Johnny Depp Won’t Do THE LONE RANGER without Director Gore Verbinski

     September 1, 2011

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Disney’s drama with The Lone Ranger continues.  As we previously reported, Disney thought the budget was too high and wanted to work it down to at least $215 – $220 million.  Director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer tried to wrangle down that budget but Disney chairman Rich Ross went so far as to hint that Verbinski was an expendable piece of the puzzle if it meant not spending an exorbitant amount on a Western.  But Deadline is now reporting that star Johnny Depp won’t do the movie without Verbinski at the helm.  No Depp means there’s no movie and the studio certainly wants to keep one of the world’s biggest movie stars happy.

The good news for Disney is that Verbinski and Bruckheimer were able to get the budget down to less than $220 million although it’s not at the $200 million mark that the studio would have preferred.  However, there’s still no final agreement on the budget and insiders tell Deadline that Verbinski “won’t take the budget down to a certain point where it’s not the same movie that he started out to make.”  Hit the jump for a recap of why Disney is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Disney can’t give in to the original budget of $275 million.  Even at $220 million it’s a stretch for the following reasons:

  • It’s a down economy.
  • All of the studios are cutting back costs and as a result are being more careful than usual about giving out the greenlight to tentpole films.
  • Westerns tend to do poorly overseas, and bad westerns tend to do poorly everywhere (e.g. Cowboys & Aliens) although that’s not to say The Lone Ranger will be bad. No one sets out to make a bad movie.
  • The once fertile DVD market has gone barren in the age of digital downloads, Netflix, and Redbox.

So if you take international and DVD sales out of the equation (which is where even the biggest flops can usually break even), Disney is taking a huge gamble on Depp and Verbinski.  But the studio needs tentpoles and it needs to keep healthy relationships with talent like Depp and Verbinski.   I would like to say that I do not envy Rich Ross, but he’s wealthy and runs a movie studio, so I’d still like to be in his shoes.

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