Depp’s Ultimatum – No Gore, No Ranger

The decision over the fate of Disney’s “Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp now looks to be in the studio’s court as producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have essentially agreed to a rigid and reduced $215 million budget according to the trades.

A few weeks back the studio demanded budget reductions on the project which at the time was costing anywhere from $240-$275 million and which the Mouse House wanted to reduce to a flat $200 million. Now Verbinski and Bruckheimer have reportedly presented their new budget proposal to Chairman Rich Ross and it appears the studio may go forward with the film even though they’ve been having second thoughts and looked to be essentially ditching the entire project last week.

Many didn’t believe the trio could get the budget down in time to make this proposal, and to do it they’ve made steep concessions including major upfront salary cuts and the excision of a major effects sequence. The flip side is if the movie’s a success, their backend deals will likely make them more than they would have made with flat fees.

Added to this is Depp, who’s attached to play Tonto and whom Disney doesn’t want to piss off. Depp really wants to make the film but won’t do it without Verbinski directing – so the studio can’t hire a cheaper director in this case and risk losing Depp as an ally if they scrap the project. A decision is not expected until the week after Labor Day.

Disney is currently in the midst of trying to curb its spending on tentpoles, even though it’s risky “John Carter” space fantasy feature officially costs $250 million (and other sources claim the budget is higher).