Brad Pitt, opening this weekend in World War Z, has issued a statement on the passing of James Gandolini at age 51. They starred together, along with Julia Roberts in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Mexican, a movie that came along just as Gandolfini was watching his star rise because of The Sopranos. More recently they starred in Killing Them Softly, and they also appeared in the Tony Scott-directed True Romance, in which Pitt played a small but memorable role as a stoner.
“I admire Jimmy as a ferocious actor, a gentle soul and a genuinely funny man,” Pitt said. “I am fortunate to have sat across the table from him and am gutted by this loss. I wish his family strength and some semblance of peace.”
It’s clear even from this Japanese-subtitled, English-language version that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have endeavored to deliver a rousing popcorn movie with Armie Hammer as the title character and Johnny Depp as his spirit warrior partner Tonto. Whether they succeeded or not, we’ll find out when The Lone Ranger opens July 3rd in the U.S.
EXCLUSIVE: New Regency has teamed with Gore Verbinski‘s Blind Wink banner on Pyongyang, a dark comedic film that Verbinski will direct and produce, based on the Guy Delisle graphic novel. Steve Conrad, who scripted The Pursuit Of Happyness and most recently the Ben Stiller-directed remake The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, is writing the screenplay. The film is about outsourcing run amok when a young animator sent to North Korea is accused of espionage. Verbinski’s next film, The Lone Ranger, opens through Disney in the summer and Blind Wink’s first project was the Oscar-winning Rango, which Verbinski directed. Both he and Conrad are repped by CAA.
BREAKING…: A member of the crew on Disney‘s The Lone Ranger died early this morning in Los Angeles, where he was involved in setting up for an underwater scene. It’s unclear if the crew member — I’m told he was not a stuntman, and that the death did not occur during shooting — drowned or had a heart attack. Lone Ranger is being directed by Gore Verbinski and stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. Disney would not release the identity of the man, and Deadline will report more information as we confirm it. The studio released this statement:
“We regretfully confirm that a Lone Ranger crew member has passed away after being taken to a local hospital. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this time, and our full support is behind the investigation into the circumstances of this terrible event.”
Craig Modderno is an AwardsLine contributor
When Gore Verbinski met with Johnny Depp to discuss “The Lizard Project,” neither of them had any fantasy or idea that three years later the reptile would transform into the hit film Rango ($245 million in worldwide box office) and become an Oscar nominee in the Feature Animation category. “I had met over breakfast in the Valley with producer John Carls and children’s book designer David Shannon around the time I was directing Pirates Of The Caribbean,” recalls Verbinski, the director of both films. “We decided to make an animated Western with creatures in the desert. I then wrote a 12-page outline, got Johnny to commit to be the lead, then made two more films. I discovered after directing Pirates 3 that I wanted a break from the series, so I got John Logan to work on the script for Rango.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Even though Disney scrapped a fall start date for The Lone Ranger, and then green lit the film for a mid-February start date once director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer brought a $250 million + budget down to around $215 million, the cast around Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer remained pretty much intact. But now the picture has lost one of its major bad guys. Dwight Yoakam has dropped out of the picture, and insiders attribute it to a scheduling conflict.
EXCLUSIVE: Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures has acquired and will finance Bitterroot, a drama that is being produced by Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink banner and Scott Aversano. The film will likely mark the feature directorial debut of Chris Milk, an inventive helmer of music videos. The script is by Michael Gilio. Blink Wink’s Verbinski and Jonathan Krauss will produce with Aversano and his Aversano Films banner.
The film has long been a passion project for Verbinski, who originally set it up at Universal with the intention of directing it. He’s preoccupied with The Lone Ranger and decided to produce instead. Bitterroot, which was set up under the title Black Hole (the script made the Black List) is the story of an aging rancher in Montana who gets swindled out of his life savings in a bank scam. When nobody seems to be accountable, the rancher saddles up his horse, puts on his duster, grabs his guns and trots off to Bitterroot to get his money back. The Occupy Wall Street movement and general frustration over the lack of corporate accountability stemming from the 2008 financial meltdown gives the film a timely man against the system premise.
The intriguing part of this is Milk getting his feature shot. There has been an influx of imaginative video and commercial directors debuting on big features, and Milk is as accomplished as any of them. He first … Read More »
Disney is taking another week of prep time before getting underway on The Lone Ranger. Production will begin on February 13. The Gore Verbinski-directed Johnny Depp-starrer has been locked for a May 31, 2013 release. When the film came back online, it was going to start February 6. The Lone Ranger was originally supposed to get underway this fall for a December 21, 2012 release, but all that changed when Disney shocked Hollywood by unplugging the film over fears that its budget could reach $275 million. It came back around with a budget closer to $215 million.
BREAKING: Disney has confirmed that the Gore Verbinski-directed Johnny Depp-starrer The Lone Ranger has come back on track, with the studio setting the film for a May 31, 2013 release. As Deadline revealed yesterday, the film will begin production February 6. The film was originally supposed to get underway this fall for a December 21, 2012 release, but all that changed when Disney shocked Hollywood by unplugging the film over fears that its budget could reach $275 million. Deadline revealed that news exclusively on August 12. It was a surprising move, considering that Bruckheimer is a cornerstone producer and Depp has starred in the studio’s highest-grossing films, with both of them teaming with Verbinski on the first three installments of The Pirates Of The Caribbean.
Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Depp rose to the challenge, though, even though it was a painful one. They reworked their compensation deals and figured out ways to save money in the production budget. They brought the budget down to a figure that is around $215 million, I’m told. Taking responsibility to bring the film in for that price was the only way that the studio was going to make the film. Considering that most Westerns don’t travel overseas as well as some other genres (Cowboys & Aliens has proven to be an offshore disappointment), The Lone Ranger is still a big bet by a studio that is backing John Carter, a film that costs more than $250 million, and Oz The Great And Powerful, which hovers at around $200 million. At least now, Disney’s risk on The Lone Ranger has been contained. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: I’m hearing that Disney has set The Lone Ranger to start production February 6, 2012. That re-establishes one of the most intriguing examples of a star-driven film that was unplugged because of high budget and put back together in a way that gives the studio a chance to recoup its costs. Though The Lone Ranger has arguably the world’s most bankable movie star in Johnny Depp, it also is a Western, which (as evidenced by the lackluster performance of Cowboys & Aliens), doesn’t as a genre do strong business overseas. I expect this to be formalized by tomorrow.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, October 11, 4:38 PM: Well, it took a week longer than I thought it would, but Disney has finally reached a meeting of the minds on The Lone Ranger with director Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The studio is expected to formalize a new start date imminently and announce it is moving forward and putting Depp back in the saddle as Tonto, with Armie Hammer as the title character. It looked like the studio was going to announce last week when the picture brightened for the film, but it will be this week’s business instead. I don’t think Disney was able to salvage its December 21 release date because production won’t start in New Mexico until early next year.
The original plan was to begin shooting this fall. That was until, as Deadline revealed on August 12, the studio shockingly pulled the plug on a project it feared could come in at between $250 million-$275 million. The risk of such a figure on a Western became more glaring after Cowboys & Aliens had just turned in a severely disappointing domestic gross, to be followed by an even worse offshore performance, proving the adage that most Westerns don’t travel well. Cowboys & Aliens will be a costly money-loser, 50% shouldered by DreamWorks and the other half split between Universal and Relativity Media. On Lone Ranger, there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes drama as the three principal players made concessions in their deals, and worked on the script to salvage the spectacle that made the movie worth making in the first place while bringing the budget down to a more manageable figure in the $215 million range. Read More »
UPDATE, 10:47 AM: Paramount Pictures has confirmed that David Stainton is its new head of animation. The press release is below Deadline’s original break.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 10:23 AM: Paramount Pictures is hiring David Stainton to be head of Paramount Animation, the division it launched during the summer to generate one toon a year starting in 2014. Paramount’s launch coincided with speculation that Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount would have a parting of the ways when the DreamWorks Animation distribution deal ends December 31, 2012. Stainton is a good get. He spent 17 years at Disney, rose to president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and oversaw the studio’s animation facilities in Paris. Most recently, he had been CEO of Henry’s World Media, a family film producer. I’m told that Stainton will report to Paramount Motion Picture Group president Adam Goodman. The studio’s goal is to build a family film/CG animation unit from scratch, the way that Chris Meledandri did with Fox Animation and most recently for Universal with Illumination Entertainment. Paramount’s first homegrown foray into CG animation came with the Gore Verbinski-directed Rango with Johnny Depp. That was a pricey film, but it is looking good in the Best Animated Film category at the upcoming Oscars. Building an animation unit takes time and an executive with vision, and clearly Paramount brass thinks it has found that person in Stainton. Expect an announcement perhaps today. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Chernin Entertainment is near a deal to acquire an untitled pitch by scribes Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark will produce with Blind Wink’s Gore Verbinski and John Krauss. Chernin will buy it out of his discretionary fund, a mid- to high-six-figure deal for a pitch that sounds like a futuristic Jungle Book. It was competitive, as Disney also bid, with Verbinski and Basil Iwanyk attached to produce. Disney, of course, made both animated and live-action Jungle Book films, and Verbinski is working hard there to nail down a start date for The Lone Ranger after the film was unplugged by the studio over budget. Sazama and Sharpless scripted Dracula Year Zero, are teamed with Iwanyk on an untitled project at Summit; and are writing the script for live-action adaptation of the board game Clue, which Verbinski is developing as a potential directing project. That project was recently kicked loose by Universal and its development is being funded by Hasbro. ICM and manager Sophy Holodnik repped the writers.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline told you a week ago that things were looking up for The Lone Ranger for the first time since we broke the shocking news on Aug. 12 that Disney had pulled the plug over budget. I’m hearing that the studio is likely to have everything resolved by next week, and can start rehiring crew so that the picture will be ready to begin production in January or February. How that late start impacts the Dec. 21, 2012 release date remains to be seen, but Johnny Depp will get to play Tonto (Disney wouldn’t make the movie without him), and Armie Hammer will be back in as the title character. Ruth Wilson, the scene-stealing killer from Idris Elba’s British cop series Luther, is also expected back as the female lead.
Disney has gotten to this point after a painful overhaul of the movie by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski to bring to $215 million a budget the studio feared could reach $250 or more. Verbinski’s struggle has been to reach that number while retaining enough of the spectacle that made them say yes in the first place. The cutting process has included the reworking of deals for Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer, and trimming the production budget and the long shoot. That would enable Depp, Gore and Bruckheimer to re-team after making the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films together. The Lone Ranger is one of several huge-budget films that Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey are managing. The others include John Carter, the Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of John Carter of Mars with Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch in the lead role, which has a budget around $250 million; and The Great and Powerful Oz, the Sam Raimi-directed James Franco-starrer, which is hovering around $200 million. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: This is the kind of Maalox moment that explains why studio moguls get paid the big bucks. Because Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross now has a very public decision to make about whether to go forward with The Lone Ranger. We’ve learned that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and attached director Gore Verbinski are jointly presenting a new budget “in the $215M range” to Ross after weeks of trimming it from the previously proposed $275M which caused Disney to balk and halt production. That’s still not the $200M number that the studio really wanted, but is lower than the $220M at which Disney indicated to all concerned it might compromise. Now here’s the other complicating factor: Insiders tell us that Johnny Depp, who’s attached to play Tonto, really wants to make The Lone Ranger but won’t do it without Verbinski directing. Depp has shown unusual loyalty to his favorite helmers like Tim Burton and made not just 3 successful Pirates of the Caribbean pics with Gore but also starred in Verbinski’s Rango, which is an Oscar frontrunner for Best Animated Picture this year. And Depp right now is the biggest box office star in the world with two recent billion-dollar worldwide hits (Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean 4). That leaves Disney no choice but to keep on Verbinski if the studio wants to retain Depp – which of course it does. Disney is counting on Depp … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In an exclusive to Deadline’s Pete Hammond during Disney’s D23 Expo, Rich Ross made his first comment on The Lone Ranger since I revealed the film had been halted for budgetary reasons. “I’m hoping to do it. I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” The surprise is that Ross mentioned Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer but not the film’s director Gore Verbinski. Would Disney be happier making The Lone Ranger without him?
The rumblings I’ve heard since my first story on the stoppage are as follows: Verbinski and Bruckheimer have been working hard to tone down or lose some of the budget-busting spectacular scenes in Justin Haythe’s script. At the same time, Bruckheimer as well as reps for Depp and Verbinski have been discussing ways to defer big chunks of their upfront paydays. Salary among all three likely accounts for $30 million or more. And if the trio’s backend deals weren’t at cash break before, they likely will be now if the film moves forward. Because simply adjusting above-the-line salaries isn’t enough to bring down what insiders told Deadline nine days ago was a $75 million budget gap to get to the $200 million Disney wants to spend on the Western. I’ve heard since that the studio will agree to make The Lone Ranger at $215 million. One major question is whether Verbinski can deliver at that number and retain enough spectacle “wow” factor to give The Lone Ranger a shot at a big overseas gross and sequels.
If Ross’s comments indicate that Disney would be open to making The Lone Ranger with another director, that is taking a big risk with Depp. Outside of Tim Burton, no director has made as many movies with Depp as Verbinski, with three Pirates of the Caribbean films and Rango. Would Depp continue in the movie if Verbinski was moved aside or quit? Good question. The Lone Ranger is a giant risk in the first place because Westerns don’t traditionally perform well overseas. In a DVD-collapsed world, a $275 million film is back to grossing three times its budget to earn out, and that can’t be done without a big overseas reward. Without Depp — arguably the biggest star in the world right now with three of the all-time Top 10 worldwide grossing films — there is no Lone Ranger. Read More »
UPDATE: Johnny Depp is in Europe right now, but really wanted to make The Lone Ranger. According to one insider, “Let’s see how it all shakes out on Monday. There’s always a chance that it could go. You never know until you know.” The deeper story behind this production stoppage is about how movies are costing too much, studios are giving major pushback, and today’s backdrop of a crazy economy. Everyone involved is still intent on the project and still in discussions to see what can be done. But the studio’s concern is spending over $200M on a Western, even with Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp and a comedic slant. So clearly Disney took drastic action. Now the studio and filmmakers are trying to figure out the next step, either to shop it elsewhere or put it back together at a later date at a lower budget.
EXCLUSIVE: In a stunning development, Disney has shut down production on The Lone Ranger, the Gore Verbinski-directed period Western that was to star Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the title character. Jerry Bruckheimer is the producer and the script is by Justin Haythe. I’m told this all just happened, and Disney pulled the plug because of the budget. I’ve heard the filmmakers were trying to reduce the film’s cost from $250 million (some even say $275 million) down to $232 million. But it wasn’t the $200 million that Disney wanted to spend. And between Depp, Bruckheimer, and Verbinski, the gross outlay on the film is substantial.
When the plug was pulled, the film was still casting up, with Ruth Wilson, the serial killer from the BBC’s Luther series, set for the female lead. And The Lone Ranger was scheduled to be released Dec. 21, 2012, smack up against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opens Dec. 14, and the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, which was just slated for Dec. 21. This becomes the second major Western-themed project to bite the dust, after Universal halted a mammoth adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. And is it coincidence that The Lone Ranger halted right after another Western, Cowboys & Aliens, proved a pricey disappointment for DreamWorks and Universal? Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has quietly dropped out of Clue, one of the seven Hasbro games properties the studio contracted to make into movies in a ground-breaking six-year exclusive deal signed in 2008. Clue becomes the third project out of seven to be dropped by Universal (Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering were also kicked to the curb), but none of those projects are dead. In the case of the murder mystery board game Clue, Hasbro is funding the development and producing the film with Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink. Verbinski, director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Rango and the upcoming Lone Ranger, still plans to direct Clue, and he and Blind Wink’s John Krauss are producing with Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir.
They’ve just hired Flash Gordon scribes Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama to write the Clue script. The writers will draft a take that Verbinski and his fellow producers came up with that retains the murder mystery spirit of the board game, but broadens the setting to a global stage. Beyond scripting Flash Gordon for Sony Pictures, Sharpless and Sazama are redrafting Dracula Year Zero. That project’s still hanging on at Universal, after being halted just short of the start line because of a high budget, when Alex Proyas was directing and Sam Worthington was going to star. ICM reps the writers.
Is all this a clue that Universal no longer wants to roll the dice on board game movies? Insiders say no. Rather, they tell me that Universal and Hasbro gradually narrowed their focus to the four films that most made sense for the studio: Battleship, the Peter Berg-directed summer 2012 action movie that stars Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson, with Universal just releasing its first trailer (below); Stretch Armstrong, which has Rob Letterman directing and Twilight Saga’s Taylor Lautner attached to play the rubbery title character; Candy Land, which is being written by Kung Fu Panda 2 co-writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who’ve described the film as Lord of the Rings, with edibles; and Ouija, which has McG attached to direct and Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form producing with Ian Bryce and Hasbro’s Goldner and Schneir. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Ruth Wilson is in negotiations to play the female lead in Disney’s Lone Ranger, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film that stars Armie Hammer as the Masked Man and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Details of her role are sketchy, but it is the female lead whose name is Rebecca. The film has a Dec. 21, 2012 release date. Gore Verbinski is directing. Wilson, a UK actress, had been in the mix for the role along with Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) and Abbie Cornish (Limitless). She has had a standout TV career across the pond, starring in the acclaimed 2006 Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Jane Eyre (she was nominated for a Golden Globe) and most recently on the BBC’s Luther opposite Idris Elba.