Last week, it was announced that Disney had canceled the Gore Verbinski-directed and Jerry Bruckheimer-produced The Lone Ranger – starring Johnny Depp – because the producers couldn’t get the budget under $250 million. Naturally, this resulted in everyone on the planet passing out from sheer bafflement.
Why? Why would The Lone Ranger – an action-adventure/western film about a cowboy with a domino mask – cost nearly $200 million more than True Grit? According to a recent report, the why is... werewolves.
Lone Ranger was being written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the same guys who wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Apparently, as far back as March of 2009, Elliot posted about the project on a private writers’ website – writersactionbss.com – and one of the screenwriters who visits the site relayed the plot info to Hollywood-Elsewhere.
Said the screenwriter about the revised take on The Lone Ranger:
"It was always going to be a big Bruckheimer CG movie with traditional Bruckheimer elements [and] an eye toward being a tentpole --totally Pirates-style. It was going to be a Tonto show mainly. Tonto as the top dog and more dominant than the Lone Ranger. Tonto and the Indian spirits like Obi Wan Kenobi and the force. The driving engine was going to be Native American occult aspects worked in with werewolves and special effects, [b]ut flavored with doses of Native American spirituality in a serious way.”
So basically it was going to be the Green Hornet/Kato character dynamic, where the “sidekick” is the badass. Which makes some amount of sense – Hornet is actually descended from the Lone Ranger, and Johnny Depp is obviously a bigger star than Armie Hammer (The Social Network).
Check out an excerpt from the screenplay:
On Johnny Depp’s interest in the role, the screenwriter said:
"Depp's interest in playing Tonto is about fulfilling his Marlon Brando legacy. Depp is partly Native American himself and he was partly mentored by Brando, who was a big Indians' rights advocate. So he didn't want to do any kind of jaunty performance that plays it light and spoofy with the Native American thing. No Captain Jack crap this time around."
Ah, yes. What better way to fulfill Brando’s legacy and promote Native American rights than with a $250 million Lone Ranger remake/reboot about mystical werewolves murdering people? 'Excuse me, Wolfen is calling.'
On the part Cowboys & Aliens played in the decision to cancel Ranger
“But then Cowboys & Aliens came along and tanked and Disney got cold tenderfeet, spooked by the idea of a pricey mashup. If Cowboys & Aliens had made $200 million, this wouldn't be happening. A Bruckheimer-style western in the wake of Cowboys & Aliens is nothing anyone is feeling secure about at this stage. Trust me, the writers of tentpole garbage are all scared now."
Hollywood is so smart. Because one mashup film doesn't do well, all mashup films ever need to be canceled pronto. Because Mars Needs Moms tanked, all references to Mars must be removed from that already-in-development John Carter of Mars movie – let’s just hope that audiences are dumb and assume it’s some other red planet altogether.
Additionally, Hollywood-Elsewhere is hearing that Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ surprise success – despite a relatively low budget (read: lower than $250 million) – also played a part in The Lone Ranger’s cancellation. Who knew that movies made "cheaply" could be profitable?
Lone Ranger drawn by John Cassaday
There are two schools of thought here. The first being, werewolves are awesome, so why not add them to The Lone Ranger? After all, cowboys fighting werewolves isn’t as likely to make theatergoers laugh out loud at the trailer in the way that, for example, cowboys fighting aliens might.
The second school of thought is: WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO ADD WEREWOLVES TO THE LONE RANGER? HUH??
The sanest point-of-view, in this writer's opinion, is somewhere in the middle: Sure, a Lone Ranger film featuring werewolves could be awesome – in the same way that pretty much every movie idea could be awesome if the writing is there – but then why are they even making a Lone Ranger film to begin with? Why not just make a generic cowboy movie with werewolves?
I suppose the answer to that, as ever, is branding. In fact, it could be argued that one of the reasons Cowboys & Aliens failed was it was too generic for its own good. That and the reviews weren’t especially positive.
Is Cowboys & Aliens' failure also to blame for Lone Ranger being canceled?
What about you guys? Would you have been interested in a Lone Ranger film with werewolves as the bad guys? Or is that sort of overblown filmmaking what's wrong with movies nowadays?
If ever The Lone Ranger gets un-canceled – which is actually very possible, given the talent behind the film – we’ll let you know.
Source: Hollywood-Elsewhere [via Badass Digest]
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.