Backing up a bit. The revival of long-lived western serial hero and his Native American sidekick marks a reunion between the director, producer, and star of Pirates of the Caribbean, and as such seems like easy money. But in August of last year, Disney abruptly put a stop to pre-production based on an estimated budget that had reportedly crept north of $250 million. After a few months and some headline haggling, Disney and the Pirates triumvirate worked out a deal to bring the budget down to a more palatable but still huge $215 million range. That deal involved cutting some costly sequences as well as reducing the upfront fees of Verbinski, Bruckheimer, and Depp.
With Armie Hammer as the titular Ranger and Depp as Tonto, production has been underway in the American Southwest since February. And apparently that production hasn't been going all that smoothly. The Hollywood Reporter cites anonymous insiders who claim that the shoot is running days, possibly weeks, behind schedule and costs on the The Lone Ranger have now brought the budget back up into the neighborhood of $250 million. One source, yet again anonymous, says that the number is actually even higher.
Weather disruptions are said to have played a part in the troubles, as dust storms may have done significant damage to some sets. Additionally, there's Verbinski's penchant for going big in order to deliver the proper spectacle. The only rumored example thereof provided by those sources is that the director opted to build many a locomotive from scratch rather than use existing trains, which one assumes is pretty costly since the plot involves many a train.
Despite the rumored budgetary escalation and behind the scenes problems, though, word is that Verbinski is shooting footage that could provide contemporary westerns with a long-overdue global revival.
Earlier this year, the budget on John Carter became a bigger story than the film itself and the months leading up to its release became a schadenfreude-fest. Disney has to be concerned about stories like these on an endeavor the size of The Lone Ranger. On the more practical side, the studio is demanding scenes be cut, and rewrites are in-progress.
Justin Haythe is the primary screenwriter, working from previous drafts by Pirates scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. In addition to Hammer and Depp, the cast includes Barry Pepper, Ruth Wilson, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tom Wilkinson.
The original budgetary problems led Disney to delay The Lone Ranger release from December of this year to July 3, 2013. Production is set to continue through this August, leaving Verbinski and company time to get the would-be blockbuster into fighting shape.