It's been a long, it's been kind of ugly and very public, but it looks like Disney, Johnny Depp, Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbiniski are now all on the same page as Deadline reports that "The Lone Ranger" is back in the saddle and eyeing a 2012 start date.
A formal announcement will apparently come next week, but it appears all the sticking points have been resolved and the mouse house is good to go. It was about six weeks ago when Disney suddenly and surprisingly yanked the plug on the project, one that had been extensively casting already. Seeing DreamWorks and Universal flop with their expensive western "Cowboys & Aliens," it seemed the studio was getting nervous about their own project -- budgeted around $250 million -- and demanded that it be dropped to somewhere between $200-220 million. It was reported that considerable work would need to done to drop some of the supernatural elements of the script and in addition, strip back some expensive set pieces one of which was described as ”the biggest train sequence in film history.” There was even talk of ousting Verbinski himself, whose reputation for going wildly overbudget did not serve him well. But Depp was sticking by his director and it appears everything has been smoothed over with budget being trimmed in every department from salaries to script to the production itself.
So, now that everything is starting over for a January and February shoot, what is happening with the cast? Well, co-stars Armie Hammer and Ruth Wilson are said to still be on board, but it remains to be seen what will happen to folks like Dwight Yoakam, Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale and Helena Bonham Carter who were all circling roles. We guess phone calls will be made to see what schedules are looking like or they will be re-cast entirely.
As for that December 21, 2012 release date, earlier in the month, word was that Disney was eager to hold onto that spot on the calendar and we're guessing that's still the plan. It's now fairly common for studios to turn around tentpole projects in less than a year and we'd wager the slimmed down version of "The Lone Ranger" will not only be cheaper to get in the can, but quicker too, especially if VFX sequences have been scrapped or reconfigured. Moreover, it doesn't appear Disney has a movie they can slide in to replace it with, and given that they answer to stockholders, removing a major blockbuster from the end of 2012 could cause some very furrowed brows on the faces of the Scrooge McDucks holding onto stock.
So there you have it, a happy ending for "The Lone Ranger." Now the looming question remains: can the blockbuster still bring the sizzle with less of the steak?