<i>The Lone Ranger</i> Rides Again, but with a Smaller Risk for Disney

We noted Wednesday that Disney is pushing forward again with The Lone Ranger, nearly two months after it pulled the reins on the Western, whose budget at one point ranged somewhere between $250 million and $275 million. We knew already that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski whittled the costs down to $215 million, but how did they get to the point where the studio said "giddyup"?

According to Variety, Verbinski, Bruckheimer and stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer reduced their fees by 20 percent, with some payments deferred until The Lone Ranger starts seeing money. And if production goes over budget, Bruckheimer Films will have to cover the costs.

When the movie was put on hold in mid-August -- the trade paper insists that, "despite hyped reports," the project was never actually dead -- Verbinski began reworking the script by Revolutionary Road's Justin Haythe and Pirates of the Caribbean veterans Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to eliminate expensive effects sequences involving supernatural elements. Among the early casualties were the werewolves and creatures from Native American that reportedly appeared in early drafts. The screenplay was also said to have featured three massive action set pieces involving trains, including one described as "the biggest train sequence in film history," but it's unknown whether those survived the cuts.

The Lone Ranger is now expected to begin production in February in New Mexico, three months or so behind schedule.

Update: The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the opening has been moved from Dec. 21, 2012, to May 31, 2013.

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