This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Disney briefly shut down the Johnny Depp Western The Lone Ranger in August amid concerns about a budget that had ballooned to $250 million, the principals — including Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer — agreed to cut action sequences and their own upfront fees to bring the cost down to about $215 million. Well, don’t look now, but Lone Ranger is riding headlong into budget trouble again.
Insiders say the movie, which began shooting Feb. 28 in New Mexico, is not only running days or possibly weeks behind its 120-day shooting schedule, it’s also over its revised budget. Several sources say the effects-heavy Lone Ranger is now back at its original cost of $250 million, while one source close to the production says it has surpassed that figure.
“It’s up to a number they didn’t want,” says one insider.
Verbinski is again being asked to cut scenes — he already made such sacrifices as losing a major train sequence in the first round of trims — and rewrites are underway, according to a source. (A Disney spokesperson says the $250 million budget number is inaccurate.)
Many working with Verbinski are not surprised by cost increases. The Pirates of the Caribbean filmmaker is known for budget-busting on many of his projects. Period trains are a huge element in the movie, say sources, and Verbinski opted for the production to construct its own locomotives from scratch rather than employ existing railroad vehicles. Plus, several sources say the project has experienced severe weather disruptions, including wind and dust storms that damaged the pricey set.
At the same time, the executive turnover at Disney — studio head Rich Ross resigned in April amid criticism of his lack of film experience — has left a void during production. Newly installed chief Alan Horn started in the job June 11, so he is just beginning to get familiar with the Lone Ranger situation, which likely will be one of the first challenges he faces in his new role.
The film is not expected to finish shooting until August, which still gives it plenty of time to meet its July 3, 2013, release date. And the buzz generated by some who have seen footage say Verbinski has a chance to do for Westerns what he did for pirate movies — make the genre popular internationally.
“It’s out of control,” says one insider of the spending, “but if you were going to bet on anyone, it would be on Gore, Johnny and Jerry.”