Producer Jerry Bruckheimer Talks THE LONE RANGER Budget Negotiations; Plus Brief Update on PIRATES 5

     October 19, 2011


Major studios are talking about tightening their belts and being more selective in their projects because the DVD revenue market has dried up and nothing has come along yet to replace its riches.  However, one can’t help but be amused that for Disney, belt-tightening meant trimming the cost of The Lone Ranger from $260 million to $215 million and that paying $215 million for a movie based on a serial western from the 1950s is good financial sense.

The wrangling over the budget was done in public and we tracked every ludicrous step.  Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement and the film was re-scheduled from December 21, 2012 to May 31, 2013.  Producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently explained why production was shut down at the 11th hour, how they got the budget down to a “reasonable” number, what was cut from the script, and provides a minor update on Pirates of the Caribbean 5.  Hit the jump for what the prolific producer had to say.  The Lone Ranger will star Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Ranger.

jerry_bruckheimerBruckheimer is no stranger to his movies getting shut down.  As he tells THR,

I’ve had so many movies shut down. The first Pirates was shut down. Pearl Harbor was stopped. So was Armageddon. For me, this is normal. This is: “Get real. Let’s get the budget where we can make it.”

And everyone was super-happy that Pearl Harbor made it to the finish line.

So why was production on The Lone Ranger shut down?  Bruckheimer explains the behind-the-scenes wrangling:

“They had set a deadline [Aug. 12] for us to submit a budget, and we didn’t hit their number. They said, “Can you hit it?” We didn’t have enough time to really vet the budget, and we said we couldn’t hit it right away. And they said, “We have to stop the bleeding.” We understood what they were doing, but we wanted to keep working.”

Bruckheimer says they had built the movie around shooting in winter, but they were able to re-arrange the schedule to the point where they shaved $10 million off the budget:

“We redid the production plan. We originally laid it out to avoid winter. Every single location we had, there was winter — 30s at night, 50s during the day, best-case scenario. We were jumping around. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah. If we had a big crowd scene and then the next day we were shooting just Tonto and the Lone Ranger, we still had the crew “on” because you have them weekly. So we bunched the sequences that were big together, and for the smaller scenes [we] laid off the extras, the effects people, the makeup people. It costs an enormous amount with 150 extras on the set. It’s not the extras, it’s the people that support the extras. You’re still carrying all the wardrobe, makeup and hair people. We bunched together scenes with Tonto and the Lone Ranger, so we had a much smaller crew. We saved about $10 million just by doing that.

Then we looked for the best break in tax incentives. We found that Louisiana gave us a better tax incentive than New Mexico — that was another $8 million. We’re still shooting in New Mexico, and we might [also] go to Louisiana. We’re asking New Mexico to come closer to the Louisiana incentive.

We dropped our California location not because they didn’t offer a tax break but because it was another production office that we had to open. Every time you have a new location, you have to use crew time setting it up for you. There are a lot of expenses.”

lone_ranger_tv_series_01But they also had to make changes to the script.  Get ready to laugh at what was in the movie:

“We cut a sequence involving a coyote attack — supernatural coyotes — and a small animated segment. The train [scenes] are intact. We trimmed it a little bit. Gore made some sacrifices creatively, but nothing that would hurt the film. We had to work it out. The studio set a number, and it was always our responsibility to get to the number.”

The world will never know the supernatural coyotes who I imagine were able to buy defective ACME products and paint realistic-looking tunnels on walls.

Finally, Bruckheimer provided a brief update on Pirates of the Caribbean 5:

“We’re in the outline phase. We will lay out a story. We have a script, but we decided we could do better.”

I wish he’d made the decision to do better for On Stranger Tides.  I look forward to him pissing on that film to talk up Pirates 5 just like he pissed on At World’s End (a movie I liked) to promote Pirates 4.

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