Uh oh. Disney's 'The Lone Ranger' facing another budget crisis

Disney just can't buy a break with anything outside of The Avengers, can they? Maybe they should just invest in superheroes and animated flicks from now on? It was last year that production on The Lone Ranger was halted due to a skyrocketing budget that was aiming north of $250M. Even with Johnny Depp in the role of Tonto, and his Pirates of the Caribbean helmer, Gore Verbinski teaming back up, there was no way to justify that amount of money. Disney did the right thing at the time, forcing Depp, Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer to reconfigure the script and lower the budget down to a more manageable $215M. That got the job done, and production began in February.

Well, all seemed to be running smoothly....for awhile. THR reports that the budget is rapidly approaching the $250M level that scared Disney off to begin with, along with being behind on the schedule. Even with all the rewrites that took place to slash the cost, apparently it wasn't enough, and the script continues to be worked on. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as Verbinski has never been a director who knew how to stay within set limits. It was Disney who wanted to can his ass, but relented in order stay in Depp and Bruckheimer's good graces. Now they're facing a situation that sounds an awful lot like the lead up to the super expensive, box office dud that was John Carter.

Granted, not all of the budget overruns are on Verbinski's shoulders. The production was hit with a run of terrible weather, which caused a great deal of damage to many of the pricey set pieces. On the other hand, Verbinski's costly desire to build old timey locomotives from scratch is a major concern, since he could have used what was already had available. Disney wants many of these scenes cut in order to help keep the costs low, but it remains to be seen if that happens.

The hope is obviously that Depp and Co. can do for Westerns what they did for the swashbuckling genre in Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney has a decision to make here, and it isn't an easy one. The 'Pirates' films have grossed nearly $4B, so Disney knows the formula is a potentially lucrative one. But how much rope do they give Verbinski? If they pull the reins on him too tight, the movie might not be any good.  It's possible audiences may have Western fatigue after Djano Unchained opens this Christmas, and as we've seen a couple of times recently, Johnny Depp isn't quite as bankable outside of the Jack Sparrow persona. One thing that should be noted is what we learned last October, that if the production goes too far over budget, Bruckheimer will have to pay the difference. For that reason alone, Disney may be willing to let things slide and continue on as they are.

We'll see what happens. The Lone Ranger has another few months of filming to be completed. Assuming all goes well, we're supposed to see it next summer on July 3rd.