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Disney pulls ‘Lone Ranger’ reins

Studio aims to trim budget of Gore Verbinski tentpole

”The Lone Ranger” was always envisioned as a high-profile tentpole for Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer. But the Mouse House and producer are now trying to rein in the costs of the actioner before the price to produce the pic gallops away from them.

Despite reports that Disney has pulled the plug on the bigscreen adaptation that will have Gore Verbinski helm Armie Hammer as the masked man and Johnny Depp co-star as Tonto, the pic is far from dead at the studio, sources close to the production told Variety.

Both parties are looking to trim the film’s escalating budget to get it closer to the $200 million that Disney was looking to spend to make the movie, currently skedded to shoot in October. Film will shoot in New Mexico, which will offer the studio tax breaks.

Scrutinizing the budget shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, with studios often combing over a film’s costs before a film gets the greenlight, especially at cost-conscious congloms.

Disney has been high on the prospects of working with Depp again on a potential new franchise, after the fourth ”Pirates” pic hauled in more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. ”Lone Ranger” already has been dated for a Dec. 21, 2012 release, and the film started promoting Depp in the film as far back as 2008.

But Disney chief Robert Iger hasn’t been shy in wanting to lassoe in higher production costs at the studio.

In an earnings call with investors this week, he said rising pricetags of Disney’s pics might cause the company to reduce the number of films it produces moving forward. But he added that, ”We feel we’re better off by reducing the size of the slate and making films that are bigger and increasingly more risky.”

The studio is currently opening its coffers to finish ”John Carter” and ”Oz, the Great and Powerful.”

”Lone Ranger” was expected to be one of the tentpoles that Disney was expected to start promoting Aug. 19-21 at the D23 Expo, held at the Anaheim Convention Center.

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