Most everyone who's been actively following Lone Ranger's progress has surely tired of hearing about the film's budget woes in the aftermath of Disney's highly-publicized efforts to cut down costs last year. Yet, the new blockbuster from Pirates of the Caribbean trifecta - namely, star Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer - is having money problems yet again.
Insiders (reliable ones, mind you) are reporting that Depp's unorthodox western has fallen days - possibly even weeks - behind schedule. More importantly, the budget is said to have risen above a "lowered" $215 million - and ballooned back up to the $250 million level that prompted Disney to halt the project's development in the first place.
Heat Vision has been informed by a Disney spokesperson that the $250 million number is inaccurate; the site's sources are nonetheless continuing to insist that the budget is "up to a number [Disney heads] didn't want." Reportedly, the main culprit responsible for said price hike is Verbinski's decision to construct period-accurate locomotives for the film's railroad set pieces, rather than simply refashion contemporary trains. That decision seems to tie into the director's vision of Lone Ranger as a "photo-real" western. [Insert obligatory joke about the infamous Lone Ranger/werewolf rumors.]
With respect to principal photography being behind schedule: that's actually less of a concern, seeing how Disney recently pushed Lone Ranger's release date back from May 2013 to the fourth of July weekend slot previously occupied by Robopocalypse. Right now, newly-appointed Disney studio head Alan Horn is thought to be focused on trimming the film's budget (via script rewrites of certain expensive action scenes). Obviously, the Mouse House is all the more concerned about expenditures, after having to take an estimated $200 million loss on John Carter - which "helped" to force out Horn's predecessor, Rich Ross.
[caption id="attachment_179492" align="aligncenter" width="570" caption="Johnny Depp poses with Navajo Nation leaders on the 'Lone Ranger' set"][/caption]
Obviously, the primary concern for moviegoers is whether or not Lone Ranger will ultimately prove to be worth all the behind-the-scenes financial drama. Depp comes off as sincere when expressing his desire to create a portrait of Tonto that's genuinely respectful of American Indian culture and history (in his own peculiar Depp way, of course). Moreover, Verbinski's previously had success revitalizing tired cinematic sub-genres with his own inventive (weird?) approach to storytelling, as was very much the case with last year's Oscar-winning animated western, Rango.
Buzz from those who've seen early footage from Lone Ranger is that Verbinski could "make the [western] genre popular internationally," much like his Pirates movies did for the swashbuckler genre (naturally, take all that with a grain of salt). That may not abate the concerns of fans who worry that the Ranger (Armie Hammer) could end up being a semi-comical footnote in his own movie, but encouraging word-of-mouth should be all the more welcome for Depp fans - especially given the mediocre reception for his most recent film, Dark Shadows.
Lone Ranger remains set to gallop into theaters around the U.S. on July 3rd, 2013.