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When we last talked to you about the suddenly halted production of the Johnny Depp epic The Lone Ranger, the story was that a supernatural subplot involving werewolves and Native American mysticism was to blame for the movie's astonishing $250 million budget. There was also talk that director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Depp would be working together this week to try and slash the budget to convince Disney to make the thing. According to a report today in THR that budget slashing has occurred, including Verbinski and Bruckheimer both cutting their salaries by a combined $10 million; but with the price tag still sitting somewhere around $212 million, THR says it seems unlikely things will move forward from here.
By their estimates, the movie needs to make about $800 worldwide to make a profit, given the additional costs of marketing and also paying Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer a cut of the money. That kind of take was no problem for the last three Pirates of the Caribbean films or Alice in Wonderland, but compare it to the $242 million global gross of Rango, the trippy animated Western that was Depp and Verbinski's last collaboration and might serve as a template for what they're doing with The Lone Ranger. Hell, compare that to pretty much anything-- according to Box Office Mojo only 30 films have ever made that much, and that doesn't include massive hits like Spider-Man 2, Transformers or the Twilight movies. $800 million is a tough bar to jump over, even if you've got Johnny Depp on your team.
Salary cuts aside, Verbinski has apparently jettisoned the werewolves and mystic stuff-- thank God-- but is fighting to hang on to three huge action sequences that revolve around trains, one of them "the biggest train sequence in film history." As Disney prepares to spend upwards of $300 million on the upcoming John Carter, you can see why they're skittish to revive another told property and drop a huge hunk of cash on it. I'm actually very curious to see what Verbinski and Depp might make together on this film, but being a bit worn out by massively expensive and soulless movies (like, uh, the last three Pirates films), I wouldn't mind seeing them go back to the drawing board and come up with something a little more reasonable, either.
THR says the studio has given them a week to make the cuts and rewrite the script. The clock is ticking.