Is Johnny Depp’s “Lone Ranger” moving ahead without Gore Verbinski?

By Sean O’Connell There was a lot of news flowing our of Disney’s D23 Expo over the weekend, from potential Pixar projects to “Avengers” footage introduced by Robert Downey Jr. But one or two sites are picking up on a noticeable omission when it comes to a major, major motion picture that might have hit brick wall.

When talking about “The Lone Ranger,” with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in the lead roles of the Ranger and Tonto, Disney executive Rich Ross confirmed, “I’m hoping to do it. I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry [Bruckheimer] and Johnny [Depp] more than me so we’ll see how it works.”

Yet, as The Playlist points out, Ross doesn’t mention director Gore Verbinski. Slip of the tongue? Or a message shot across the bow that Disney could be willing to plow ahead without Verbinski at the helm?

It would be strange, as Verbinski certainly earned Disney vaults filled with money with his “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. He’s also coming off of the animated comedy “Rango,” which did very well at the box office. Yet these successes are the reason why Verbinski’s able to demand a higher budget, which Disney is trying to reign in.

“If Verbinski is the sacrifice, Disney may be playing a game of chicken, as he’s worked with Depp on four movies already, and Depp’s involvement in this film seems tied to Verbinski’s,” The Playlist writes. “Or is it possible he’ll just call up old friend Tim Burton again?”

Now THAT is intriguing. Burton helming a Western, with Native American mysticism and spiritual undertones? Sign us up!

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