Update: THR reports that "The Lone Ranger" is now set for a May 31, 2013 release date. The spring date is no random place on the calendar, it's the frame Disney has utilized with tremendous success for the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movies, so no surprise, they are following that template with this film.
In case you're just playing catch up, here's the short version of what's been going on with "The Lone Ranger." Back in August, Disney dramatically put the movie on hold when the $250 million budget suddenly seemed like a bad idea. With demands that the budget be scaled back to somewhere between $200-220 million, director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Johnny Depp were all asked not only to rethink their massive contracts which make up a good chunk of the budget, but to reconfigure the story which contained some costly supernatural elements. There was even some talk of ditching Verbinski himself, known to go over budget, but Depp stuck by his man and a couple of weeks ago it was revealed that the movie was back on track with a 2012 start date in the works.
Though Disney is taking their time in making a formal announcement, a number of new updates have hit. Firstly, the movie is now set to start filming on February 6, 2012, on a budget around $215 million. The film was previously tagged with a December 21, 2012 release date, and while turning movies around in a tight production window is the new norm, it's expected that "The Lone Ranger" will have to move to a 2013 release. But the key factor that allowed everything to move forward is a significant reworking of the pay of the talent involved that will not only find their fees reduced, but also put one major player on the hook if the movie runs over budget.
Verbinski, Bruckheimer, Depp and even Armie Hammer have all slashed for their normal rates by 20%, agreeing to put some payments off until box office receipts start coming in. But here's the kicker. If the movie does wind up costing more, Bruckheimer Films will have to foot the bill. It's a move by Disney that basically puts the fire under the filmmakers to stay budget conscious, and puts the pressure on Jerry Bruckheimer to make sure the talent he's assembling sticks to the game plan. But that shouldn't be too difficult as the expensive supernatural scenes which would have required CGI work have been scrapped.
The 2009 draft we read by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (that was later rewritten by Justin Haythe) featured supernatural wolves, a legion of coyotes and the Wendigo, a cannibalistic Native American spirit capable of possessing humans. It's likely this element of the story that has been ditched, but the big question is what is the fate of the largest spectacle in the script, a big scene described as ”the biggest train sequence in film history.” Is there still room for this in the newly svelte "The Lone Ranger"? Guess we'll find out eventually. But Depp, for one, doesn't seem fazed at all by the pricetag hoopla around his movie.
"We knew that the budget was going to be huge initially, and we also knew that it was going to be shut down for a while, and it was kind of like we patiently wait — we shave a little bit here, we do a little bit there, [and] they fix it," he said, conveniently not mentioning that his own salary (and those of Verbinski and Bruckheimer) was a big part of why the cost scared the studio.