Disney's Lone Ranger Movie Being Rewritten Amid Expanding Budget

Coming during a year when their high-profile literary adaptation John Carter--which reportedly had problems keeping its budget and schedule on-track--flopped at the box office, The Hollywood Reporter says tha Disney is now rewriting the script for their currently-in-production Lone Ranger adaptation starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, with the film's costs spiraling beyond acceptable levels and the shoot reportedly days or seeks behind schedule.

Along with the massive domestic box office failure of Universal's Battleship, the misfire of John Carter has been instrumental in chastening movie studios to pay attention to the bottom line expenses on their major tentpole releases. This has led, so far, to major rewrites or release-date delays on films like G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Robopocalypse and World War Z. That The Lone Ranger--also an arty Disney-funded adaptation of a decades-old property--seems poised to suffer a similar fate isn't entirely surprising, though, when you consider that the production was originally slated to be cancelled when director Gore Verbinski had told the studio he needed $250 million to do it right. When they managed to work the budget down to $215 million, the movie was back on--and began shooting right away. Now, THR says the budget has ballooned back up to $250 million and beyond.

"It's out of control," an insider told THR about the film's budget, "but if you were going to bet on anyone, it would be on Gore, Johnny and Jerry [Bruckheimer, the producer]."

It's unclear what they'll do this time around, given that the last time the film needed to trim its budget, Verbinski (along with Johnny Depp and Bruckheimer) agreed to work for less money up front and to cut expensive action sequences in order to make the movie more feasible.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that director Gore Verbinski (who has made boatloads of money--get it?--for Disney with his Pirates of the Caribbean films) insists in period-accuracy and has tasked his production designers with building historically-accurate trains from scratch for use in the movie, rather than using whatever Disney has on the lot--presumably trains that look old enough that only the truly savvy would know the difference. A major train sequence is reportedly one of the things that was cut the first time around, so it doesn't seem entirely unlikely that this could just be a recurring problem: If creating a major set piece is key in sending the budget through the roof, it seems as though cutting costs substantially would require a major rewrite.

The Lone Ranger is expected to finish filming in August and be in theaters July 3, 2013.