The Lone Ranger seemed like it was edging awful close to being another story of an almost-blockbuster that would one day end up in lists or written about in industry dirt books. Jerry Bruckheimer –mega-producer and the lynchpin between Disney, Verbinski, and Depp– says it’s all in a day’s work, and really just the way business is done.

But I’ve had so many movies shut down. The first Pirates was shut down. Pearl Harbor was stopped. So was Armageddon. For me, this is normal. This is: “Get real. Let’s get the budget where we can make it.”

Speaking with THR, Bruckheimer laid out exactly what issues Disney had with their originally proposed budget and what steps they had to take to bring it down. The producer credits a decision to shoot primarily in Louisiana for saving them around $8m, while another $10m came from rearranging the schedule so that the massive amount of extras (and accompanying production crew to manage/make-up/costume them) would never be sitting idle. The rest of the saved budget apparently came from a complex series of pay-cuts and deferments occurring at the below-the-line level all the way up to Bruckheimer himself, as well as a few script cuts…

We cut a sequence involving a coyote attack — supernatural coyotes — and a small animated segment. The train [scenes] are intact. We trimmed it a little bit. Gore made some sacrifices creatively, but nothing that would hurt the film. We had to work it out. The studio set a number, and it was always our responsibility to get to the number.

Jerry reiterates that despite the minor script tweaks, the content of the script was largely left untouched, mostly because a minimum amount of spectacle is necessary to compete in the blockbuster market against films The Hobbit and Transformers (two which Jerry specifically cites). He also feels a May 2013 date will improve their chances of opening big and playing long, as the Holiday 2012 season is so jam-packed (and he’s right about that). All in all, a wise batch of moves that make this suddenly seem like an only typically excessive Hollywood projection, rather than an outright debacle. It’s just that, you know… Disney had to embarrassingly shut the whole fucking thing down to make that happen!

"Bruck, those are from the gift shop outside. WE CAN'T ACTUALLY PRINT REAL MONEY."

It’s funny that Bruckheimer is so candid about exactly how it went down, basically admitting “yeah, it was going to be expensive as fuck because we scheduled it poorly and were pussies about filming in winter.” His explanation for getting the budget down to a still humungous $215m figure is basically one filled with all the very basic preproduction scheduling/budgeting processes any real movie goes through, just massively scaled up. Honestly, his tone sounds like he would have gladly spent an extra needless $50m+ of Disney’s money, had they not been so stingy with the greenlight.

I really think this is the kind of shit that’s not going to fly anymore, and I think Bruckheimer might have a bit of an over-rosey view of the future.

It’s just the times. It’s tough out there. The studios lost a real source of revenue in DVDs. It’s much tougher, much harder. The studios are making fewer movies. In the past, there’s always been something else [to make up lost revenue] that’s jumped in there. There will be something, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Actually, I don’t know that Hollywood will ever get that revenue stream back and I’m confident they’ll never get it back at the same level. Even figuring out the consolidation of home streaming portals and learning to exploit new mobile marketplaces will likely never represent the easy, cut-and-dry cash flow of the commodity-based disc market. So maybe in the future one’s massive tentpoles should figure out a schedule that doesn’t blow $10m on extras make-up and hair from the get go. Just a thought.

BY THE WAY: They’re outlining Pirates 5, having decided they can do better than the script they have. That’s it.

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