Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer See ‘Lone Ranger’ as New Genre-Bending Superhero
At a time when Hollywood is turning to comicbooks, toys, videogames and sequels to fill their film slates, Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are looking to introduce “The Lone Ranger’s” masked man as a new kind of superhero.
Disney’s July 3 release of “The Lone Ranger,” starring Armie Hammer as the Texas Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto, will determine whether the Burbank entertainment giant can ride off into the sunset with a new franchise under its white Stetson.
Despite the film’s Old West setting, Bruckheimer draws a similarity between the titular lawman and Marvel Studio’s popular bigscreen crime fighters.
“To me, he’s a very heroic character,” says Bruckheimer. “You see all of these wonderful Marvel characters that have been around forever, and the Lone Ranger has been around forever and fights evil, too. Audiences like that.”
The producer and the studio that bankrolled the movie need auds to love it: The picture cost approximately $250 million to produce, and more than $150 million to market and distribute around the globe. The battle to get the picture made was an expensive and arduous one that involved oversight by three different studio chiefs, from the time it was announced five years ago by former chairman Dick Cook until the five-month production wrapped under the watch of current chair Alan Horn.
“The Lone Ranger” didn’t actually begin shooting until 2011, when Cook’s successor, Rich Ross, was under pressure to deliver big hits. Finding himself already saddled with two other pricey productions — “John Carter” and “Oz the Great and Powerful” — he and boss Bob Iger balked at “The Lone Ranger’s” $260 million proposed budget as being too much for a movie based on a character unknown to Disney’s core audience of kids. Pre-production was halted until the filmmakers could wrangle the cost down to a more manageable $215 million.
Bruckheimer and his longtime collaborators, director Gore Verbinski and Depp, with whom he launched “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, made a number of clever financial and creative concessions to get the movie made. They re-engineered the entire production plan: switching to shoot in locations with more favorable tax incentives; shrinking the crew; laying off makeup artists, visual-effects workers and extras. Some of the script’s bigger sequences were consolidated, and some plot points excised, including scenes with supernatural coyotes that would have been too expensive to digitally create. To further save money, Bruckheimer, Verbinski, Depp, Hammer, post-production vendors and other crew members agreed to defer their payments and take 20% cuts in their fees. Disney also held back producer fees from Bruckheimer, who contributed his own development funds to finish the picture.