Hi-Ho Budgets, Away!: Plug gets pulled on the Johnny Depp backed “Lone Ranger” project

16 Aug

Inflated budget cited as main reason, despite star-studded cast and crew

Inflated budget shuts down production of Johnny Depp backed Lone Ranger movie
As a sort of omen, or sign of the times, the critic website Pajiba.com just posted a list of the 25 Biggest Box Office Bombs, and reading over the list of movies (Gigli, $81 Million loss, The Alamo, $141 Million loss),  one of two things occur to you – a) how did this movie ever get greenlit in the first place?, and b) how did they convince the studio to give them so much money to make it?! And while it’s reasonable to see how a big budget can run away from you, like in the case of adventure movies like Speed Racer ($110 Million loss) or Cutthroat Island (#1 with $142 Million in losses), with their special effects costs ballooning out of control, it’s almost mind-boggling when you hear how a CGI-free romantic-comedy like 2001’s Town & Country ($120 Million loss) could cost so much, or why anyone would sink $100 Million dollars into The Adventures of Pluto Nash, when it was so clear no one would go see this movie (total U.S. gross – $4.41 Million).

Am I really the only one who saw this coming???.....

Maybe it was the freewheeling 90’s, or the spend-happy 2000’s that’s to blame for this, but clearly Hollywood, much like the rest of America, is realizing it’s time they stop wasting so much money. Hence news this week that the new Johnny Depp-backed Lone Ranger movie was getting the axe, not for artistic differences, not because of scheduling conflicts, but because the movie was just going to cost too much to make, and frankly, there wasn’t enough faith in getting it all back. According to Deadline.com, the film, which was actively in the casting stage, and already had Depp (as Tonto), Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger), and director Gore Verbinski already attached, was asking for a reported $250 Million budget, had conceded to start shooting for $232 Million, but in the end, just couldn’t meet Disney’s $200 Million limit, and was tentatively shut down until further notice.

Now, whether the production will grow legs from here is yet to be seen, with the option of shelving it until another studio comes along to cover the costs, or they strip it down to meet a more reasonable budget, but the one clear question from all of this is, how in the world could this film possibly cost this much money to make? With the source material being a TV show with a shoe-string budget, a Western where little (or no) costly CGI would be in play, and sparse settings in empty brushland totalling a whopping $275 Million by some estimates, one has to wonder where does all the money go when making a Hollywood movie? Unless the plans were to use CGI horses, a CGI background, while pasting a CGI mask full-time over the eyes of Armie Hammer, it’s just ridiculous and bombastic to to say you cannot film this movie for under $200 Million dollars. When you consider Titanic would only cost $247 Million by today’s inflated rates, it’s hard to feel sorry for a production who can’t seem to rangle in their inflated costs, when you can’t visibly see where that money would possibly go.

Even as a precocious teen in 1997, I could see the inflated costs of Titanic setting a Hollywood precedent of bloated budgets, so it’s nice to see a studio pushing back, saying, “Make it work and under budget, or we just won’t do it.” Now, if only the Federal goevernment would take a page out of Disney’s book…

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