The Lone Ranger had all the makings of a tentpole for Disney. The December 2012 release date. The impressive cast, led by Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, and Tom Wilkinson. The nostalgia for a known property. The $250 million budget… wait, why does a western need to cost $250 million. I understand that Johnny Depp is as expensive as he is bankable, especially when paired with Gore Verbinski, the director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But to spend Pirates-level money on a genre that is not noted for success in modern theaters is bad business. I mean, how much nostalgia is there really for The Lone Ranger? Disney’s answer: not enough.
Deadline reports the studio has halted production before the October start date, even though filmmakers were trying to reduce costs to a mere $232 million. The Lone Ranger will join At the Mountains of Madness and The Dark Tower on the 2011 list of ambitious adaptations that were too risky for their studios. The Lone Ranger was the furthest along, though, with a full cast. The news is surprising, but totally understandable. There are much better ways for Disney to spend $250 million.
[Update: Variety now reports that the project is "far from dead," and all parties involved are now working to trim the budget closer to $200 million. Whether the film will still make the planned October start date or if Disney will ultimately pull the plug remains to be seen.]