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Here are the things you need to make a western: horses, hats, spurs, boots, guns and a lot of open terrain. Because the story is typically going back to a time when people lived simpler lives, budgets for westerns can be kept incredibly low. James Mangold's 3:10 To Yuma was made for $55 million. The Coen brothers' True Grit was made for less than $40 million. Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain was made for $14 million. Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff was made only $2 million.
The point that I'm getting at is that no western should cost $250 million to make, yet that was the plan for Disney's Lone Ranger before production was shut down last month over budget concerns. Since then the project's future has been up in the air as the filmmakers have scrambled to find ways to bring the cost down to a still-excessive $200-215 million. According to Variety, it all comes down to this weekend.
The trade reports that Disney executives met with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski yesterday to talk about the new budget and they will be using the Labor Day weekend to decide whether or not the project will ever make it into production. It was at the same meeting yesterday that star Johnny Depp said he wouldn't do the project unless Verbinski is attached to direct. Even if the film does end up getting the greenlight, it may still face problems, as it's possible it won't be ready to go into production until early 2012. Considering the film has a December 21, 2012 release date, that may not give the filmmakers enough time to make a quality product.
As much as I like Gore Verbinski, I have to side with the studio on this one. Even with Depp attached to star $250 million is a lot of money, particularly when they also have John Carter and Oz: The Great And Powerful with budgets over $200 million. Hopefully they've managed to work something reasonable out and we'll get to see Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp roam the great plains sooner rather than later.