Gore Verbinski. Johnny Depp. Armie Hammer. The writers of the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp as Tonto. How could The Lone Ranger go astray? And yet the Walt Disney company has decided to pass on this title, citing a budget that was guestimated at $230 Million. Those numbers sound astronomical, but in context, Warner Brothers spent a supposed $200 on The Green Lantern. What could make a western so expensive? Werewolves, according to Jeff Wells. The film was going to be a special effects bonanza.
There’s a number of reasons why this might not have floated, besides the expense and the werewolves. First and foremost is that Westerns have never been a huge draw in foreign markets. If you look at the numbers for True Grit, its international numbers were less than half of the domestic take, and while Cowboys and Aliens has sci-fi elements, its domestic cume should fall short of $100 Million, and may not fare as well internationally.
On top of that, Verbinski and Depp should have a “get out of jail free” card after making the Pirates trilogy. Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott cashed theirs with Robin Hood. But what may have also felled this project was Rango, which had the same director and star as the Pirates trilogy, but failed to generate too much heat. Arguments could be made that it was “animated” and “weird,” but it had the same release date as Alice in Wonderland - the first week of March – which has become a hot spot for Spring titles. It was also a Western, and while The Tourist made $200 internationally, Rango couldn’t reach those heights, it did $120 Million internationally. There are also the studio politics involved, which are hard to fathom. Regardless, the project is dead at Disney, and the price tag should keep it from moving to another studio.
Would you want to see Depp battle werewolves?