Johnny Depp, “Lone Ranger” get new start date

By Sean O’Connell UPDATE! And now “The Lone Ranger” has a release date. Disney has programmed Gore Verbinski’s film for May 31, 2013, giving he and hi team plenty of time to perfect the special effects that will go into this remade Western.

EARLIER: The on-again, off-again production of “The Lone Ranger” that director Gore Verbinski plans to film with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer appears to be back on. Again.

Though Disney put the project on ice due to budget concerns, Deadline now says that Feb. 6 has been selected as a production-start date, with all of the major players on board for the show.

In Verbinski’s “Ranger,” Hammer would play the masked lawman, while Depp would play his faithful sidekick, Tonto. Rumors at the time of the production shutdown said the plot centered around Tonto (no surprise, with Depp in the part), and may have involved heavy doses of Indian mysticism and werewolves. Yes, you heard that right. Werewolves.

The studio hesitated when Universal’s “Cowboys & Aliens,” which also blended sci-fi and Western tropes, struggled to lure massive crowds over the summer. So even though Verbinski and Depp delivered the strange but lucrative “Pirates” franchise, Disney was reluctant to cut the duo a blank check.

Deadline wasn’t sure if Verbinski would be able to keep the previously announced Dec. 21, 2012 release date. I’d say it’s unlikely, and “Lone Ranger” will become a summer tentpole for 2013. But we’ll report whatever we hear as soon as the studio solidifies its plans.

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