Johnny Depp's Lone Ranger shut down (Blame John Carter and Oz!)

It seems that not even the presence of Johnny Depp can guarantee that a big-budget movie will actually get made these days.

According to Deadline, Disney has canceled The Lone Ranger, which would have starred Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as the title character. Supposedly Disney shut the movie down because of budget issues: They wanted it to cost $200 million, but the filmmakers could only get the price down from $250 million to a mere $232 million.

The movie, which was supposed to come out in December 2012, would have reunited Depp with director Gore Verbinski, who worked with the actor on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced all the Pirates flicks.

Since those have made a boatload of cash for the studio (not to mention the $1 billion worldwide that Depp's Alice in Wonderland hauled in), Disney must have been really worried about the budget to risk getting Depp and Bruckheimer ticked off. Then again, Depp gets a check whether the movie gets made or not, so it looks like he just got himself a paid vacation.

Part of the problem may be that Disney already has some major tentpole films in the pipeline, including John Carter of Mars—sorry, we mean John Carter (cost: $300 million)—and Sam Raimi's The Great and Powerful Oz ($200 million). Perhaps the thought of spending another couple of hundred million on a movie that—let's face it—nobody was really asking for gave the studio cold feet (and why the hell do you need $250 million for a western, anyway?).

If so, they can become the second member of the "let's pull the plug" club, after Universal, which recently scrapped Ron Howard's adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower and Guillermo del Toro's planned adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. We'd suggest that maybe adding invaders from space to the movie might help, but ask the makers of Cowboys & Aliens how that worked out.

Is dropping big-budget projects the latest trendy thing for studio execs to brag about over lunch? And did you want to see a Lone Ranger movie, anyway?

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