Screen Talk: Ranger reined in

"Belt-tightening" and "austerity measures" are hardly buzzwords for Hollywood and those involved in movies that cost more than $100 million to make.

So it came as a wake-up call when the town learned that Disney had retired its ambitious plans to retell The Lone Ranger on the big screen. After all, it was to star Johnny Depp as faithful sidekick Tonto and Armie Hammer as the cowboy in the mask, and Jerry Bruckheimer, the closest thing to a human hit factory for big-budget movies and flash television for more than 20 years, was prepping it. The

town is abuzz with Disney's dramatic decision. According to water-cooler conversations, the call came after clashes over budget between the studio and Bruckheimer, not "creative differences", the go-to reason for such dramatic late calls. The project was galloping towards an autumn shoot and had a December 2012 release pencilled in, for what was aiming to be the start of a franchise directed by Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame.

Penguins picked up

Penguins are hot in Hollywood, thanks to Happy Feet, Mr Popper's Penguins and now a spin-off from Madagascar. The project is waddling towards the big screen with Simon Smith, who co-directed DreamWorks Animations' Bee Movie, hired to direct. DreamWorks put the movie project into fast-track development in March, hiring Alan J Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, the writers behind the Will Ferrell-voiced Megamind, to write the script. It focuses on the plucky penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico.

Lin isn't in

There can only be one director for the long-gestating reboot of Highlander, but it isn't going to be Justin Lin. The Fast Five director has hung up his kilt, preferring to stay aboard as an executive producer. Summit acquired remake rights to the movie in May 2008 and Lin was attached as director of choice in September 2009. But then the success of Fast Five meant Lin hit the Hollywood hit list and his dance card began filling up with other gigs. The project is a priority for Summit, which brought audiences the Twilight franchise, so the search is on for a replacement to direct the fresh script, which has been written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.

Demme takes time

A yet-to-be-published Stephen King time-travel novel, revolving around the assassination of John F Kennedy, has been optioned by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme, with a view to writing and directing the adaptation. Oh, and Demme, who has King's blessing, plans to produce it too. The best-selling writer will executive produce, should it make the project make it in front of the cameras. The novel, which is more than 1,000 pages long, will hit American bookshops in November. It centres on an English teacher who jumps through a time portal, travelling back to prevent the Kennedy assassination. During his travels he meets Elvis, JFK and a high-school librarian, who becomes the love of his life.

Cruise reaches out

The Lee Child crime thriller One Shot is being readied for a big-screen adaptation with Tom Cruise starring as Jack Reacher. The adaptation will be written by Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote Cruise's Valkyrie, with plans for McQuarrie also to direct. Cruise will play Reacher, an ex-Army cop who gets sucked into a mystery surrounding sniper accused of killing five random people. Hollywood is abuzz with contenders to play opposite Cruise as the film's tough lawyer. Hayley Atwell, Alexa Davalos and Rosamund Pike all read for the part. Paramount is backing the project.

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