By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 13, 2012 at 9:45AM
Well, you can't blame Disney for at least trying. Last year, already sensing that "John Carter" was going to be a costly disaster (which it turned out to be), Disney began tightening the reins on the other big expensive tentpole movie they had in development, "The Lone Ranger." And they had reason to be worried. Originally budgeted at $250 million, the studio forced director Gore Verbinksi and producer Jerry Bruckheimer to scale it back to $215 million, with some of the more razzle dazzle setpieces and sequences either cut out completely or reconfigured, and principal cast and filmmakers all taking pay cuts (though with more promised if the movie iss a hit). Once the studio was happy, the film was back on track, but it looks the reputation Verbinski earned on the 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' films (for sending costs soaring) is being bolstered once again.
THR reports that production on "The Lone Ranger" is already over budget and schedule, with the cost now rising to the $250 million figure that Disney had wanted to avoid in the first place. Now, not everything is Verbinski's fault. Though the picture, which kicked off production in February, was slated for a lengthy 120-day shoot, wind and duststorms caused some delays and damage to the sets. However, it seems Verbinski's ambition for the movie is coming up against the studio's desire to keep costs down. Apparently old timey trains are "a huge element" to the film, with Verbinski choosing to build new locomotives from scratch rather than using old models that are available. But moreover, even with filming happening, the trade reports that rewrites are happening and Verbinski is being asked to cut scenes out to try and keep things contained.
A number of interesting factors are at play here. Firstly, there was a point last year when the movie was being reconfigured that Disney wanted to oust Verbinski, only for his job to be saved by the very loyal Johnny Depp who essentially wouldn't make the film without him. But is Verbinski playing with fire here? If "The Lone Ranger" turns into a massive hit, everyone will forget about the difficulties in making the movie, but if it bombs or even underperforms, Verbinski could not only see himself not getting any further gigs at Disney, other studios might be wary as well of giving him an expensive project to helm. Meanwhile, it still strikes us as odd that Disney would want to scale back scenes and sequences from a big summer movie, whose sole reason for existing (in most cases), is to provide a gigantic spectacle. It's a tightrope they're walking, but if "The Lone Ranger" doesn't bring the thrills the way audiences expect at the mulitplex, many will wonder why Disney may have prevented the movie from being all it could be. Finally, last fall it was reported that if the film went over budget, Bruckheimer's shingle Bruckheimer Films would have to pay for any overages in budget...there's no mention of that in the trade report, but we wonder if it's still the case, and if that could be causing additional friction on the set...
All this being said, the footage so far apparently points to a movie that some say will see Depp giving a kick to the western genre in the same way he did for pirate movies. And while audiences may not care for his indie films, when Depp goes blockbuster, everyone wants to see what kind of wackiness he's up to. As we pointed out in the latest update on the woes surrounding "World War Z," the average moviegoer doesn't pay attention to this stuff -- "Men In Black III" had disaster written all over it and is now one of the biggest money earners of the year. And Depp was able to bring the thorougly awful "Alice In Wonderland" to a billion dollars worldwide, so anything is possible. In short, there is still a long, long way to go until the film's July 3, 2013 release date, but there is no doubt the road to get there will be a bumpy one.