The Hollywood Reporter has broken the news that 'The Lone Ranger' -- starring Armie Hammer as the masked hero of the Old West, with Depp as his faithful companion -- has had its production canceled, just a few months shy of the October shooting date. The reason: Money. (Is it ever anything else?) After the poor box office performance of 'Cowboys & Aliens,' Disney is gun-shy about financing a big-budget Western, not to mention they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars already on both the Mars-set adventure 'John Carter' and the now-shooting 'Oz, the Great and Powerful.' 'Ranger' director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer couldn't settle on the budget estimate the studio was giving them, so the Mouse House figuratively took the movie behind the shed and put it out of its misery.
What's the consolation prize that Disney is offering up: More 'Pirates of the Caribbean' of course! (Is it ever anything else?) Disney has made it a priority to get another Jack Sparrow adventure on the big screen as soon as possible. But Depp said back in May "It's not something where I would say, 'Let's shoot it next month to get it out by Christmas 2012,' we should hold off for a bit. They should be special, just like they are special to me." With Disney pushing back even harder to get Depp to commit to the fifth 'Pirates' movie right away, THR speculates that it could push him off the project altogether -- at which point, Disney will probably re-boot the series or do something else completely cynical.
Canceling 'Long Ranger' has also put even more strain on the Bruckheimer-Disney relationship which hasn't returned as many high-profit results as it used to (example one: Nic Cage in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice').
As for the money spent in pre-production trying to get 'Lone Ranger' filmed, that will just disappear into the ether. It's just money, people can afford to throw it around.