One of the biggest shocks to rumble through the film industry in recent weeks was the news that Disney’s The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the titular hero, had been put on hold due to budget concerns. The story has taken an interesting new turn, however, with comments made by Disney chairman Rich Ross at the recent D23 Expo indicating that he still wants the film to go ahead – but maybe without director Gore Verbinski.

The main issue with the production, which was due to go before cameras in October ahead of its release in December 2012, was that the projected budget was around 5 million while Disney wanted it closer to 0 million. Since the production was halted, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has been working with Verbinski to trim some of the script’s more elaborate action sequences, several of which were rumoured to be supernatural in nature.

Although Bruckheimer, Verbinski and Depp enjoyed considerable success with the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films for Disney, the studio has gotten cold feet over the fact that as a western, The Lone Ranger falls into a genre that typically doesn’t appeal to worldwide audiences; to make matters worse, the most recent film of this type, Cowboys and Aliens, has under-performed not only internationally but also at the U.S. box office.

Discussions are apparently underway to consider additional ways of reducing the budget, including deferring the salaries of the producer, director and star should the film begin moving forward again, although Ross’ comments have led to speculation that he’d also consider replacing Verbinski with another director. Of course, that then leads to the question of whether Depp would be interested in making The Lone Ranger without his frequent collaborator…

(via Deadline)