Jerry Bruckheimer Explains How 'The Lone Ranger' Cut its Budget to Please Disney

Jerry Bruckheimer Explains How 'The Lone Ranger' Cut its Budget to Please Disney

Oct 19, 2011

Jerry BruckheimerJerry Bruckheimer has been producing movies for over three-decades. Add up the box office totals of all his films and he's been responsible for well over $4.5 billion worth of blockbusters, a large chunk of which has been for Disney thanks to his Pirates of the Caribbean series. Regardless of what you think of his movies, on a purely quantitative level, he's one of the most successful producers in Hollywood. And yet despite having earned decades of box office clout, Bruckheimer still has to compromise to get movies made.

The latest such compromise is The Lone Ranger, which will re-team Pirates director Gore Verbinski with its star Johnny Depp. Production on the film was shut down back in August after accusations that the proposed budget for the film had reached unwieldy heights and that Disney simply didn't want to/couldn't afford to pay for such an extravagant production. Speculation began to swirl about why that was the case - were they afraid to commit to another high concept project while John Carter is failing to generate advanced buzz? Is Depp not the star he used to be? Does anyone even care about the Lone Ranger? - but now no one has to play the guessing game, Bruckheimer has set the record straight with a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

The whole chat is worth a read if you're interested in the politics of big budget, studio filmmaking, but the short version is this:

-- The Lone Ranger was budgeted for $260 million.

-- Disney CEO Robert Iger would only commit to $215 million.

-- Bruckheimer failed to meet that goal by Disney's deadline, thus the shut down.

Since then, however, Disney was still keen to stay in the Verbinski/Depp business, so they gave Bruckheimer more time to slim the budget down. And slim he did, through a series of tax incentives, efficient re-scheduling (apparently it costs a ton of money to feed and clothe 150 extras), and deferred payments for himself, Verbinski, Depp and a few other principal creatives. 

Sure, it's hardly unusual for a production to operate on deferred payments and compressed production schedules, but it's interesting to see that even the biggest players in Hollywood still don't have free reign over the game. They still have to play by the studio rules, and if they come in over budget, it's coming out of their stake in the film.

All we hope is that regardless of what the budget is and how they got there, no crucial creative parts of the film were sacrificed. Bruckheimer insists that wasn't the case and mentions that the only major script elements they got rid of were "supernatural coyotes" (which is most likely code word for werewolves).

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