The announcement, last year, that Johnny Depp would be playing Tonto in a new film version of The Lone Ranger made waves in both Hollywood and Indian country. Depp was to team with director Gore Verbinski, with whom he has made the Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters, and the story was to focus more on Tonto than previous film and TV offerings. For months, speculators wondered what actor would be cast to play—or would consent to play—a downsized masked man (the job reportedly went to Armie Hammer of The Social Network).
Disney has shut down the production. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, CEO Bob Iger said on a conference call, "It's our intention to take a very careful look at what films cost. ... 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."
That's the initial story, and a bland one it was. Besides, after all those Pirates movies and Alice in Wonderland isn't Depp, in the words of the same L.A. Times article, "the studio's most bankable star in recent years"?
Bloggers and fansites have reported a more detailed version. Sources are saying that Lone Ranger's budget was bloated by some unexpected special effects ordered up by Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer: Werewolves. Yes, werewolves. The source describes the film as: "An effects-heavy CG thing due to being a kind of an Indian-spirituality werewolf movie, a.k.a., The Lone Ranger Meets the Wolfman."
The underperformance of Cowboys & Aliens was cited as the final nail in the coffin for the Depp/Verbinski/Bruckheimer Lone Ranger: "A Bruckheimer-style western in the wake of Cowboys & Aliens is nothing anyone is feeling secure about at this stage."