One of the biggest properties in development at Disney was that of The Lone Ranger (with or without the “the”), a film that has long had Johnny Depp attached attached, with recent casting additions including Armie Hammer as the title character and supporting cast members to be played by Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkinson.

This new Lone Ranger remake was to be directed by Gore Verbinski, whose ideas for a new take on the character and story had long-time fans of the character on edge. They don’t have to worry any longer however, as Disney just put an end to the project. That’s right folks, The Lone Ranger isn’t happening anymore. Hi-ho, Silver, away (from theaters!)

Why would Disney cancel a movie starring money-maker Johnny Depp who made it rain gold for the studio with another Pirates of the Caribbean movie earlier this year which wasn’t even good (it made over a billion dollars)? Well, because he and other money makers cost too much money it seems.

According to Deadline’s scoop, Disney put an early end to the project due to its increasingly high budget, which was estimated to be upwards of $250 million, despite Disney loyalists Verbinski, Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer being involved. Apparently, the filmmakers were able to reduce it to $232 million, but Disney wanted it around $200 million or lower. How ridiculous it that?

How does a western,  a remake of The Lone Ranger, cost that much money to make? Transformers: Dark of the Moon didn’t even cost that much, and it’s a movie loaded with giant alien robots destroying the world, sporting some of the best special effects ever!

What I imagine Johnny Depp's facial expression to be in reaction to 'Lone Ranger' being cancelled.

The studio has already invested in several big budget tentpole risks, including John Carter, which they hope will launch another long-term franchise a la Pirates, and The Great and Powerful Oz, so due to scheduling, The Lone Ranger was the easiest for Disney to end from a business standpoint, at least for now. What happens next is still up in the air as the project can still get the greenlight in the future with a lower budget and it can even be offered to other studios if the players involved are game.

Or, perhaps studios are just shy of the Western genre at the moment with Cowboys & Aliens under-performing at the box office and the eagerly anticipated Dark Tower adaptation being canned by Universal Pictures before getting off the ground.

We’ve been reporting on this Lone Ranger project since early 2008, so it’s rather strange and unsettling to see it end all of a sudden, especially considering those involved (Depp’s been attached for three years!) and the work and hype already put into it. One thing’s for sure, and it’s that the costs associated with this movie need to be tightened up big time. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have turned a profit in theaters even at $250 million, but that’s just way too much money for this type of film.

We can only assume that Bruckheimer, Depp and perhaps even Verbinski will now focus on Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and use that money for another Captain Jack Sparrow adventure… Let’s hope Armie Hammer gets another career-making lead role elsewhere in the meantime.

Stay tuned as this develops and we’ll let you know when we hear from Disney!

The Lone Ranger was supposed to hit theaters on December 21st, 2012, but not anymore!

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: Deadline