Disney has pulled the plug on The Lone Ranger due to the budget skyrocketing upwards of $200 million. If that price tag doesn’t sound crazy enough to you, what if I told you the premise would have seen the Lone Ranger and Tonto fighting werewolves in the Old West?
For those of you unaware, The Lone Ranger was scheduled to be Disney’s tentpole blockbuster for Christmas 2012. Jerry Bruckheimer, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, Gore Verbinski, and Johnny Depp (aka the producer, writers, director, and star of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) were the creative forces behind the relaunch of the iconic masked crimefighting cowboy. Depp was slated to play the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto, not the Lone Ranger himself; the title role was going to rising star Armie Hammer, whom you may recall for his dual role as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network.
Deadline reported late Friday night that Disney had stopped pre-production because of their unhappiness with the astronomical cost:
“I’m told this all just happened, and Disney pulled the plug because of the budget. I’ve heard the filmmakers were trying to reduce the film’s cost from $250 million (some even say $275 million) down to $232 million. But it wasn’t the $200 million that Disney wanted to spend. And between Depp, Bruckheimer, and Verbinski, the gross outlay on the film is substantial.”
Regardless, why the hell does a Lone Ranger movie require a $200 million budget? The answer to that question surely rests with the film’s plot, details of which had yet to surface. That got me web surfing around to various movie news sites to see if anyone had any insight.
It appears Jeffrey Wells provided the answer Saturday on his Hollywood Elsewhere website. Mr. Wells got hold of a 2009 draft of the script by Elliot and Rossio (Revolutionary Road scribe Jason Haythe was since brought in to do a rewrite) and got some behind-the-scenes tidbits from an insider revealing that the movie was going to be a special effects-laden extravaganza in the vein of the Pirates movies with the Lone Ranger and Tonto battling werewolves with more emphasis put on Depp’s Tonto than the character the movie is actually named for.
“It was going to be a Tonto show mainly. Tonto as the top dog and more dominant than the Lone Ranger. Tonto and the Indian spirits like Obi Wan Kenobi and the force. The driving engine was going to be Native American occult aspects worked in with werewolves and special effects. But flavored with doses of Native American spirituality in a serious way.”
Or, as a commenter on Wells’ article succinctly put it:
The whole pitch – right down to Tonto being the ‘real’ badass, the “Indians know the REAL score, white man is clueless” and the shamanistic magic angle sound like they basically lifted the plot of “Brotherhood of The Wolf” – which VERY self-consciously borrowed the Ranger/Tonto setup for it’s white-hero/indian-sidekick guys – and reverse-engineered it BACK into a “Lone Ranger” script. Amazing.
Wells’ story goes on to note Depp not wanting to turn his Tonto into another campy Jack Sparrow-type out of reverence for his own Native American heritage. Thank goodness, too, because the last thing you would want is too much foolishness in a film about a masked cowboy saving the Wild West from werewolves.
So why has the plug been pulled on The Lone Ranger despite being such a high concept reimagining of an iconic hero from the same production team responsible for a multi-billion dollar film franchise?
Cowboys & Aliens.
The moment that big budget, star-powered genre mash-up opened to box office disappointment three weeks ago, Disney reportedly began to panic over how much money they were potentially risking on what amounts to “cowboys & werewolves”, and with studios tightening their purse strings of late, Disney’s Van Helsing-ing of The Lone Ranger looks like it won’t be happening anytime soon.
Deadline updated the article to state that all parties involved are still hoping to get the project off the ground and discussions are ongoing so maybe they’ll iron things out budget-wise and we will get to learn the true reason why the Lone Ranger only shoots silver bullets.
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Come up with other crazy “vs.” ideas in the comments section below.