It was one of the biggest cliffhangers in recent Hollywood memory, but the modern day version of The Lone Ranger will start shooting on February 6, 2012 in New Mexico.
The film - planned for a May 31, 2013 release - will be directed by Gore Verbinski and star Armie Hammer in the lead role, along with Johnny Depp as Tonto.
As we’ve previously reported, the film came perilously close to shutting down over its budget, which was getting up in the $275 million range, but finally a tough bargain was reached to get the movie made.
Deadline confirms the budget is now around $215 million, thanks to some serious cost cutting.
Variety says everyone’s taking 20% less on their fees, which could equal some serious bucks on the back end for Depp, Hammer, Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
It’s also not the only $200 million range film that Disney is backing, as John Carter is estimated at $250 million, while Oz The Great and Powerful, which is being directed by Sam Raimi, is also in the $200 million neighborhood.
The biggest problems facing The Lone Ranger is the recent belly flop of Cowboys and Aliens, which sent the signal to Hollywood that audiences aren’t interested in westerns, even if they’re reinvented for modern day. And with a budget in the upper $200 million range, and the DVD market collapsing, The Lone Ranger would have to make a ton of money worldwide to break even.
Funny enough, you may remember way back thirty years ago there was a disastrous attempt to bring the Lone Ranger back at Universal, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, starring the unknown actor Klinton Spilsbury, whose name is a trivia question in the game You Don’t Know Jack. The film was directed by the late William Fraker, the master cinematographer of Bullitt, Rosemary’s Baby, WarGames, Tombstone, and many others.
Fraker shot 1941 for Steven Spielberg, and he was actually offered to be the cinematographer on Raiders of the Lost Ark, a job he turned down to make his Lone Ranger. I once asked Fraker about this, he just smiled and shrugged as if to say, "What can you do?"