Johnny Depp may have the Midas touch in Hollywood but it seems even Captain Jack Sparrow has his limits over at the mouse house.
In a rather surprising and shocking announcement -- but not surprisingly delivered when nearly everybody has left their offices and headed home for the weekend -- Deadline reveals that Disney has pulled the plug on the long-gestating, top priority "The Lone Ranger." Why? Apparently, for reasons we can't fathom, the filmmakers couldn't bring the budget down to $200 million, a price tag Disney was willing to live with. Instead, the costs started at $250 million and while brought down to $232 million, the budget wasn't trimmed enough so Disney simply said, "No thanks." But seriously, what the fuck were they spending that money on?
Set to be directed by Gore Verbinksi, it certainly wasn't the cast that was the issue as besides Depp, it was made up of up-and-comers, character actors or respected veterans like Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson and Ruth Wilson with Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale and Helena Bonham Carter all said to be circling roles. We can't imagine what in the world an adaptation of "The Lone Ranger" required $200 million for unless it was set in outer space or under water, but clearly, Disney wasn't comfortable, even with money man Johnny Depp leading the charge. But this isn't even the most shocking bit of news.
According to Mike Fleming, the studio is also concerned about recent expenditures as the budget for "John Carter" has apparently ballooned to nearly $300 million due to "extensive reshoots" (Disney reps insist this is wrong and the budget is $250 million). Not only that, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is also carrying a price tag of $200 million (although, in that case, the budget makes a bit more sense). Right now, the studio is bleeding cash. Also likely factoring into the decision to drop "The Lone Ranger" is that the film, slated for a December 21, 2012 release, would have squared off against "The Hobbit" which likely would have been a losing gamble. So what happens now? No one knows. It could be shopped elsewhere or made down the road with a smaller budget, but Depp usually has a few dozen projects to choose from at any given moment, so he'll probably assess before making any decisions. But we would presume casting would need to start all over again if this ever sees a restart.
At any rate, it seems everyone is belt-tightening in Hollywood. "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Dark Tower" and now this mark three high-profile projects whose soaring budgets and/or ambitious concepts have made studios wary. Does this mean the days of big-budget filmmaking are over? Not really. It just means the days of high concept fare might be limited (such as "Cowboys & Aliens") while surer bets are more likely to get the green light ("Austin Powers 4"). In fact, Disney would probably be more likely to throw $200 million after another 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie than an adaptation of a corny TV show, and it just so happens a "Pirates 5" script is in the can....