Reportedly, Johnny Depp has issued an ultimatum to Disney regarding the suddenly stalled production of The Lone Ranger, and now the studio has to decide if it wants to meet the actor’s demands or pull the plug on what has become a troubled production.

Depp told Disney that he will not do Lone Ranger without his Pirates of the Caribbean collaborator Gore Verbinski at the helm, Deadline reports. The problem for Disney is that Verbinski had given them a budget number in the ballpark of $275 million to make the movie he sees in his head … and that figure (rightfully) caused the studio to pump the brakes.

Deadline notes that Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer were preparing to bring a slimmed-down budget to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross in the vicinity of $215 million, which is closer to the $200M number the studio requested. So the ball is about to land in Disney’s court. Do they want to gamble on Verbinski, or do they want to lose their star? Sources say there’s no way Disney wants to do Lone Ranger without Depp. But the studio’s now growing concerned over the selected release date of Dec. 21, 2012. That gives Verbinski, or whomever directs, a tight window. It also puts Lone Ranger against Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and Brad Pitt’s sci-fi zombie thriller World War Z. At D23, Ross told Deadline that he remains in the Bruckheimer and Depp business. Now we’re going to see how much he’s willing to spend to stay in that business.

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