Well, this is a surprise, and yet, maybe not. December 2012 was stacked with big tentpole releases, including THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, WORLD WAR Z, Spielberg's LINCOLN, and Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED. So it looks like Disney's pulled the plug on THE LONE RANGER. THE LONE RANGER wasn't small potatoes in comparison to those other titles - Johnny Depp probably brings in more box office than Brad Pitt these days, and the two were going head-to-head on December 21st, 2012. It sounds like it could have been budget issues. I can't imagine a Western would need a very big budget but with Gore Verbinski directing and Depp starring, the price tag was likely a hefty one.
It's unfortunate as I think the casting was good, the director's established, and since it seemed like they were going to the roots of the original story, I think audiences would have come. No word on whether Disney will return to the film, but putting a stop to a Jerry Bruckheimer film is a pretty bold move, and I'm sure there will be repercussions with Bruckheimer and Disney because of it.
Beaks here with some additional thoughts...
$250 million for THE LONE RANGER? Too fucking high.
So Disney has shitcanned its long-in-development revival of the George W. Trendle/Fran Striker serial because producer Jerry Bruckheimer couldn't get the production's budget close enough to $200 million? This after the fourth installment of Bruckheimer's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise grossed $1 billion worldwide? Kinda crazy.
It's surprising Disney would say no to Bruckheimer, but absolutely stunning that they'd pass on the opportunity to create a second in-house franchise for Johnny Depp. He is the biggest star on the planet right now - especially overseas. Even the critically-maligned THE TOURIST raked in $210 milion internationally. Something has to be really wrong to slam the brakes on a Depp-toplined project in 2011.
We can't say for certain why Disney got cold feet, but as Michael Fleming notes in the Deadline story, the gross participation for Bruckheimer, Depp and Verbinski would've been considerable. Basically, THE LONE RANGER would've had to do PIRATES 4-level business to justify the greenlight. And since the film is based on 100% American iconography, the studio would've had to mount a massive international marketing campaign to sell the film to moviegoers who don't know the first fucking thing about Tonto.
And that might've done it. More and more, studios are thinking internationally first when it comes to developing tentpoles. They would prefer to set their mega-budgeted films in universes where the protagonist's nationality is indistinct or, at the very least, unimportant. This was true when THE LONE RANGER was announced back in 2008, but it's of particular importance now - and it's possible that Disney decided they'd just rather make another Jack Sparrow movie, and, perhaps, have Bruckheimer develop something different for Depp.
But does Depp feel any real loyalty to the current Disney regime? He was incredibly fond of former chairman Dick Cook (who played a crucial role in convincing Depp to play Captain Jack Sparrow), but I'm not he's as close to Rich Ross and Sean Bailey. That said, Disney did just buy two Depp-shepherded projects (a film version of THE NIGHT STALKER and a historical drama about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride), so perhaps Depp has cooled on playing Tonto. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months. An appearance from Depp at next week's D23 would be huge.