Some of White's music managed to find its way into the final film, however fleetingly, according to Bruckheimer. "He wrote just a couple of background pieces that are in Red's that the band is playing," Bruckheimer said, referring to a scene in the final film where the Lone Ranger and Tonto go to a whorehouse owned by Helena Bonham Carter's Red, looking for answers. "I think those are his." Hans Zimmer, who had worked with Verbinski on a number of previous projects, stepped in and replaced White.
By October 2011, things were looking up for "The Lone Ranger." Disney and the creative principles had settled on an agreed-upon budget that, while still high, was more manageable. Most of the supporting cast, like Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson and James Badge Dale, were still onboard. The proof of Disney's optimism can be expressed in the deals Wilson and Hammer signed upon returning, which locked into a three-movie deal for more Wild West adventures. Depp, whose contract only consisted of the single film, quietly expressed interest in returning, should the opportunity arise. A May 31st, 2013 release date was tentatively penciled in, with production slated to begin (for real this time) in early February 2012.
Verbinski, however, claims that this was never the case. Sounding sort of exasperated, he laid it all out for us: "In 2006 I started talking about 'The Lone Ranger,' with Johnny as Tonto. I had my take on it. And Ted and Terry had their take on it." Ted and Terry, of course, are Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the team behind Verbinski's "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy and the writers' whose unfinished screenplay for the latter two films nearly caused Disney to shut those movies down. "They were the ones who first brought it up and tried to get the rights from Sony and brought it up with Jerry. I was the one who said, 'We should get Johnny as Tonto and take it from a different perspective.' So they wrote five drafts and I went off and did 'Rango.' And Johnny asked me to come back and I said, 'The only way I'll do it if is if I can tell it from Tonto's perspective,' which was not in any of those drafts. The story you're seeing is the one I always intended to do."
And indeed, a draft that we have that's dated March 29, 2009 differs in these key aspects – Tonto is still very much a sidekick, and there is tons of supernatural mumbo jumbo laced throughout the script, including an encounter with those coyotes. (Tellingly, the locust sequence does not appear in this draft.) When asked if the supernatural elements were relegated to Rossio and Elliott's screenplays and not the one that was eventually fashioned by Verbinski and "Revolutionary Road" screenwriter Justin Haythe, and the director gives the best possible answer. "Apparently. I didn't read them."
On the supernatural, Verbinski had a very clear point of view: "In my version of this movie, the only thing supernatural was the question of – is Tonto suffering from Alzheimer's or is there mysticism present here or is it greed or is it Wendigo or can he turn into a bird or not… And I think those are wonderfully unanswered questions. I just wanted it to be about trains and about progress and that's your villain."
In late February of 2012, after production had finally gotten underway, it was officially announced that Yoakam was unable to recommit to the movie. In his place was beloved character actor William Fichtner, who gave the role an almost reptilian menace. "I was the last cast member, actually," Fichtner clarified to us. "I had a conversation with Gore on a Saturday or Sunday and my first day of shooting was that a Thursday or a Friday. Literally that short." Verbinski said, diplomatically, about the cast switch-out: "The performance was outstanding once Fichtner became involved."
The release date shifted once more, from May 31st to Fourth of July weekend, but even with the extra time, it was still a nightmare to complete. When introducing the film at the first public screening in New Mexico, Verbinski spoke to the scale of the production saying, "Sometimes 700 people were working on this thing." (In the summer of 2012, an extensive Hollywood Reporter piece stated that delays due to sandstorms and other production hiccups caused the budget to creep back up to the $250 million Disney was trying to avoid.) The screening in New Mexico was the end of a very long journey for the film, one that many thought would never actually see the light of day. But just like the Lone Ranger himself, the movie rose from the dead.
As always Jerry Bruckheimer said it best when he told us: "We trimmed back a lot of stuff that I don't think you'll miss, because it's still a pretty big movie."
"The Lone Ranger" opens on July 3rd. Read our review here.