Lone Ranger may get back in the saddle soon
Hold your horses, Tonto.
Film crew workers, who were told last week to dismantle a western town set being built near Silver City, N.M., for Walt Disney Studios' planned production of "The Lone Ranger," were instructed Wednesday night to hold off on the tear down, said a person close to the project.
The development was an apparent sign that Disney and the film's producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski may yet resolve a budget dispute that would put the masked man and his Native American sidekick -- played by Johnny Depp -- back in the saddle.
Since Disney suspended the project last Friday, the filmmakers have been trying to cut the estimated $250-million cost of the movie to satisfy the studio's demand to shoot the production for around $210 million.
A person close to the director said Verbinski, Depp and Bruckheimer have agreed to cut their own compensation as part of an effort to lower the budget to $230 million. The filmmakers were also willing to eliminate expensive computer-generated scenes involving supernatural sequences.
Reached by email on Tuesday, Depp was cryptic about the "Lone Ranger" project. "I think everything will work out as it should," the Oscar-nominated actor said from London, where he was at Pinewood Studios outside London working on the Warner Bros. film "Dark Shadows."
It is still unclear whether the sides will come to terms.
Representatives of Disney and Bruckheimer declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Verbinski said he was busy working and unavailable.
Last week, work was suspended on the sets under construction in New Mexico and most of the 60 workers were laid off, while a small number stayed behind to disassemble the town. Meanwhile, a separate group of crafts people building a mock train set in a warehouse in Albuquerque continued their work, said the person close to the project, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the film.
-- Richard Verrier, Dawn C. Chmielewski and Geoff Boucher
Photo: John Hart played the Masked Man on "The Lone Ranger" television series. With him are Jay Silverheels as Tonto and their horses, Silver and Scout. Credit: Boyd Magers collection.