Disney shuts down production of 'Lone Ranger'
Walt Disney Studios has shut down production of "The Lone Ranger," a big-budget film starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the title character, a person close to the production confirmed.
Depp has been the studio's most bankable star in recent years, anchoring two films that reaped more than a billion dollars in worldwide box office -- this summer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and the 2010 film "Alice in Wonderland."
Work on the modern retelling of the popular 1949 television western was halted amid budgetary concerns. Deadline Hollywood, which broke the news, reported that filmmakers were attempting to reduce the $250 million budget but had yet to reach the $200-million figure Disney wants to spend.
"The Lone Ranger" director Gore Verbinski previously clashed with Disney studio executives over cost overruns on the third installment of the "Pirates" franchise and did not direct the most recent sequel.
One veteran film executive said studios often use such tactics to send a message to filmmakers about bloated budgets. The person close to the production said all parties are talking and trying to determine next steps.
Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger signaled on an earnings call this week that the Burbank studio would pay closer attention to film budgets, given broader trends in the industry.
"It's our intention to take a very careful look at what films cost," Iger told analysts Tuesday. "And if we can't get them to a level that we're comfortable with, we think that we're better off actually reducing the size of our slate than making films that are bigger and increasingly more risky."
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski
Photo: Armie Hammer speaks at the UCLA Festival of New Creative Work in June. Credit: John Shearer / Getty Images for UCLA