Disney's 'Lone Ranger' Close to Riding Again After Johnny Depp, Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski Reduce Fees

7:00 AM PST 09/29/2011 by Kim Masters
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Johnny Depp

On the heels of budget negotiations that dragged on until the film missed its autumn start date, the studio has also cut special effects and a train sequence and is asking vendors to lower their costs.

This piece appears in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to see the cover.

How does a movie that was considered dead and buried get brought back to life? Ask Disney's studio chief Rich Ross, who appears to be on the brink of resurrecting The Lone Ranger with star Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski all remaining on board.

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After budget negotiations that dragged on until the film missed its autumn start date, the project looks like it might crawl back from the precipice thanks to some unusual financial footwork.

The fantasy Western, once budgeted at an eye-popping $250 million, will be cut down to $215 million. To arrive at that figure (and a green light), the creatives involved will reduce their fees: no $20 million for Depp, no $10 million apiece for Bruckheimer and Verbinski, as is their norm on tentpoles.

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A source also says the filmmakers will sacrifice their back-end participation if the film comes in over budget, a significant incentive to run a tight ship.

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One of several planned train sequences has been scrapped, and a number of CGI-heavy bells and whistles have been eliminated. But what's most surprising of all is that an insider tells The Hollywood Reporter that vendors working on the film, such as special effects houses and even hotels, are being asked to accept reduced guaranteed fees in order to secure the business of the production.

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While details are sparse, top executives at other studios say they have never heard of such shared sacrifice on a major studio release. And even with all those concessions, many think the budget is still far too high -- and remain skeptical that Verbinski can meet it.

Disney has not announced whether Lone Ranger can still hit theaters by its planned holiday 2012 release date.

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