we should really stop trying to revive old radio serial characters. Forever.
Here's what the rest of the conversation is like around the web this afternoon:
Even if Disney and the filmmakers are able to negotiate the movie down to $215 million, that price tag basically says “We want the title, the lead characters, and we’ll CGI in some charm in post.” - Matt Goldberg, Collider
I'm actually very curious to see what Verbinski and Depp might make together on this film, but being a bit worn out by massively expensive and soulless movies (like, uh, the last three Pirates films), I wouldn't mind seeing them go back to the drawing board and come up with something a little more reasonable, either. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
Of course, it definitely looks like Verbinski and Bruckheimer are being set up to fail here, as if they were to remove the set-pieces, all that would be left is the story—and clearly, Disney doesn’t want that. - Sean O'Neal, The A.V. Club
People want and expect grand scale showpieces in their blockbuster fare, and even we can agree if you’re going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars anyway and then cut corners on the one element that compels audiences to see the film, you’re dooming yourself to failure. - Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
Okay, fine -- werewolves out, trains in. Does anyone have a draft with these three train sequences? Not that it matters much now. Honestly? If I was Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinksi, I would've kept the werewolves and put them on the train (make them into the owners or engineers or whatever) and called the movie The Lone Ranger Meets The Werewolf Train. - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
I still have faith that these crazy kids can work it out. I guess it all depends on whether Bruckheimer and Verbinski can put aside their personal needs and make the necessary sacrifices for the greater good of the cynical cash grab. That’s the spirit that built America! - Vince Mancini, Film Drunk
Now the question: will Gore Verbinski still direct? Some Disney execs reportedly frown (that’s putting it mildly) on Verbinski’s spend-happy habits as evidenced on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. We’ve got no answer at this point about whether someone else might be brought in to direct. (Rob Marshall, perhaps?) But if Disney tentpole movies are really more about spectacle than story, will it even matter, so long as that spectacle is delivered in a way that makes money? - Russ Fischer, /Film
@MylesPerHour: I'm glad THE LONE RANGER is cutting out the bad ideas, but they really shouldn't need to be told not to put werewolves in their cowboy film.
@house_of_darkly: The question to be asking re: The Lone Ranger's budget isn't "how can we do the werewolves cheaper" but "why are there werewolves"
@questionmarkman: Disney thinks making The Lone Ranger for $220 million vs 250 million will fix things. THAT IS NOT THE PROBLEM HERE GUYS
@ColeAbaius: The important thing to remember is that The Lone Ranger would need $800m to turn profit using the sole distro method studios understand.
@Da7e: I'll happily replace Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger for a quarter of the price. I missed out on 21 Jump Street.
@FakeShemp: Dear Disney, I'll forgive you for your story comments as long as you tell Verbinski & Depp to beat it & still make a Lone Ranger with Hammer