As late as May this year, all things seemed to be running smoothly for Disney’s The Lone Ranger project, with the announcement that Armie Hammer (The Social Network) had been cast as the eponymous Lone Ranger, opposite Johnny Depp as Tonto.
But a few weeks ago, it was unexpectedly announced that the project is now facing some serious and increasingly public problems, with Disney looking to scale back the nine-figure budget director Gore Verbinski wants for the film.
At the D23 Expo a little more than a week later, Disney Chairman, Rich Ross, then made comments that suggested there was the possibility that they would look to make the film with a different director, with the implication being to everyone else that they’d find someone to make it who’d fall rank-’n’-file and stick to Disney’s budget.
Now, however, Deadline report that Depp has said that he’s not going to make the film without Verbinski directing, which puts the pressure on Disney to accept the reductions in budget Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are making. They’ve reportedly cut down about $60m. from the original $275m. budget, which is a bit short of Disney’s $200m. proposed plan, but less than their $220m. maximum, so hopefully there’ll be good news to come for the project in the near future, perhaps with a little more trimming down of the budget.
There will undoubtedly be many who think it ridiculous that a project like this, set in the American Old West, would need such an enormous budget, and thus be critical of Verbinski for being stubborn. Personally, I think Verbinski deserves some serious slack, remembering that he has a history of making very successful films, both critically and financially, the last four of which have all starred Depp. It’s not necessarily about a certain figure, it’s about the creative vision that he has for the film, and he clearly wants to maintain that vision rather than be concerned with profit margins.
He helmed the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, all for Disney, and all of them did incredibly well at the box office, no less than trebling their nine-figure budgets. His last film, Rango, took almost $250m. at the box office, and is likely to be a strong contender for Best Animated Film at next year’s Academy Awards.
Since three of his last four films have had the same Verbinski-Depp-Bruckheimer trifecta, and all have done so well critically and commercially, I’m a little surprised to see Disney pushing quite so hard to cut the budget, going as far as to vaguely threaten to replace Verbinski.
I’ve always been a fan of actors, directors, and writers that often collaborate together, and Depp is certainly one such actor that likes to work with the same people as often as he can, doing a lot of acting for both Tim Burton and Verbinski. As such, I think his stance, standing by Verbinski as director, is a great one. Depp has earned himself some considerable clout over his brilliant acting career, and that deserved weight can be used to make a stand like this, in favour of the little guy over the corporation.
Granted, Verbinski isn’t quite a ‘little guy’, given what he must have been earning from his films in recent years, but he is in comparison to Disney. I’d be the first to admit that I’m probably reading too much into this, but it’s always good to hear stories of people standing up for what they believe in, and it sounds like this is one such story. Albeit, with a film rather an issue like human rights being at stake, and the matter of contention being a multi-million-dollar budget. But when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound quite so nice.
Any way you look at it, I think Disney would be foolish to turn this project down, because I can’t see it being anything but a huge success. The film was originally planned for a 21st December, 2012 release, and the troubles it’s been going through may push that back slightly (I personally hope that its release is pushed back a little, because it would currently be going up against the first instalment of The Hobbit, due out on 14th December next year), but hopefully it will still be going ahead and won’t be delayed by much. More news as and when we get it.