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

     September 1, 2011


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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  • kungfukid

    WOW! 275 is the original budget? THIS MUST BE REALLY REALLY BIG! like AVATAR big or Pirate sequels..

    ps. i love the “No one sets out to make a bad movie”. nice Matt. starting to lighten up a bit.

  • Joe

    Ditch the werewolves. They don’t belong in a western. That being said, I think Disney and Verbinski can reach a compromise. This is a movie that can and will do well at the box office.

  • vxx

    Am I reading this right? The studio wants to spend *more* and the filmmakers are trying to spend less?

    • Joe

      Other way around. Verbinski wanted a 275 million budget and Disney wants to drop it to around 215-220. And I guess they got it below 220.

  • Aaron

    Why on earth would a western cost $200M? How much of that is eaten up by Depp and Verbinski’s paydays? James Mangold made a damn fine western with his remake of 3:10 to Yuma and I sure it was accomplished at a budget far below $100M even with Russell Crowe on the payroll. If Gore and Johnny really want to make this movie, the budget reductions should come out of their upfront fees and not the production budget.

  • kim

    I only hope that the screenplay is good, not Prince-Of-Persia good, nor Sorcerer’s-Apprentice good, nor your average Jerry Bruckheimer good, but good, good.

    After all this behind the scenes drama it would be awful to have a movie in the same league as Pirates 4.

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