Deadline‘s Mike Fleming reported a while ago that Disney has shut down Jerry Buckheimer and Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger, the Johnny Depp-Armie Hammer western that’s currently in pre-production, and which would have begun principal photography in October. The problem, says Fleming, was that Disney wanted the all-in cost to be $200 million and that the production tab was either $232 millon or $250 million or…whatever, too high.

I don’t know anything but cheers (I think) to the Disney execs who approved this. Mainly because The Lone Ranger isn’t, according to the grapevine, about fighting aliens or the Mexican Army or the entire Sioux nation, and it doesn’t involve gargantuan steampunk machines a la Wild Wild West or a cattle drive involving 80,00 steers. Or at least no one’s heard of anything along these lines. So why the hell would a movie about a masked avenger and his loyal Indian friend riding around on horses cost $200 or $232 or $250 million….are the filmmakers insane?

Unless, of course, the film is about the Lone Ranger vs. aliens or Mexican soldiers or steampunk monsters or dinosaurs, etc. In which case the filmmakers have gone off the deep end. Scale and grandiosity in and of themselves are not entertaining.

I obviously need to read a script and call around but isn’t The Lone Ranger supposed to be, like, a “western”? The Legend of the Long Ranger, the crappy 1981 version with Klinton Spillsbury, was more or less “realistic” and cost about $18 million. That translates to about $45 million in 2011 dollars so how the hell could Bruckheimer-Verbinski jack their budget up to four and half times that amount? Or higher?

Update: A friendly reader just sent me a 3.29.09 draft of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio‘s script. $200 million divided by 125 pages = $1,600,000 per page.