Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Gore Verbinski, and Jerry Bruckheimer Take Paycuts to Make THE LONE RANGER Happen

     October 12, 2011


Disney very nearly pulled the plug on The Lone Ranger because of the absurd proposed $250 million budget.  Director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have spent the last two months searching for ways to cut costs, and here’s what they came up with according to Variety:

  • Verbinski, Bruckheimer, and stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer will all take 20% paycuts; certain payments will be deferered until The Lone Ranger starts making money
  • Bruckheimer Films will be responsible for any cost overruns.
  • Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) reworked the script by Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) to eliminate a few expensive sequences involving supernatural elements that require a lot of effects work.

That’s all well and good, and I applaud the waste reduction efforts on a movie that should not cost $250 million.  But the gesture is less meaningful when the result is a $215 million budget.  The report indicates Tom Wilkinson and Ruth Wilson are also still on board and confirms the shoot will probably be delayed from November to February 2012.  As such, The Lone Ranger will likely forfeit its right to a December 21, 2012 release date.  Hit the jump for Depp’s take on the situation.

MTV got a chance to talk Depp as he’s promoting The Rum Diary, and the interviewer inelegantly brought up the wayward western: “Why was it important to keep The Lone Ranger going?”  What the question lacks in tact, it makes up for in capturing exactly what I was thinking.  Here’s Depp’s response:

The transcript:

“I like the character. I think I have interesting plans for the character, and I think the film itself could be entertaining and very funny. But also I like the idea of having the opportunity to make fun of the idea of the Indian as a sidekick—which has always been [the case] throughout the history of Hollywood, the Native American has always been a second-class, third-class, fourth-class citizen, and I don’t see Tonto that way at all. So it’s an opportunity for me to salute Native Americans.

We knew that the budget was going to be huge initially, and we also knew that it was going to be shut down for a while, and it was kind of like we patiently wait—we shave a little bit here, we do a little bit there, [and] they fix it.”

That’s an intriguing point of view* to hang your $215 million shoot-em-up on.  Of course, the sentiment is entirely dependent on execution.  I love what Verbinski and Depp did with the genre in Rango, but can they translate the cartoonish delight of that film to live-action?  That’s the hope.  The fear is that $215 million will lead to something more akin to the bloat of Verbinski and Depp’s prior collaboration, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

It’s a risky project.  The potential reward could be outstanding.  From this point forward, I’ll try to keep my mind focused on that limitless prospect of a successful Verbinski/Depp collaboration rather than how much it costs to make it happen.  Also, how dreamy Armie Hammer is.


*Albeit vaguely condescending.  And maybe a little bit racist.

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